I made the comments further below to a blog post by Mike Klonsky titled The Year They Began Calling Poverty and Homelessness an ‘Excuse’. Read his post, it speaks to the irrational thoughts and actions sweeping our nation in the guise of educational reform. Since my comment was constrained to a word limit, I expand on it in the next paragraph.
It is a shame politicians, billionaires, and those aligned with the latter, as well as the misinformed and misguided, believe that the primary responsibility for our nation’s educational challenges rest on teachers. While they are a significant factor, they are neither the sole nor the key factor. The student, and his/her family, is the most significant factor in the student’s educational achievement, all of which is directly affected by their socioeconomic status. When students and their families struggle with the basic necessities of life, especially if they have no experience in college, it is no surprise that homework and studying fall to the bottom of life’s daily chores. Students need the space and time to grow as learners, as well as to understand the most effective behaviors and practices to succeed in school. If parents cannot offer the needed space and time, or educational support, then society needs to make these available. Only then will we see educational achievement improve across socioeconomic status, and not sooner.
Insightful post, Mike. I am saddened by the inability of the current administration, specifically Arne Duncan, to highlight and to address the woes facing our nation’s educational system. As a former engineer / product manager / marketeer, who spent inordinate amounts of time developing methods to collect, analyze, and improve multi-factored systems (technical, product, business), it is clear to me that we have the knowledge and means to identify the primary factors for success in school. In fact, the most significant factors have already been identified, along with what impacts those factors; the administration’s rhetoric sadly obfuscates reality, impedes tangible progress, and provides tremendous disservice to our nation.
As you aptly point out, poverty and its associated effects are not “excuses” but brutal reality. Until the administration shines a bright light on poverty, and develops effective programs where students of poverty receive intensive interventions, to include bringing parents into the classroom and their children’s learning. Until this happens, all the other efforts championed by the admin are doomed to failure and are a massive waste of time and money. This is not to condemn the efforts, per se, for many hold great promise. However, unless the PRIMARY factor is addressed first, no amount of improvement in the other factors such as teacher effectiveness, curriculum, funding, and etcetera will matter. They are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Trite sayings, dismissive gestures, and shotgun strategies from the administration, and by association those influenced by it who simply mimic the rhetoric, only serve to worsen our nation’s educational plight. We expect more from President Obama, Arne Duncan, and this administration. Activity should not be confused with progress. Honesty, focus, commitment, these are needed to turn the tide.