Friday, February 19, 2016

Poor Kid

I was reading an article on the issues of schools, the poverty level of most public schools passes the 50% mark, as determined by FRL (free or reduced lunch) attendees. Then there are those who do not qualify, if not only marginally by the family income level that may seem on paper over the qualifying level but in rapidly gentrifying cities where rents are rising, costs of after care, the need for commuting, etc are factored in that number will be greater.  And there are those who simply don't want the label.

I am at a "diversified" STEM school where I have been for the last 3 days doing a Career class. I have passed perhaps 2 white students the rest are faces of color and that is a lot of color.  We have Asian kids who come from numerous Asian cultures - Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, etc. They are all lumped under the yellow umbrella. Then we have African American.  Okay that is Black American, Hatian, Jamaican, African and then there own breakdown - Ethiopian, Somalian, Eritrea, etc.  Then we have Latino - Mexican, Central American, South American, Puerto Rico. Or we have Native American, Pacific Islander and those too broken into their respective "tribes".  We have a  rainbow flag that frankly doesn't cut it.  But the one thing they share is poverty.

The reality is that our schools are filled largely with poor kids.  There are pockets of schools and they are both public and charter, that have kids from middle class working class homes that are stable, have reliable income, a home, family support and the basic foundation one needs to build a home.  Without a foundation you have nothing on which to build and there lies the problem.

So I read a year old article the Majority of U.S. Public Schools Students Live in Poverty and found this comment:

Of the 3,285 comments I've read, I see folks are blaming baby daddies, the welfare state, Obama, immigration policy, teen pregnancy and even disobedience. But the message of the article and study is clear - the current education reform debate is ignoring the most direct, predictable cause of low performance in schools - poverty.

Poverty leads to less attention and nurturing for kids. We can judge parents all day, but to deprive young children of basic services in school means society is not doing it's job and WE will be paying more later in social costs if we do not intervene. Indeed, this is the key to fixing problems - by putting kids from troubled homes ahead of the parents.

Another huge message here is that school 'reform' advocates are wasting our time and tax dollars on testing kids needlessly when we can already tell by their income who needs more support. We are also wasting precious resources laying blame on the educators who in reality are the first responders to kids in educational crisis, not just as teachers, but parental figures.

Particularly for corporatist Democrats like Obama and NY governor Andrew Cuomo, the attack on teachers has been so naked, they don't even pretend the tests or evaluations are supposed to be accurate anymore, they are just plowing forward with soundbites.

This author does seem to conflate the official poverty level with lunch subsidy data, but everyone knows we are in the middle of a prolonged class war with the rich extracting wealth from circulation in our economy at record levels. 

Conservative economist Robert Moffitt recently analyzed 40 years of welfare data and determined that U.S. "aid for the 2.5 million single-parents families with the absolute lowest levels of earnings...dropped 35% between 1983 and 2004."

 He noted during his May 2014 report release: "You would think that the government would offer the most support to those who have the lowest incomes and provide less help to those with higher incomes, but that is not the case." He also noted that "single mothers seem to be especially viewed as undeserving" under the current system

And the last few weeks have been a barrage of articles on how to desegregates schools, there was this in the New York Times, that had the most telling picture of kids regardless of color sitting in the lunchroom eating with their coats on.  The idea is that if they shove in that shit as fast as they can they can play.  Yes in 30 minutes that they are allotted this will solve many issues and have children ready to learn.  Who wouldn't be? Really? This is a debate?

Then we have the idea that we are sure we can solve the problem with arts programs, more computers, better teachers, better tests, more grit and on and on.  Here is a link to Lyndsey Lawton the Ed writer for the Washington Post. Read the dozens and dozens of articles that have one successful idea followed by one horrendous reality that faces our system of education. 

I sit here after three days and as the adage goes, "company like fish stink after three days."

Immigrant children of cultures that emphasize education as the pursuit of freedom are like machines. They are utterly responsive only to that which they can receive grades and accolades. They are utterly disengaged from any creative pursuits (other than music and that is confined to orchestra as that it looks good on transcripts); then we have African immigrants whose worn torn families and the dynamics that it posses shows in the faces of utter disregard, disengagement and the reality that they are vilified by simply being Muslim.  It gives a great cover to simply avoid doing the work and giving a shit.  The black kids are all over the map and there is where the color barrier falls, as the white kids are the same. Unless the kids are in the Advanced Placement classes, the International Baccalaureate programs you don't see the reality that I see when I do meet a black kid who is smart as hell and intellectually curious.  These are the kids that often don't test well and they don't have the financial resources to get the equivalent tutoring that their white counterparts do in order to "master" the test. That is what testing is, the ability to master that not measure success.  That is the real discrimination. 

And all kids regardless come to school with baggage, some of it a better brand, some of it less full, and some of it bursting at the seams. It shows at the end of day who has someone willing to help carry said bag and those who are toting it alone. 

So how do we solve that problem. Well we have buzz words and other fads that will ensure that the solution is just an acronym away. The problem however is much larger than four letters can ever explain.

In an age of resegregation, these schools are trying to balance poor and wealthy kids

The Washington Post

As U.S. public schools have grown increasingly segregated by race and income, there is a growing number of school districts and charter schools striving for greater balance among their students, according to new research released Tuesday by the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank.

Researchers identified 91 school districts and charter school chains serving more than 4 million students — including the District of Columbia and Chicago public school systems — that are using tools such as magnet schools, weighted lotteries and changes in school attendance zones to create more balance between white students and those of color and between low-income and more affluent children.

That is more than double the number employing such tactics in 2007, according to Halley Potter, a fellow at the Century Foundation and an author of one of two new reports.

The new methods, which rely on choices and incentives, are a far cry from the forced busing policies that were a hallmark of early desegregation efforts. In many cases, school districts are focused on integrating children of different economic backgrounds, as opposed to race, although the two are inextricably linked, Potter said.

“Part of the growth of these socioeconomic strategies is a reflection of the legal environment for racial desegregation, which just continues to get trickier,” she said. “Communities serious about tackling integration find that these tools are the best way.”
U.S. public schools are more racially segregated now than they were in the 1970s, according to the study. More than one-third of all black and Latino students attend schools that are more than 90 percent non-white, according to the Century Foundation. For white students, the image is flipped: More than one-third attend schools that are nearly all white.

Research shows that children from low-income families — a group that is proportionately more African American and Latino — perform better academically when they attend schools that are not majority-poor. Segregated, high-poverty schools tend to have fewer experienced teachers, fewer challenging courses, inferior facilities, less access to private funding and higher drop-out rates.

In Hartford, Conn., for example, black and Latino students from the city attend regional magnet schools along with white students from more affluent suburbs. In 2013, there was no gap in state reading test scores for third-­graders, meaning white, Latino and black students all scored about the same. The achievement gap also was eliminated between Latino and white students on the fifth-grade reading test. And by 10th grade, the gap between low-­income students and their more affluent peers was 5 percentage points on the reading test, compared with a statewide average of 28 points.

There is no evidence that integration gives a similar boost to the academic achievement of affluent students, Potter said. But she and other researchers argue that exposure to people of other backgrounds teaches skills that are essential to success in a globally competitive world.

“You can’t argue that going to a more diverse school is necessarily going to help middle-class kids who are already coming in as high achievers,” Potter said. “But when kids have a chance to be in a classroom with peers from different backgrounds, it promotes communication, critical thinking and the kinds of cognitive skills that are at the heart of the academic mission.”

The most common strategy used by the school districts and charter networks is to redraw school attendance boundaries in a way that captures a more diverse student population. About a quarter of the districts have created magnet schools, others have school-transfer policies that take into account family income levels, and others have school lotteries that give extra weight to income levels to promote diversity.

“One of the take-home mes­sages is the variety of different strategies that are being used,” Potter said. “When people think of integration, they only have one idea in their head of what that means — usually it’s forced changes of who goes to school where. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to look to the examples of what other communities and leaders have done to tackle these questions.”

Integration is a priority of John B. King Jr., the acting education secretary, who created a small pilot program as education commissioner in New York State that offered grants to districts to launch programs aimed at breaking up concentrated poverty in their schools. King has said that he plans to use competitive grants to encourage diversity and will work with other agencies to encourage more integrated schools and communities. In his budget proposal Tuesday, President Obama is expected to seek money in 2017 for a competitive grant program for school districts to launch integration programs.

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