Education Matters



"Bridging the Gap" series Online Conversation
by ChrisKieffer
 Education Matters
1 month ago | 505 views | 16 16 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Good morning. I will be taking questions this morning about the Daily Journal's "Bridging the Gap" series that ran between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29. The series looks at the school district's educational achievement gap, the critical need to address it and strategies for the school district and community to work together in doing so.

I will be answering questions here between 10 and 11 a.m. You can also leave questions throughout the day and I will answer them periodicially.

I look forward to the conversation. You can leave your questions in the comments section.

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Lisa49
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January 03, 2012
Read "Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America"

That was the question that Geoffrey Canada found himself asking. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? The question led him to create the Harlem Children’s Zone, a ninety-seven-block laboratory in central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, you need to change everything in their lives—their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents.

Whatever It Takes is a tour de force of reporting, an inspired portrait not only of Geoffrey Canada but of the parents and children in Harlem who are struggling to better their lives, often against great odds. Carefully researched and deeply affecting, this is a dispatch from inside the most daring and potentially transformative social experiment of our time.
Lisa49
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January 02, 2012
Why are we not addressing education pf parenting skills?

Why are we not addressing the adult education of poor and why they are poor?

1/3 of H.S. grads never read another book ever.

42% of College grads never read another book ever.

80% of American households did not buy a book last year.

We can not stop education because of federal standards gives a diploma.

Lisa49
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January 02, 2012
We all know the culture of poverty offers unique problems in society. We know on average a student born to poverty do not fit the one size fits all education system of the design by the Federal Government.

Education is about developing a persons abilities and equipping a person with the tools to survive in society.

Why are we so focused on jobs when a person is designed to work on what inspires them? Why do we automatically condemn a poor person to labor? These children have just as much ability as the Mayor or Greg Perkel but he would rather have them be technical stooges for a corporation rather than a competing lawyer or teacher.

Why do we group age rather than abilities to match students to teachers?

Why do we take Federal money with strings attached when it does not provide a proven solution to the problems?

Why does the city recruit low paying industry instead of white collar vocations?

Why are we aiming so low?

Why are we not addressing the very reason of birth of children into poverty?

Schools have a problem because of earlier behavior, it is like addressing the symptoms rather than the disease.
kolivieri
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January 02, 2012
Congrats for taking an honest look at a tough subject!

Poverty is a problem that permeates the entire community, including education. It's not that some parents don't care, it's that they are dealing with issues that middle class parents don't have to deal with. As a community, poverty must be addressed!

Next, does the community agree with the ridiculous accountability scheme that the federal government has mandated? Standardized testing has become a HIGH STAKES test that measures only certain subjects on one particular day. Are these tests valid and accurate? I read that one school board president in another state took the standardized tests and did very poorly. Yet, the school board president is a successful CEO.

Should the community place so much emphasis on one test or on other educational factors such as the arts or non-tested subjects? When students graduate, are students prepared for the next phase of their life, or do they know how to best take a bubble test?

The amount of money spent directly and indirectly on standardized testing is staggering. The testing companies have lobbyist to insure that the money continues to roll in. Our school district even spends money on someone other than the teacher to create 9 weeks tests. That's so the 9 weeks test can be constructed like the standardized tests.

I look forward to reading more!
ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
Thanks kolivieri,

I think that is an important point, noting that poverty limits parents in ways that middle-class parents don't experience. It is a challenging issue that will require community solutions.

It will be interesting to see the future of high-stakes testing, especially as Congress decides what to do with the No Child Left Behind law. One thing that the testing has done is to give school districts data on how all students are performing and to give them new incentives to reach low-performing students. It has brought a new light to the issue of the achievement gap.

At the same time, ranking schools by how students perform on one test on one day in a few subjects is certainly very limited.
ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
Please continue to leave your questions and insights.

Although the "live portion" of the conversation has ended, I will continue to check and answer comments as I see them.
journalinteractive
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January 02, 2012
Looking forward to more of your comments here. Chris is answering away!

Here's another online comment from the series ...

From forreal? ... I have three children in the Tupelo Public Schools. Their cousins live in a different state and go to Catholic schools. I can tell you that the education our children are receiving, and the resources they have access to, and the extra curricular activities they have available to them are superior to those expensive private schools. We love the Tupelo Schools. We wouldn't send our kids anywhere else.

Thanks for joining us,

Todd Vinyard

Online Editor

ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
Thanks for the comment, forreal?

The Tupelo Public School District has a long history of success and does offer a vast array of classes and extracurricular programs.
journalinteractive
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January 02, 2012
Here are a couple of comments about the series from stories at djournal.com in the commenting section ...

From jlking ... Parents who value education raise children who do well in school. Parents who respect education raise children who are mindful of authority. Children need parents who feed them, give them comfort and rest, reminders to do their homework and limits on their social activities. Too many parents just don't care about their kids, and yet we wonder why these are the very kids that don't do well in school. If you want to increase test scores, start with the parents!

35yearsteach ... As a grandparent of gifted students, I have heard Mrs. Ezell say that to let us know that students at both extremes are in need. Lots of resources go into programs for curriculum and federal funds for preschool and special education. Yet, our gifted classes receive only state funding and no local or federal resources. I do know that she tries to make sure our gifted students are not forgotten in the regular education classes and is a strong supporter of arts education. Mr. Kieffer has done a great job of bringing this issue to the forefront. I wonder how much of our local resources go into special programs for low achievers as well as high achievers.

ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
I agree with jlking, that having parents who respect education is a critical factor (perhaps the most important factor) in having children succeed in schools. The magic question is how to get that parent support.

In some ways, having an engaged community focused on education - and the education of all students - can create an ethos that can motivate more parents to be involved. I also think schools need to analyze whether they are doing everything they can to make sure parents of all demographics feel comfortable in the schools. One thing I came across in my reporting is that, if low-income parents come to the school and only see upper-middle class parents participating, they many not feel like they are fully welcomed. The question is how to overcome that disconnect.

Finally, there will be some students who, unfortunately, do not have parents who respect education. One key is having a community that can mentor and support these children so that they do not fall through the gap.
ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
35yearsteach, I do not know the answer of how money is split between low- and high-achievers. Indeed, the successful district is one that can challenge and push both groups.

The state's new accountability system measures that by rewarding districts whose students make a year of academic growth. Those districts have a higher ranking than those who don't. In interviews with educators, they say that the only way to meet growth is to focus on all students, not just the high- or low-achievers. The rankings give districts an incentive to do that.

Also, districts that have had success in closing achievement gaps have mentioned that having high expectations and demands for all students is a big part of their success.
journalinteractive
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January 02, 2012
Thanks for doing this Chris, looking forward to the conversation. Just curious what led to the Journal to doing this series?

Todd Vinyard

Online Editor
ChrisKieffer
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January 02, 2012
Hi Todd,

I started thinking about this series during the spring. While reporting, I was noticing a growing disconnect between the community and the school district. That disconnect was more noticeable in a community that had always prided itself in its support for public education.

I began to try to wrap my mind around the issue and talk to people about what was happening. Through several conversations and brain storming sessions, it appeared more and more that that district's achievement gap loomed as a major issue. That gap was more meaningful in Tupelo because demographics had shifted recently making it a majority-minority district and one with a much higher poverty percentage than it had in the past.

As I looked at the data, the gap appeared even more profound and I began reporting about it, its causes and its solutions. It seemed that narrowing the gap - and having the community and school district working together to do so – would be vitally important to the district's future.