Here is an example of a not-so-typical exchange between MTV, who I think opposes much of the reform agenda, and me. She seems to think there is something schools can do to improve outcomes for impoverished children while ignoring the poverty itself. I try to explain how poverty and being poor are not the same thing, necessarily.
Well TFT-What do you propose then? I happen to believe education can go a long way-but there have to be other supports as well-community supports, family supports, and often something within the person (a fire). How do you propose we end poverty if we can't provide a good education without it? Do you propose we don't waste our time on the education piece until we end poverty? I happen to think that a proper education IS part of treating the problem not a symptom. How have others done it? How have others gotten out of poverty?That is a typical way of thinking for too many. My response:
I can't honestly say how far back poverty goes in my family, but I can tell you this...my mother and my father came from extreme poverty-especially my mother. Yes, her father was a DC lawyer until he died when she was five, but considering the fact that her grandfather hated her mother and the children from that marriage to that "Indian woman" (yeah-very little Indian but Indian none the less)...my mother had next to nothing growing up (no indoor plumbing...often no electricity....a step dad who drove over her mother with a tractor on purpose....). She did (and does) have a drive. No matter what, you just keep going. She was smart. She went to school. She met my father....blah blah blah. She's not wealthy-but solid middle class.
My dad-the eighth of nine children born to an alcoholic father...again not sure of the education levels of my grandparents there (I know my grandfather comes from a long line of moonshiners in southwest Virginia....and many factory workers), but my grandmother was on top of it-so were my aunts and uncles when it came to my dad. Every single one of those children either went into the military, college, or both and all are quite comfortable financially. My father is more than comfortable, and he grew up in a house with no indoor plumbing for a very long time. His parents cleaned the church for a living.
(My parents are no longer together...hence the different financial situations). I feel the need to mention too that it isn't just about money...money comes and goes. I have very little money right now...I had quite a bit more before I was divorced....I'm still pretty much the same; I just have to budget. I realize my money issues are NOTHING compared to people who have no health insurance, etc....which as a college student with a baby I also had very little and no health insurance.
I know...I know....they were white.....for the record, I"m not accepting that excuse...too many people of color find themselves out of poverty. So that being said, what do we do?
MTV, poverty isn't about just money. Generational poverty in the social sciences, which is what we are discussing and should be the assumed level of discourse around here, is more accurately described as socioeconomic status, or SES.There's lots more over there. They need your input. Go there and comment.
When you look at families with low SES, they are the ones who do poorly in school. Poor people can have high SES--look at Obama's childhood, or your grandfather the lawyer--and still be poor. My grandmother was one of the first women in Boston to become a lawyer. Her dirt-poor family came from Russia to Boston in about '06  and immediately set sights on advanced degrees. Why? High SES, even without money. My grandfather was also a lawyer. As are about 5 of my cousins. And there are dentists and academics in the family, and a couple teachers and professors, and a loser or two.
Socioeconomic status is the only correlate to student success that exists in the literature. Nothing else correlates. And the correlation is powerful and sustained. It meets the threshold of causation.
Here is a good example if you don't get put off by it: Jews (I am one) arrived in America penniless, as did most immigrants. Jews as a group have done very well for themselves in America. Why? They have high SES. They value education. They worship it. The word "Rabbi" means "teacher" as I assume most know. Each generation of Jew has wanted the next generation to be more educated than the last. Jews are disproportionately represented in academia because of their notions about learning and study--it's part and parcel of the culture and faith.
Don't conflate poor with impoverished. They are often bound together, but can be mutually exclusive too.
And that is why poverty stifles--one generation passes their non-education on to the next, devaluing it. Schools and school leaders do nothing to try to change that--school is punitive, not welcoming these days.
Low SES and boring classes do not a successful school career make.
And then, because I blame poverty for the poor test outcomes for impoverished kids (the only ones getting low scores) I get questions like these:
TFT- Do you think that there is anything we can do short term to improve education then?To which I answer like this:
Tee Eff Tee-I thought I'd share since not enough of you are doing any debunking.
We can eliminate NCLB sanctions that scripted teachers and return autonomy to them.
We can eliminate high-stakes testing and its attendant teaching to the test mentality.
We can end zero tolerance policies for young kids.
We can make sure kids with IEPs and 504s are given what they need and deserve and are entitled to by law.
We can give teachers the time to work together to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable kids instead of ignoring them in favor of the 2s and 3s.
We can improve school libraries by bringing back librarians (books have the largest positive impact on impoverished students--and it's cheap as hell).
None of these cost extra money.
Then, on the out of school stuff (which has magnitudes more impact) we should have universal health care, free high quality early childhood education programs, easy access to good food in impoverished neighborhoods (enterprise zones were one way to deal with this) and fix the inner city schools that are in a shambles, showing the community the larger community actually gives a shit.
Who would argue against anything above? Mike? Ramona?
Mind you, these two quotes from MTV and Jane come from 2 people I actually like and respect over there.