Reaping What We’ve Sown: How Schools Fail Low-Income Parents

The author of today’s article, Renee Moore, who teaches English to high school and college students in the Mississippi Delta, highlights the iniquities of our country’s education system similar to Jonathon Kozul’s book published in 2005, The Shame of the Nation, in which Kozol documents his visits to approximately 60 schools, in 30 school districts, across 11 states. Some of these schools are in the South Bronx, where he got to know their principals, their teachers and many of their students. His book is dedicated to a teacher from one of these schools.

The chief academic authority on this issue, whom Kozol interviews and quotes, is Gary Orfield of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who has been as persistent in documenting the scale of segregation, and attacking its presumed educational effects, as Kozol has been in describing it. According to Orfield and his colleagues, writing in 2004, and quoted by Kozol, “American public schools are now 12 years into the process of continuous resegregation. . . . During the 1990’s, the proportion of black students in majority white schools has decreased . . . to a level lower than in any year since 1968.” He expresses outrage at inequities in expenditure, pointing out that New York City in 2002-3 spent $11,627 on the education of each child, while Manhasset (a nearby suburb) spent $22,311, Great Neck $19,705 and so on. There are comparable disparities in other metropolitan areas.

According to a study by Emory University sociologist Dennis Condron, “Racial segregation in the schools is fueling the learning disparity between young black and white children, while out-of-school factors are more important to the growth of social class gaps,” published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review. His research indicated that regardless of social class, black students are less often taught by certified teachers than are white students, and black students are far more likely than white students to attend predominantly minority schools, high-poverty schools and schools located in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “De facto segregation remains high these days, with important implications for education,” Condron said in an interview for the Science Daily (Oct. 2, 2009). “When it comes to both housing and schools, race trumps class as the central axis upon which blacks and whites are segregated. Real solutions to the black-white achievement gap lie far beyond schools and require changes to society more broadly.” A specialist in educational disparities, Condron is currently analyzing data on more than 80 countries to research the impact of economic inequality on countries’ average achievement levels. Here are questions to consider:

How can school districts be considered “good” when certain segments of their student population regularly and consistently perform poorly? And what can these districts do to alleviate such disparities in achievement?

How can parents get involved at their children’s schools to help foster community responsibility?

Teacher Magazine
October 16, 2009
Published: October 14, 2009
Reaping What We’ve Sown: How Schools Fail Low-Income Parents
By Renee Moore

Teacher Leaders Network Recently, I’ve been seeing more comments from people who argue that poverty causes people (specifically parents) not to value education. The latest opinion outburst has been prompted in part by the recent story of a young honor student in Chicago being beaten to death (unfortunately, not the only such case, but one of the most dramatic and publicized).

Some of these comments are coming from frustrated educators and others who think we are wasting our time trying to improve poorly performing schools in high-poverty communities because so many, if not most of the parents whose children attend these schools, “just don’t care.”

After 20 years of teaching in one of the poorest regions of the country, I respectfully disagree. Parents who do not love their children or don’t want the best for them─frightful as that is─are still the exception.

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