Director: Poverty and Schools Essay

Submitted By par4me2249
Words: 1824
Pages: 8

As schools face public demands for increased student performance, the daunting task is particularly problematic for schools with high poverty levels. Traditionally, achievement is associated with high parental education and high income, while children in lower socio-economic status, often termed at-risk, show lower test scores (Payne). While the decline in achievement gains has been documented in many different studies, schools face the additional developmental issues associated with the well-being and learning of all students. In poor communities today, constraints from both within and outside schooling are affecting the quality of education students receive. As a consequence, not only is the overall achievement of students who live in poverty low, it is significantly lower than that of students from more economically affluent communities. Schools serving low-income communities face many challenges that are tied to those conditions of poverty with which students and their families live. For example, it is a challenge to attract and retain well-qualified teachers; transience within the student population disrupts continuity of instruction and learning; and challenges in the lives of students due to inadequate income, transportation, health, and safety often make it difficult for students to focus on an academic agenda. Nevertheless, it is also striking that many of the needs of these poverty bound schools are similar to those of schools in more affluent communities. Some example of needs shared by all include: an organized curriculum addressing significant structure with depth and clarity; appropriate instructional materials to address the curriculum goals; competitive salaries and a program of sustained and supportive professional development opportunities for teachers, including time for planning and collegial interaction; stable school conditions that are conducive to teaching and learning, including reasonable class size and administrative support; programmatic sensitivity to the culture of goals of the communities being served; in-school and out-of-school support structures for students ; appropriate assessments that can inform instructional decisions; and consistent district and school leadership in adopting and implementing educational policies and practices that support teaching and learning. Providing for these educational needs in schools serving the children in poverty is a major challenge for a nation that prides itself on educational opportunity and speaks of equity and justice for all of its citizens. In order to preserve senior teachers’ rights under collective bargaining agreements, schools are charged the same amount for each teacher no matter what her or his actual salary is. Schools in wealthier neighborhoods are free to assemble staffs made up entirely of highly paid senior teachers. Schools in poor neighborhoods have to pay as much for a teacher with weak preparation and no experience as schools in more upscale neighborhoods pay for a teacher with a doctorate and twenty years’ experience. This has disastrous consequences for the quality of schools’ serving the poorest children. Schools with the last pick of teachers must rely on brand-new college graduates and untrained staff with “emergency certificates.” Every year, one-third of new teachers leave the profession (Kozol). Among those who stay in teaching, the best depart for schools in nicer neighborhoods as soon as they can. No wonder schools in poverty neighborhoods are turbulent and parents cannot develop relationships with teachers and principals. The principals who remain in such schools are the heroes, who will fight for children whatever the odds, and the incompetent, who have no choice. Notable examples can be cited of high-poverty district schools that have succeeded, at least for a time, thorough the efforts of heroic, isolated teachers of administrators (Kozol). Yet, these examples are almost