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Mon Oct 21, 2013, 12:12 PM

What poor children need in school

Last edited Mon Oct 21, 2013, 01:28 PM - Edit history (1)

What poor children need in school
BY VALERIE STRAUSS
October 18 at 6:00 am
Yesterday I wrote a post about how public education’s biggest problem — poverty — keeps getting worse, with the news from a new report that a majority of students in public schools in the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades. Here’s a related piece which argues that policy makers own life circumstances affect the way they make school reform decisions for the poor. Jack Schneider (@Edu_Historian) is an assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross and the author of the forthcoming book From the Ivory Tower to the Schoolhouse: How Scholarship Becomes Common Knowledge in Education. Heather Curl is a lecturer at Bryn Mawr College. Both authors are former classroom teachers. Schneider also founded University Paideia, a pre-college program for under-served students in the San Francisco Bay Area. His research focuses on educational policy-making and school reform.

By Jack Schneider and Heather Curl
Most educational policy elites, whether in government or in the nonprofit sector, mean well. They pursue careers in education, rather than in business, because they want to help children, and because they believe in the power of schools to promote opportunity. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule; entrepreneurial third-parties, for instance, are often more interested in making a buck than in making a difference. On the whole, however, education is a field of good intentions.

Yet policymakers tend to come from a relatively privileged slice of American society. And they tend to possess a set of beliefs and assumptions distinct to their background. This is not, in every instance, a significant problem. Effective budgeting practices, for example, are likely to look the same regardless of a person’s upbringing and experience. But in most cases, the fact that decision-makers inhabit a different world from students—and particularly, poor students—is a matter of great significance.

The primary way this translates into practice is through the belief that the poor need only better jobs to lead better lives. Teach them how to read, write, and compute, policymakers insist, and they will have access to higher-paying and higher-status careers. In short, they believe that the problem of poverty is a problem of dollars and cents. And in part it is. But the problem is also much greater than that.

more

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/18/what-poor-children-need-in-school/

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Mon Oct 21, 2013, 01:16 PM

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