The real school problem

Alabamians want the problem with education to be a flaw in our schools, because such a problem would be relatively easy to fix.
Local legislators have embraced a grading system for all public schools, effectively placing more emphasis on standardized tests. They support tax-funded charter schools, hoping private companies can find different solutions. They attack tenure and teacher pay, trying to convince themselves that the educators must be to blame.
As the professionals who deal with our children on a daily basis can attest, however, problems in educational outcome have less to do with the schools than with the lives of the children they teach.
A recent report of the Southern Regional Education Board showed Alabama with the fourth highest childhood poverty rate in the nation. In 2010, 28 percent of our children lived in households that were below the poverty level.
Since 2005, the number of Alabama children living in poverty increased by 36,000.
No Legislature-crafted educational gimmicks can overcome the obstacles faced by impoverished children. Asking a child to prepare for her math class — when she is worried about whether she will eat, where she will sleep, and whether her parents can obtain medical care — is asking too much.
Children raised in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school, and far less likely to attend or graduate from college.
Blaming public schools is easy. What is not so easy is recognizing and addressing the underlying problem.
Teachers do the best they can with the students who enter the classroom every morning, but an increasing number of those children are overwhelmed with the stress of poverty. It’s a far more difficult problem to tackle, but the future of our state depends on it.

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Filed under Alabama politics, education, Poverty

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