Poverty and Race Do Not Dictate Ability: Shifting the Educational Paradigm

Government Largess 4From the 1960s, educators began believing and living a belief that poor minority students cannot succeed or learn to the same quality of rich white children.  This belief changed how K-12 Education was funded, supported by the government, and directed resources for education in America’s cities and towns.  Back in 1995, Milwaukee, WI., Douglas B. Reeves forever sundered the fallacious belief that poverty and race do not chain a student’s mind.  Except in 2019, the lie continues that if you are not white and rich K-12 education is going to be forever out of reach, that your poverty status means you cannot achieve, and your race will dictate how smart you are.  Race and poverty are still the demographic drums used to bleed resources, damage education, and stifle educational innovations.  Well, I say it is past time to cease the madness and demand those in education either reform or leave; for they are committing child abuse with their racist lies for personal gain and political power.

Referring to the Standards for Teacher Competence in Educational Assessments of Students (1990), a parent can find five areas of scoring a student’s teacher for quality of classroom efforts.  These five standards include:

  1. Is the teacher prepared before they instruct the class?
    1. This includes support from the school principals and the administrative staff at the school board level.
    2. The student should be evaluating themselves for preparation before classroom instruction for their personal desires to learn and work assignments completed.
    3. The teacher’s preparation should include written activities to measure student performance and be graded against a standardized scoring system.
  2. Does the teacher use a variety of activities and approaches during the instructional time to aid student comprehension? If so, what activities are being used?  If not, why?
    1. Get this answer early and check with the student often for compliance.
    2. Use the teacher-parent conference to obtain the teacher’s input.
    3. Never allow a teacher to single-mode and done a learning activity, this is a sign of a lazy teacher.
  3. What is the teacher doing to connect with students after instructional time activities?
    1. Student aid with long and short-term goal attainment.
    2. Communicating student strengths and weaknesses clearly to students and parents.
    3. Being engaged in curriculum correction with the principal and the school board.
  4. Are the teacher’s advice, comments, and suggestions being sought by the school principal and their administrative staff for both the local school and the school board? If not, hold the school board accountable and the principal responsible for ignoring the needs of the teacher.
    1. Teachers have first-hand accounts of how the environment, building facilities, technology, etc. are influencing and affecting the student learning process.
    2. Teachers are not the sole reason student’s fail, struggle, or succeed.
    3. If it takes a town to raise a child, then the teacher should be considered as a tool, a small part, in building the child, and while the teacher is often the face of the school, the teacher is part of a team. Know who to hold responsible!
  5. What is the teacher doing in the broader community of educators?
    1. This question goes beyond simple professional development and continuing education.
    2. This question points to the support the school and the district provide time to the teacher for involvement, and encouragement to pursue professional opportunities.
    3. Ask the teacher how well they are encouraged and supported to pursue professional involvement. Just do not lay the blame with the teacher if they express they are not fulfilled professionally.

Nowhere in those assessments of a teacher is the race of the child considered, the financial aspect of the children’s family regarded, or any other demographic considered.  The Standards for Teacher Competence provides for measuring teachers, why does the lie regarding race and poverty remain so prevalent; the answer lies in the school administrations, the amount of money available, and the expensive cars parked at the school district headquarters.  The school administrations have become fat and stifling upon the tax dollars used in education, the size of the school administration is killing education, robbing teachers of funds for the classroom, and ruining children’s opportunities for growth; precisely the opposite of the job the school administrators was hired to perform.

Reeves (2003) cites Peters and Waterman (1982) “In Search of Excellence” for the role and duties of the school administrators.

  • Focus upon academic achievement
  • Provides clear curriculum choices and support teachers
  • Opens the schedule for frequent assessments which provide students multiple opportunities to improve
  • Emphasizes nonfiction writing
  • Employs collaborative scoring of student work using standard grading guidelines
  • Builds a learning environment focused upon persistent, consistent, and reliable assessments reflecting student efforts and teacher support

Nowhere in Peters and Waterman’s (1982) work is race a contributing factor in brains or abilities.  Nowhere is the financial situation a student arrives at a classroom from reflecting a causal variable in classifying a student who can and cannot handle workloads in K-12 education.  That the belief that race and poverty influence abilities to learn is a lie has been known since as early as the mid-1960s; yet, this pernicious belief continues to saddle minority and poverty students with ever-decreasing standards, less focus in education upon factors that can improve the student’s ability to learn, and activities that challenge the student to excel.

Government Largess 2Here is what the lie regarding poverty and race looks like in practice, using Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) as an example.  Please feel free to use your public schools as an example to rate the school district, the school principal, and the teachers of your communities’ children.

  • APS is the 31st-largest school district in the US
    • 20% of New Mexicans age 16 and older have literacy skills at level 1, the lowest level on a scale of 1 to 5.
    • New Mexico ranks 50th out of the 50-American States with a D- or a score of 66.2%.
    • As the biggest school district in New Mexico, APS has nothing to crow about as they are central to the low scores and literacy problems in NM.
  • Capital budget: nearly $1 billion in both new educational facility capital projects as well as improvements and refurbishments in the district’s schools between 2010 and 2016.
  • Current Projects: FD&C currently has 146 projects in design or construction totaling approximately $378 million
  • Square Feet: approximately 15 million square feet of traditional school buildings, portable classrooms, and administrative offices and facilities
    • From the Bernalillo County website, there are several graphs worthy of attention. Specifically, Figure 12: Bernalillo County, NM Detailed Education Attainment Breakout by Race (Age 25+).
      • 9% of Hispanic populations do not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
      • 3% of the American Indian population does not finish high school or attain a GED.
      • 3% of the white demographic does not complete high school or attain a GED.
    • Speaking volumes of the efficacy of the school board to address the problems in APS, and even more about the “10% dropout” rate APS crows about as a success factor. How many of those graduating are functionally illiterate and unable to obtain work after graduation?
    • Having spoken with teachers, it is blatantly evident that APS passes students who do not possess the skills, because of the restrictions placed upon the teachers to teach to the students, and not to a program, a system, or a process.
    • With nearly 50% of the population in Bernalillo County identifying as Hispanic, and almost 50% not finishing high school, when Reeves (2003) cites the equity gap caused by the lie that poverty and race dictate educational ability, here is the gap illustrated.
    • Yet, for all the billions of dollars APS oversees for education in Bernalillo County, the gap has not shrunk, ever.
  • APS believes in “magic-bullet” programs to “fix the gap;” proving again that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results. New in 2019 in APS school systems is yet, one more sure-fire, quick-fix, strategy to fix the poverty and race gap in education, and the results will be the same next year and the year after that, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Image - Eagle & FlagAmerica, you are the power that keeps the school districts alive.  Use the five points provided to assess the teachers, use the six-points above to evaluate and measure the school board, school administration, and principal, and then every time you see a school board, teacher, or principal out of compliance, demand change!  There is no excuse for an almost 60-year old lie to continue to thrive.  There is no valid excuse for failing to teach students in the K-12.  Poverty and race do not hamper or hinder when teachers are prepared, and schools are appropriately led, focused, and each student is assessed for consistent, persistent, and reliable growth.  Demand better; our kids deserve more!

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Published by

msalis1

Dual service military veteran. Possess an MBA in Global Management and a Masters degree in Adult Education and Training. Pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Business professional with depth of experience in logistics, supply chain management, and call centers.

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