New York Times columnist Joe Nocera tells us in his Sunday column, “Addressing Poverty in Schools,” that poverty is the elephant in the public education room I agree that the name of the elephant in the room begins with a P. But it’s not poverty, it’s parents.
Almost all of our public discussions about how well our government is serving its citizens happen in a weird closed loop of “insiders” or “stakeholders.” Over time, they develop their own language, their own set of fixes and a pattern to their debates.
This dynamic has permeated every crevice of public education — our policy discussions focus on whether you are “for” or “against” reform; administrators use terms like “best practice,” “multiple measures,” and “value added growth” that sound good but are not what they seem. Add in a testing system that isn’t designed to do what we want it to do (give us a legitimate picture of student learning) and isn’t clearly explained (or explained at all), and we’ve got an insiders’ mess on our hands.
It’s time for parents and guardians to take back control of the conversation. We parents—and our children—are the only real education insiders. It’s time for us to step into this conversation in a meaningful way. How? By partnering with teachers who are empowered to be the official translators and ambassadors to the public.
With parents, guardians and teachers as a united front, we will get much closer to the goal of giving each and every child a chance to learn, those who languish in poverty and those who languish in mediocre schools.
Absolutely we have to talk about the plague of poverty—and its effect on every facet of our society, from housing to health care. Yes, education too.
But we cannot make education policy solely through the prism of poverty, which inevitably leads to blame and questions of moral judgment that don’t lead us to solutions.
Instead, we must talk about public education in terms of opportunities and skills development so we can bring a greater focus to the business of public education: Giving young people the skills they need to be productive citizens.
When we talk only about poverty, we let lots of people off the hook. And it becomes a conversation about “those kids” rather than our kids. And make no mistake: They are all our kids.