Closing the Wealth and Achievement Gaps
1 year ago
School reformers and justice advocates can work together
Imagine an African-American or Latino charter school graduate attending an elite liberal arts college. He or she will probably take out loans and have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet as a college student. Because folks aren’t hiring, that graduate gets a late start finding his first job, which negatively impacts his future earnings. So the loan-strapped student looks for a teaching position in an urban district but is turned down because he or she doesn’t have the same GPA as someone who didn’t have to have jobs in college.
These are not excuses. These are the people of the recession. These are the people on the negative side of the wealth gap.
Market-driven school reformers consistently discredit progressive educators for pointing to poverty as a root cause for the achievement gap. “Poverty is not an excuse” has become a slogan used to replace educators who view inadequate housing, drug-dependent parents or an incarcerated father as significant factors for low performance.
For the job seeker who came from an impoverished background and had to work through college, the response from many reformers is, “These are adult issues we can’t address.”
Reminder: students become adults. Students have adult caretakers. Statistically speaking, income and wealth are still some of the biggest predictors of academic success. The achievement gap closes with rises in income.
Money may not be the primary cause of low educational achievement, but calling poverty an excuse may be easy to say when you are 20 times wealthier than the black and brown students you serve.