Filed under Education Reform

DON’T FORGET ED: EDUCATION REFORM DESERVES PRIORITY

Don't Forget Ed campaign in National Mall

By Emmelie De La Cruz

Wednesday, The College Board kicked off a national movement, “Don’t Forget Ed,” to make education a more prominent issue in the 2012 presidential campaign by calling upon the candidates to discuss their plans for reform. 857 school desks were placed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as a compelling display representing the students that drop out every hour of every school day in our nation’s schools.

“‘Don’t Forget Ed’ recognizes that education is the foundation of our society. If our schools fail, then so will everything else — from our economy to national security,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “Yet every four years, the issue of education is shockingly underplayed on the campaign trail. That’s why this year we are encouraging candidates all over the country to tell voters precisely how they would reverse the sharp decline of American education. Parents, teachers, students and administrators have had enough of the silence. This year they are speaking loud and clear, and the College Board is committed to amplifying their voices.”

There is no question that students leaving school is detrimental to our society, as there is a direct correlation between education and incarceration. According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, 82% of the inmates currently in our federal prisons are high school dropouts.

As pointed out by Kevin Chavous of the Huffington Post, “The average cost to care for those inmates is $55,000.00 per inmate. In contrast, we spend on average approximately $10,500 per student in our K-12 education system. And, as our prisons are consistently overcrowded, far too many of our public school districts have schools that are barely half full.”

It is disheartening that these statistics and correlations are not bringing a sense of urgency among leaders and policymakers. More than 1.2 million students drop out of school every year, which averages out to 6,000 students every school day and 857 every hour. Recent data show that students in this country rank 25th in math and 21st in science among students from 30 industrialized nations.

Now it is your turn to weigh in:

What would you suggest to the presidential candidates about education reform if you had 5 minutes with them?

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D.C. STUDENTS NEED THOUGHTFUL APPROACH

New DCPS reform plan lacks ‘candid assessment’ of student needs

By: Nathan A. Saunders

D.C. public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson recently unveiled a five-year action plan to transform and reinvigorate the District’s public education landscape. Among its goals, the plan aims to increase enrollment, improve struggling schools, raise math and reading proficiency to 70 percent, and increase the high school graduation rate to 75 percent.

Unquestionably, the chancellor’s plan is another ambitious government attempt at education reform. But one must observe that overly ambitious policy statements are easier to voice than execute with meaningful results.

Clearly, the time has come for the Gray administration to make a candid assessment and holistically resolve the issues facing schools. A comprehensive approach encompasses diverse methods of measuring student progress, increased family involvement, more stakeholder collaboration, thoughtful resource allocation and a thorough plan to address socioeconomic disparities.

Each day, many students travel to schools from some of the most economically challenged communities. We must acknowledge that learning and school readiness extend far beyond the walls of the classroom and into students’ homes and communities. With 30 percent of District children living in poverty — and more than half of those children in extreme poverty — it is imperative that school leaders and policymakers consider the role and challenges high rates of homelessness, unemployment and poor health care present in education reform.

The socioeconomic disparities in the District have a profound and undeniable influence on student academic achievement.

According to the National Association of Education Progress, D.C. public schools have the largest gap in academic achievement between minority students and their white counterparts.

Education reform efforts can no longer afford to treat all schools and students as if they are beginning at the same place, both academically and socioeconomically.  The DCPS five-year action plan must address communities’ present conditions. A holistic approach requires that we begin the process of making thoughtful school funding allocations and channeling resources to low-performing schools with the most need. By doing so, we improve struggling schools, increase student success and bridge the achievement gap.

Although teachers play a vital role in educating students, parents also have a pivotal part in determining the educational success of their children. In a recent Gates Foundation survey of 10,000 teachers nationwide, 98 percent said family involvement and support have a strong or very strong impact on improving academic achievement.

Parents must attend parent-teacher conferences and extra-curricular events to monitor student progress and express concerns. They must also reinforce teacher directives about homework and studying. Teachers, parents, school leaders and public officials must collaborate and act in a concerted effort to fulfill our mutual commitment to educate our students.

Finally, we must realize that teaching the information necessary to receive a proficient score on the D.C. CAS or any other high-stakes exam does not mean that the student has learned the critical thinking skills necessary for success in higher education or the job market.

D.C. public school teachers stand ready to work with the mayor and chancellor to create the outcomes our students deserve. Despite the challenges we face, public education stakeholders must renew our commitment to create a school system that honors and respects children’s natural curiosity while capturing their full potential.

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