Saturday, May 07, 2005

It Takes More Than Caring to Lift Hard-To-Reach Kids

Here's a message written by Bonnie Bracey, at, that I feel is worth repeating:

Certain schools are having success in dealing with formerly low-performing students, writes William Raspberry. But precious few school systems are showing much consistent improvement in educating the children we know to be hard to educate: children of low-income black and Hispanic households, children of single-parent school dropouts -- children, in short, for whose parents school didn't work. What is hard for us to get our minds around is that school improvement is fairly easy to accomplish for children whose parents were successful in school and are enjoying some success in their lives. Threats of retention, loss of privilege, even the prospect of embarrassment, can nudge such parents into more active participation in their children's schooling. But for parents who have not enjoyed success or seriously envisioned success for their children, it takes more than reorganization and parent coordinators and the like. It takes a consistent, nonjudgmental effort to reach and teach parents how to prepare their children for learning.

I put this here because it challenges us to think deeper. I post maps and charts on T/MC web sites that show poorly performing schools to be more concentrated in poverty than in other neighborhoods, and to show that kids in poverty don't have the same range of adult mentors and role models in their lives. Instead they have a different mix of role models who demonstrate different, and more negative career aspirations.

Blaming teachers, parents and school leaders without creating a more comprehensive adult support system in these neighborhoods is not fair. A comprehensive tutor/mentor program attracts a mix of adults who model a wider range of career aspirations and help open doors for kids who participate in these programs.

Unfortunately, there are too few programs in most neighborhoods where they are needed, and too few people in business, government and media who are spending time providing leadership to a mentoring-to-career strategy.

Want to talk about this? Post a comment, or join in one of the conference or econference forums that we host throughout the year.

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