A reader writes:
I also hated the line of argument pursued by one of your readers. I'm a foster parent, in a school district that still engages in integration motivated busing. Our black foster child was behind grade level when she came to us last summer, even though she was coming from a suburban school with very high test scores. We live in the significantly more affluent (predominantly white) neighborhood of the two this school serves. The other neighborhood is low income and a mix of Latino and black families. The test scores from our neighborhood match the high scores of our school district, while the test scores from the other neighborhood fall well below acceptable levels.
To give her an opportunity to catch up, our daughter was placed in a class with one of the top teachers in the school and in a reduced sized classroom (16 kids). This classroom was divided between kids who were performing well (majority white) and kids who needed work (mostly students of color). Over the course of the year, our daughter made significant strides in her test scores, reading ability, and math skills. I do not believe the other struggling children who entered her class saw the same level of success.
It was clear to me that as beneficial as the smaller class size and skill of her teacher were, they would have all been wasted had our foster daughter not been getting four simple things from us:
1. A regular bed time
2. Regular meals
3. Set time to do homework every night
4. Parental involvement and expectation
I'm a huge liberal, who believes in proper school funding and smaller class sizes. However, I'm tired of the belief that schools are failing simply because of underfunding.
These schools, and their students, are failing because of what is going on at home. Either the parent is physically absent, which could be caused by everything from a a need to work multiple jobs to outright neglect, or the parent is uninvolved.
I know there are times in which a lack of proper funding harms a school and the performance of its students, but not to the extent that entire systems are failing 50, 60, 70 percent of the students in many cities. That is caused by a standing social and economic problem, one that manifests itself in race due to the lingering effects of segregation and economic inequities drawn on racial lines.
But it is not because Federal, State and Local Governments aren't putting enough money into the district. No amount of money being thrown at the school district will fix it. Only good jobs in urban areas, that provide for stable families, will change that problem. It seems that since we have no easily identifiable solution to that problem we rely too much on talking about the need for more funding for schools. More dangerously, it makes us focus our efforts for a solution on only one area, even if that area won't address the problem.