October 18, 2009

C.O.M.M.O.N. sense

Patrick Welsh has an article in the Washington Post that lays out what those with just a decent quantity of common sense already know: That having a dad around in the house (or, parental involvement in general) has a LOT to do with a child's academic achievement in school.

My students knew intuitively that the reason they were lagging academically had nothing to do with race, which is the too-handy explanation for the achievement gap in Alexandria. And it wasn't because the school system had failed them. They knew that excuses about a lack of resources and access just didn't wash at the new, state-of-the-art, $100 million T.C. Williams, where every student is given a laptop and where there is open enrollment in Advanced Placement and honors courses. Rather, it was because their parents just weren't there for them -- at least not in the same way that parents of kids who were doing well tended to be.

Unfortunately, way too many school districts across the country use race as the "handy explanation" for the achievement gap. It may be they'll advocate for more resources (such as above) or they'll bring in speakers -- supposed "experts" -- who lecture teachers that it is white [teacher] racism that is responsible for minority children not doing as well as their Caucasian counterparts.

And people wonder why some folks snicker at [public ed.] educationists' explanations for low performance? For example, if those above "experts'" theories that white teacher racism is the true culprit for poor minority school performance, what explains the results of schools whose staff is overwhelmingly minority? And if state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure and materials is the answer, what explains the Kansas City Experiment?


But focusing on a "racial achievement gap" is too simple; it's a gap in familial support and involvement, too. Administrators focused solely on race are stigmatizing black students. At the same time, they are encouraging the easy excuse that the kids who are not excelling are victims, as well as the idea that once schools stop being racist and raise expectations, these low achievers will suddenly blossom.

Indeed. Most of the rest of Welsh's article is eerily (and sadly) familiar. But I am not attempting to excuse schools and teachers from doing their utmost best to help rectify what is inherently a societal problem that is brought into the schools. That's their job, after all. What I am saying is that more people -- educationists -- need to stop relying on esoteric theories and just use plain old common sense. It'll save them a LOT of money and best of all, something substantive actually might get done.

Which brings me to this: A good friend of mine who was finishing his masters about a decade ago was enrolled in a class that [partly] dealt with this topic. After class, off the record, the professor -- despite covering a great deal of "theory" so criticized above -- told my buddy that "if you tell me a kid's socio-economic status and whether he/she has involved parents, I can tell you how well that kid will do in school."

'Nuff said.

Posted by Hube at October 18, 2009 11:04 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Who has a program/teaching model that works for fatherless children?

Posted by: annoni at October 19, 2009 01:07 PM

This is very sad and very true. It has almost become easy and automatic to blame class room problems on issues of race, but often the home and economic situation is ignored. It would be good to try and tackle this issue head on, like racism was at least attempted at all those years ago.

Posted by: Tommy at October 20, 2009 06:56 AM

Who has a program/teaching model that works for fatherless children?

Posted by: Eric at October 24, 2009 02:28 AM