Sunday, January 30, 2011

School Choice Helps Meet the Needs of All Students

I have seen a lot of negative press lately about charter schools creating a two tier system of education in this country.   One system is for students at charter schools in the inner city where charter schools like UNO and KIPP use rigid discipline and rote memorization to educate needy students.   Another system is created for wealthy students where schools teach a curriculum rich in critical thinking and classes designed to help students become well rounded individuals.

I don't see this as a problem.  For years, we have known that things like race and gender affect the way that students learn.  Socio-economic status also greatly impacts student learning.  For years, American teachers have complained that the high rate of poverty in this country makes their job more difficult.  Why shouldn't schools separate students based on their family incomes, in much the same way that some students separate based on gender?  Horseback riding lessons do no good to a student growing up in the poverty of an inner city neighborhood, while wealthier students would get bored with a day of memorizing math facts and linking verbs.   While, getting poor students off the street after school so they can't commit crimes makes a lot of sense.  Wealthy students can't stay at school as late with their private tutors, sports teams and clubs.

As we celebrate the end of school choice week, it is time for us to increase educational opportunities for all students regardless of wealth, race, or gender. Class creates a huge achievement gap.   Students from lower income families do not score nearly as high as students of a higher income level on standardized tests even when race and gender are discounted. 

We must begin to seperate students of different classes from each other so that we can work with the learning style of each student population.  Wealthier students do well in things like French, debate, and musical instruments while poorer students need more time learning basic skills like math and reading.  Our schools should reflect this.  As a child brought up in privilege, I would have been bored to tears by the type of school that LastStand advocates for, but that doesn't mean it isn't the ideal educational environment for poor and working class kids. Those kids needs lots of rote memorization.

Students from higher socio-economic classes suffer when deprived of state of the art technology and extra-curricular activities like sports teams, yearbook, and The Young Republicans.  A similiar drop in achievement is not noticeable in the students of poor or working class incomes without these things.
By making rich and poor students go to the same school we are failing to meet the needs of all of our student populations and that isn't right.

1 comment:

  1. How right you are Myron! After all, when these poor kids grow up, any job they get is likely to be boring and repetitive. It would be cruel to fool them into believing life could be interesting. Let's not broaden their horizons when we should keep them focused on the narrow, mind-numbing path they'll inevitably take to the dull life of endless tedium that surely awaits them.