Poor Kid, Rich Kid

   My sister teaches special education and my father has worked in the school system for over thirty years, helping to form my unapologetically biased love and respect for the value of our teachers in the United States. Furthermore, it’s no surprise that education was hugely emphasized in my upbringing. my ability to focus so strongly on school related greatly to my financial privilege, coming from a financially stable -middle class family. I recognize this privilege and understand  not every child is so lucky. However, it doesn’t seem our education system cares so much about this disparity, as child after child from lower income families is being left in the dust when it comes to quality schools.

 

With income disparity among the poor and the very rich higher than ever, and a system that values instant gratification over investing in our future, many low-income children are left in the dust of a stale and antiquated education system.

In  high-poverty schools, more than one in every five core classes (21.9 percent) are taught by an out-of-field teacher, compared with one in nine classes or 10.9 percent in low-poverty schools

  Though legislation like No Child Left Behind set laws to close the gap of unqualified teachers per low-income schools versus higher-income schools,the disparity between the two is still strong today.The Independent Budget Office of New York released a study showing the link between poverty and low test scores, stating that students who qualify for free lunch are far more likely to fail tests than student who are eligible for subsidized meals. Wealthier areas can afford to invest in their programs and curriculum, furthermore helping students from already privileged backgrounds, to excel even more. This goes the opposite for low income areas, in which poorer schools are not invested in, and students that already have late starts academically are left behind.

More than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don’t Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds.

Teachers cannot adequately invest in this disparity.  In a response to the editors piece on the need for higher pay for teachers, T. Elijah Hawkes, principal of  James Baldwin School in Manhattan, stressed the dilemma in expecting teachers to transform lives of students in hardship simply by teaching.

Until we perceive child poverty as something to be fixed not by our schools but by wage, labor, taxation and health care policy, we will continue to place unrealistic expectations on teachers, and see them as to blame for dashed American dreams.

Low-income schools are subject programs that force underprivileged students to learn from insubstantial teaching standards.  Teach for America, while offering wonderful opportunities  for recent college graduates, does not benefit our education system as a whole. Unqualified teachers are sent to low income, over crowded schools where unaccounted for students need closer attention, not less. After months of minimal training and often times, no previous teacher’s training, these TFA recruits attempt to teach students to reach minimal test requirements. If we want to expect more from our teachers, we must raise our standards of what it means to be a teacher. Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, Mark Naison wrote a piece about how Teach for America has spoken out about his disdain for the program in the Washington Post

Until Teach For America becomes committed to training lifetime educators and raises the length of service to five years rather than two, I will not allow TFA to recruit in my classes.  The idea of sending talented students into schools in impoverished areas, and then after two years encouraging them to pursue careers in finance, law, and business in the hope that they will then advocate for educational equity really rubs me the wrong way.

Every child deserves the opportunity to excel, not just the kids from well-to-do backgrounds. No Child Left Behind, in which the administration attempted to close the gap between school’s successes failed, and much of that reason is because poor schools were not given the adequate resources to meet those standards that were expected of them. Teach for America is not the answer, and it’s time we move more towards a system that better recognizes  financial disparity rather than general requirements for students that are not starting out on the same level playing field as their peer.

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