Posts Tagged ‘parent support’

The Headlines Feature the Big Number ($1.9 Trillion) and Money for Adults ($1,400 for almost everyone) But Overlook the Biggest Feature of all in Biden’s Plan: A 50% Reduction in Child Poverty!

February 4, 2021 Comments off

I’ll confess to missing one of the biggest features in the “American Rescue Plan” proposed by Joe Biden: the $3,600 in tax credits for each child in the country… even for those children who’s parents do not pay taxes! NYTimes columnist Nick Kristof didn’t miss this feature, and his op ed piece yesterday was his effort to make certain it did not fall by the wayside despite the GOP’s desire to see it removed from the package Biden is proposing. Kristof is high on this because it has proven to work in Canada and the UK:

One reason to think that this would be so successful is that many other countries have used similar strategies to cut child poverty by large margins. Canada’s parallel approach cut child poverty by 20 to 30 percent, depending on who’s counting, and Britain under Tony Blair cut child poverty in half.

But Kristof acknowledges that this money won’t work in every case; particularly given the rampant drug abuse in our country and the misplaced priorities of some parents:

None of this is simple, and monthly stipends don’t solve all problems.One child in eight lives with a parent struggling with substance abuse. While I’ve seen many families striving to do their best for their children even as they’re crushed by low-wage jobs, I once visited a home in Arkansas in which a boy had three televisions in his bedroom but no food in the house. Love and dysfunction can coexist.

Given that these stipends have demonstrated their worth elsewhere, and given the GOP’s lip service to family values and Christ’s teachings how could it not pass? The only way for it to fail would be for it to be neglected and abused… like the increasing number of children who are now left behind as a result of the pandemic.

Could the Pandemic Put and End to the Artificial Construct of Students “Falling Behind”? Could it Shine a Spotlight on the REAL External Factors that Stymie Academic Progress?

December 25, 2020 Comments off

Common Dreams contributor Steven Singer wrote a compelling essay excoriating those who are wringing their hands over the students who are “falling behind” as a result of the pandemic. In the middle of his essay he makes these unassailable and clear points:

Let’s get something straight: there is no ultimate timetable for learning.

At least none that authentically can be set by educators or society.

People – and kids ARE people – learn when they’re ready to learn. 

And when they’re ready is different for every person out there. 

You can’t stomp around with a stopwatch and tell people they’re late. Your expectations are meaningless. It’s a matter of cognitive development plus environment and a whole mess of other factors that don’t easily line up on your Abacus. 

For example, many kids are ready to learn simple math concepts like addition and subtraction in Kindergarten. Yet some are ready in preschool.

That doesn’t mean one child is smarter than another. It just means their brains develop at different rates. And it’s perfectly normal.

In the early 1990s when I was trying to implement a mastery learning program I used the examples of two professional basketball superstars of that era: David Robinson and Michael Jordan. Both of them were late bloomers in terms of their physical development.

David Robinson was 6’5′ when he enrolled in the US Naval Academy. While attending there, he grew another 6″. Had he grown to that height BEFORE enrolling in college he would not have qualified for the Naval Academy because he would have been too tall. And because his ball handling skills were middling for a 6’5″ Division One forward or guard, the traditional college powerhouses overlooked him.  But those same skills were extraordinary for a 6″11″ center! As a result, he became an All-American player who was heavily recruited by professional basketball teams when he was eligible to play after completing college and his two years of service. The San Antonio Spurs built their franchise on his talents.

Michael Jordan was unable to make the varsity until he was a junior in high school. As a skinny 5’10” sophomore he was overlooked by the coaching staff in Wilmington NC. But he was determined to play basketball and was a JV sensation. Like many teenagers, Jordan had a growth spurt that year and ultimately made the varsity at his high school, at UNC, won Gold Medals and NBA championships, and became the iconic figure all other players are measured against.

Both David Robinson and Michael Jordan “fell behind” their age cohorts at one point. But a combination of their late maturity and determination enabled them to “catch up”. Not every athlete becomes a professional any more than every student becomes a Rhodes scholar. But when we apply universal yardsticks to unique individuals end up casting aside individuals who possess talents that haven’t emerged.  Few of us possess the persistence of a David Robinson or the grit and determination of a Michael Jordan. Many children who hear that they did not make the varsity because they were “behind” can enjoy athletic pursuits when they “catch up”. The “lesson” of David Robinson and Michael Jordan isn’t about persistence and grit: it’s about our the bogus expectations we set for children: the “ultimate timetables” that are used to decide that some children are “ahead” and others are “behind”. We need to give students the opportunity to learn when they are ready to learn and know that when they are ready to learn is different for each child. 

MAYBE the pandemic pause that is occurring will help drive this message home. MAYBE two years without standardized tests and using technology designed to tailor instruction for each child will make policy makers really that “ahead” and “behind” are relative and not absolute terms. If that is the case, we might break the stranglehold of the factory school that has gripped us since the turn of the last century.

Steven Singer puts the whole “ultimate timetable” debate in an even broader context, arguing persuasively that the only people who benefit from this mindset are the businesses who want to avoid paying for the basic needs of children and only view schools as a source of employees. He concludes his essay with this:

The problem is systemic. You can only solve it by changing the system, itself.

A system that places dollars and cents over life and health will never be acceptable. And that’s what we’ve got. Still.

So don’t buy the latest version of corporate school baloney.

Our children aren’t falling behind.

They’re surviving a pandemic.

Fix the problem and they’ll be fine.

Fix the system and they’ll THRIVE.

But beware of know nothing policymakers who don’t have our best interests at heart.

Pay them no mind and the only thing left behind will be them.

Michael Horn’s REAL Lesson of the Pods: Being on a School Board is Hard Work

December 17, 2020 Comments off

Michael Horn, frequent Forbes contributor and co-author of books on “disrupting schools” wrote an essay on the trade-offs his family and others had to make in order to implement a program they THOUGHT they agreed to with a teacher they agreed to hire. The article is written in a “lessons learned” format but it omits a few overarching lessons.

First, and most importantly, getting from a consensus on a plan to the execution of the plan requires a teaching staff that has a clear understanding of the plan and a complete commitment to it. I found it interesting that a group of articulate and educated parents who reached consensus on a plan were unable to find a teacher who could execute that plan in a way that satisfied their needs. Mr. Horn, I hope, now appreciates how daunting it is for a school board representing hundred of parents with wildly divergent ideas about how schools should operate to reach consensus on a plan let alone the effectiveness of the teachers who are responsible for the execution of the plan!

Secondly, Mr. Horn should appreciate the work that goes into the oversight of schooling: the many daily decisions that their lone teacher had to make with the pre-screened children were easy compared to those made by a teacher working with, say 25 students with varying backgrounds and varying support at home.

Thirdly, the parents in the pod saw the give and take trying to acquire instructional equipment for ONE teacher. Imagine if these parents had to make that decision for an entire school district!

My takeaway from Mr. Horn’s article is that parents like him should have a deep appreciation for the school board members they elect now that they realize the challenges of strategic planning, personnel oversight, budget decisions, and the unique needs of each parent.