Taking a Bite Out of Child Hunger (by Amanda Elmer, Jared McCleve, Kiandra Cole, and Evan Patten)

Hunger kills education. This experiment has been done again and again with the same result. Luckily, the government instituted the free lunch program for financially limited families. But if they are experiencing hunger in school, it is almost a guarantee … Continue reading

Threats to Our Public Schools (Part 2)

Part 2: Funding Fairness

Most people can agree that education is necessary and beneficial to our society and our economy. Without education we would not be able to fill positions that are necessary for the system to continue operating. But if education is so important in our country, what are we doing to ensure our children are getting the education they need in order to succeed and contribute to our economy?

Oregon and Funding

The fact that education is costly is no secret. Buildings need to be paid for and maintained, teachers need to be paid, curriculum needs to be developed and paid for, and so on and so forth. Are we contributing enough money to make sure that our children are receiving a quality education in an atmosphere that is conducive to learning? In 2011 a majority of states saw a decrease in school funding. Many states are not as invested in K-12 education as they previously were. In fact, Oregon is among the states that put out the lowest effort to fund education. Oregon donates less than 2.5% of its economic productivity to schools. But that’s just economic productivity. Surely our tax dollars make up for the difference, right? Not so much. Amendments to the Oregon Constitution were passed by voters in 1990 and 1997 which effectively cut property tax contributions in half. Since that time funding for schools has not been able to keep pace with the rising inflation which, in turn, exacerbates the impact. There may very well be some relation to this and the fact that Oregon’s state test scores are lower than the nation’s average.

Where Does Your Money Go?

When talking about how schools are funded, first one must understand the difference between capital funds and operating funds. Put simply, operating funds are the funds to keep the school operating (e.g. utility bills, teacher salaries, and educational programs) while capital funds are meant for paying for new buildings or making significant repairs and improvements. Capital funds typically come from voter approved bonds and the use of these funds is governed by Oregon law. Capital funds can only be used for capital expenses. Other states, like California and Washington, have measures to match local capital funds dollar for dollar. Oregon has no such measures. In fact, Portland Public Schools (referred to from here on out as PPS) do not receive capital funding from the state. Instead, funds that were meant for operational expenses get dipped into. This takes away from the teachers’ pay and from funding programs when unavoidable capital expenses come up, such as necessary repairs. We see funding getting drained from arts, music, and extracurricular activities such as sports. The power to change this lies in the hands of voters.

Aside from capital expenses taking from operating funds, there is another avenue where money seems to slip away. This avenue is school officials. While programs are getting cut and funds are coming from the funds that belong to normal bills and teacher pay, the top dogs are not only remaining in the six figure bracket, but they are getting raises. Just last week the superintendent of PPS received a 28% raise on a three year contract, which brings her salary up to $247,000 per year. If school funding is going down, why is superintendent funding going up?

Closing Thoughts

As stated earlier, education is going to absolutely necessary for the future of this country. The power to change things starts with us as voters. We should all consider how our money can impact our schools before marking our ballots, but we also need to be informed voters. We need to vote for the benefit of our future economy and society rather than for our own pocketbook, realizing what kind of snowball effect our votes might cause. We also need to step up and make sure that funding is being spent in ways that will benefit our students. Where would you want your money to go? How would you want your money to be spent? How are you going to better the education? Change starts with us.

Closing the Achievement Gap

Throughout the years, I have heard the term “Achievement Gap” throughout political debates, newspaper articles and complaints of the general population. According to The National Assessment of Educational Progress, “achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another group and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant (that is, larger than the margin of error).” For full research on achievement gaps, consult The National Assessment of Educational Process at http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/gaps/.

 

In studying this phenomenon of “Achievement Gaps” in the American school system, I was left with one large question, which I think anyone who researches this problem will share: Why? Why is this an issue that is still so prevalent? In the article from Oregonian, “Racial gap in student achievement could be cultural bias, school leaders say,” author Melissa Navas attributes a large responsibility to the predominantly white race of educators. She recognizes the need for open discussion: this issue isn’t going to go away with silence, especially in the southernmost states, where the population of students with color is growing and the Achievement Gap is persisting.

The ability to recognize a problem is but the first step to finding a solution. In Mary Mooney’s article “Bridge achievement gap early, Multnomah County study urges,” she stresses the need for earlier education, such as Preschool and Kindergarten. I strongly agree with this idea of starting all students on an equal ground before sending them into school where they will be examined and tested against one another. She lists several schools that are successfully implementing early education and are resulting in a narrower gap between test scores.

I know that this issue will not be solved simply by students spending more time in school, but it is a great start to a problem that shouldn’t be a problem any longer.

 

Sources:

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2009/02/bridge_achievement_gap_early_m.html

http://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/index.ssf/2009/07/racial_gap_in_student_achievem.html

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/studies/gaps/

Practicing What is Preached: Inclusion

SchoolBus

Practicing What is Preached

 

There are so many readings and lessons regarding the acquisition of culturally sensitivity. How do we integrate these into our lives and into our classrooms? A large part of this is self-awareness: understanding and overcoming biases and assumptions in ourselves that transfer into the classroom and our work with children and youth. Biases that interfere with educational outcomes extend beyond ethnicity, such as gender, weight, age and disability biases. Check out the link below to take a short test to identify possible biases you may have.

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

A factor that enables us to learn cultural biases is social segregation.  This plays out educationally as we are segregated ethnically, socioeconomically, and developmentally.  Students receive “pull out,” services rather than inclusion in the classroom. Teachers work in a compartmentalized fashion, rather than collaboratively.

There is a movement toward inclusion in the classroom. A middle school in Beaverton, Oregon, which has a high percentage of ELL students, is moving toward a common core model, were the ELL teacher is collaborating with the core teachers to better serve the students. Check this article out for more information:

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/10/30/10cc-eslteachers.h33.html

Special education is another area of segregated education. Children are either pulled out to receive specialized education or held in self-contained classrooms, with part-time opportunity for inclusion to general education classes. Separating populations denies all learners the benefits of diverse peer influences. It is also another cog in the segregation machine, propagating the lack of cultural understanding and diversity needed to overcome the culture of power influences, assumptions, and judgments plaguing our educational system and society as a whole. Check out this article to learn more about special education inclusion:

http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-43-spring-2013/seamless-teaching

I encourage you to think broadly about cultural sensitivity and the root and permeation of cultural hierarchy. Perhaps, when our children experience inclusive education; interacting with a diverse population of learners, it will help to bring about thoughtful consideration and respect, qualities inherent in cultural understanding.

To Infinity and Beyond!

to_infinity_and_beyond-5222

How can social movements move our society towards educational equity?

How can we as students, use what we have learned to impact the racial/social/economic injustices that hinder our schools and prevent them from moving past mediocrity?

Public policy, classroom discussion, and even grassroots movements can sometimes fall short on action. Everyone knows that something needs to change. Some of us can even agree as to what needs to change, but this week we discuss what that looks like in action, beyond our classroom.

With discussions on how to narrow the achievement/opportunity gap in our minds, there are some challenges our public schools are facing. Here are some things that most movements/individuals can agree are necessary to school success and vitality.

1. Access to quality teachers.

2. Access to safe and equitable resources

3. Equitable and sufficient funding for ALL schools

 4. Reform that creates early intervention and encourages active, hands on learning.

    1. 5. Ensure equal opportunity to high school graduation and college participation to all students regardless of their background.

How can we use what we have learned to support these principles?

Help fund our schools by voting!

Voting and passing legislation that supports school funding is vital.

Tell people why voting is vital for better schools. A friend of mine recently complained that her sons school was really lacking in hands on learning and her son was struggling to stay focused. She doesn’t vote and doesn’t know where our money for schools comes from (I didn’t either!).

Discussion outside of class and our school peers will be important to education movement.

 

Information on funding through tax dollars here. 

Talk! Talk! Talk!

With your neighbors, your local politicians, your educators, community members, the list goes on! Open a discussion to get people thinking about their values and the future of their community.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some links to give you encouragement!

Get caught up on the latest education news here.

Some more news.

Get involved!

Actively participate in your community. It helps. It is seen by others. The results can be life changing for some.

General volunteer match up.

Volunteer at PPS

More volunteering

Finally, look inward. Are there bias’s, privileges, or other values you hold that could be excluding some the right to equitable education? It’s hard to look at our beliefs in this way, but who knows how valuable it could be!

Are you privileged?

Be aware

I think the key is to keep moving forward. Keep asking questions. Keep expanding your ideas and your tools.

What will you do to move to a more equitable education system?

– Tracy