I fear that an excuse culture permeates many of our schools. Those of us in education find it easy to excuse low performance because of certain contextual factors, especially the low socio-economic status of students. Schools and teachers really can’t be held responsible for student achievement because disadvantaged students bear multiple burdens of poverty. the thought goes. The favored solution is to reduce poverty with an ever-increasing number of government programs. The argument is that America will never fix education until we first fix poverty.
But policy-makers have it wrong. In fact, America will never fix poverty until we fix our schools. Antipoverty programs are, of course, an essential part of our nation’s thrust to help low-income families. But it’s a mistake to think that these programs are the primary solution for improving student performance. Schools can and do make a critical difference!
Great schools composed of good teachers and effective principals have a far greater impact on the achievement gap than any governmental initiative.
I know the challenges facing schools and teachers every day, especially those working with students from low-income, single mom/grandmother homes. Really, I do. I’ve been there. Wonderful, caring, effective teachers and principals are making a difference in students’ lives every day across this country. But too many times, when faced with poverty and other cultural challenges from outside the school setting we make excuses and somehow think it’s alright to accept an achievement gap. While we continue to spend taxpayer money, no real change is seen. And children are the losers.
Writing now to the policy-makers of our country, get bureaucrats out of our way. Identify strong school leaders. Train and support effective principals. Empower teachers who are the real experts. Ask them what they need to do their job. Allow local schools to innovatively reach their stakeholders. Research tells us how effective schools look. You may be surprised to learn that in most cases the answer is not simply more money thrown at a program.
Once children reach school age, no program has an impact on the achievement gap that even compares to the power of better schools staffed with effective principals and strong teachers.
To close our nation’s achievement gap, we must replace excuses with a culture that works to provide children with effective schools staffed by the best principals and teachers.