Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poverty Is The Most Important Problem In A Child's Academic Development.

In the wake of the Chicago teachers strike one of the issues being brought up is the effects of poverty on student learning.  Until the strike it seemed that the teachers union, especially Randi Wiengarten's AFT has seemed defensive when responding to the Education Reformers "no excuses" mantra that poverty is simply an excuse for poor teaching.  However,  the Chicago teachers strike has put the poverty issue into better focus and may act as a turning point for society to realize how important it is for children in poverty to have the necessary support services for these students to achieve academic success.  

What will it take for students who live in poverty to succeed academically?  The simple answer is to eliminate poverty, which is virtually impossible in a country suffering from recession. Therefore, our elected leaders must fund programs that have shown to work.  These programs should include pre-school programs, family intervention programs, and most of all, bringing fathers back into the family.

Head Start:  This program has shown to be very effective in helping children in poverty achieve academic success in the early elementary grades.  Many poor children have limited vocabulary due to a lack of academic stimulation at home and this  weakness gets magnified as these students fall further behind academically as they get older.  Programs such as Head Start should be part of our country's educational policy and all pre-school children should have an opportunity to get a start in their academic development, especially children growing up in poverty.

Academic Interventions: One of the problems with Head Start is that the academic improvements disappear by second or third grade and without additional academic interventions the child will start to fall behind and be in danger of being left back or worse, drop out during high school.   Therefore, programs such as one-to-one-tutoring, mentoring, and after school programs are a necessary component for any successful academic intervention.  Expanding the Boys & Girls club and PAL programs would be examples of how to keep the children off the streets and away from gangs that lead to academic problems.

Wraparound Services: While it is very important for children in poverty to have academic support, it is more important that these children have a stable family environment.  Too many children come to school hungry, without proper clothing, and with poor hygiene. This takes their toll on the child's self esteem and are, in turn,  ridiculed by their peers by their appearance.  The result is a reluctance, even a hatred, about going to school and a poor academic performance. In other words, it starts at home with the family.  These "broken families" are  usually mother led single family households, with little family supervision and discipline, which struggling financially.  Therefore, intensive interventions are needed with social workers, family councilors,, and organizations such as "Big Brother and Big Sister" to bring a role model to the child. Finally, it is important that the child receive adequate health and nutrition and that the caregiver is trained to meet the child's needs and keep him or her safe.

Fathers: Many people in power ignore the role fathers play.  At the very least fathers can supply extra income to a family and keep them out of poverty.  However, more importantly, fathers can bring discipline and a role model for the child.  Too many children lack discipline and without fathers in the house look for role models in the community which can be gang leaders, drug dealers, criminals, and other undesirable people.  Fathers bring stability and structure, as well as financial support to the family.  It is no coincidence that an astounding 39% of our prison population  come from mother led single parent households. Worse yet, 85% of our youth in prison come from fatherless households!  Here are some interesting facts when fathers are part of the household.

Father Factor in Education - Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
  • Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes – 10 times the average.
  • I in 3 teenage girls get pregnant in fatherless homes compared to 1 in 20 with the biological father present.
 While it does not take marriage to be a good and involved father it does help to cement the family unit and brings a role model to the child.  The bottom line is that "stay-at-home" fathers are not only important but necessary if a child is to escape poverty and succeed academically.

Sure, it is important to have an excellent teacher in the classroom but it is imperative that we eliminate poverty and it's causes if those excellent teachers can get these children to succeed academically.


Anonymous said...

One very important result of the CTU strike is the strategy taken by the leaders of the ctu in their ability to have parents organize and support their fight. The ctu has been able to navigate the media outlets to get the message out that poverty and all the ills that is produces are the key factor in education. This fact can easily be demonstrated by the UFT. One sure fire way to get the public on the side of teachers would be to expose the lack of discipline and working conditions within the many schools the Bloomberg administration has closed or is contemplating closing. The release of incident reports and the lack of basic instructional supplies if known would put pressure on the reformers and force public outcry something the ctu has accomplished, hence your most recent writing. Mulgrew and Weingarten have the facts, but not the resolve to go the route that Karen Lewis has chosen.

Rod said...

The last comment reminds me of all the times that principals suppress fights for fear of getting on their school on the suspension list. The public is not aware of the degree of disruptive behavior that is a significant cause of non-learning. I am amazed that Mulgrew has shown poor leadership on this issue. Hopefully, the example of Karen Lewis will set the bar higher for the UFT and AFT. Randi and Michael better watch their back. UFT members need a leader from the ranks, the sooner the better.