This past Thursday I attended a convention seminar entitled "The Impact of Poverty on Education" at Loyola University. The link to their website is here http://www.baltimorecp.org/leadingminds/.
There were several things discussed at this convention. The discussion built on the ideas of using more integrated technologies in the classroom and to make sure that students are learning to use the tools that will help them be successful in the future. There was a discussion on the importance of community schools in the lives of children, this was well put together and an interesting theory, however remaining common sense. It was nice to see this idea organized in a tangible way that is easily applicable and understood.
The most interesting presentation that was made was a discussion on the fact that "poverty has not caused the achievement gap" and that ultimately schools have become re-segregated thus making poverty a race issue. While I have no intention of discussing the race issue of poverty here, I would however like to discuss the experience I have had with the re-segregation of schools. This discussion culminated with the notion that the concept of poverty should be re-identified as "structured disadvantage."
In my classes I have 76 students. Four of those students are White. Another four of those students are Hispanic. Almost the entire staff of teachers are White, the principal is White, and the two assistant principals are Black.
As I have said before, I come from a town where there were a total of twelve or so Black students in my entire Junior/Senior High School. I never realized how this could be considered an issue, it just seemed normal. I am sure that in some places it is normal, central Florida being one of those places. However, even when I look back at it now, I realized that the high school everyone always considered the "bad" high school was the school in not only the lowest income area, but was also predominantly African American.
I believe that it is just as common sense as anything else discussed at the convention to discuss here that these issues are connected. Baltimore truly is a city that never really escaped segregation, the people who could just moved to the suburbs and the people who could not have been structured into a perpetual state of poverty and re-segregation.
I wish that the conference had discussed more of how to mend these issues, not just that they exist. Renaming and redefining a state of existence is not going to make changes. It might make it easier for people to distance themselves from the issues though. Ultimately, I really am interested to see where the community schools idea goes, or if it will realize that while building a better foundation for social development, it still has limited means of bringing in the resources to move students forward into this century.
But even the smallest steps can still take you forward.