We know that education is a key element for economic upward mobility and that every student has the right to access high-quality, equitable education free from discrimination. Education is a financial investment which will help close the achievement gap & subsequent economic disparities.
So, it is imperative we continue advocate for strong quality public schools in every neighborhood; require transparency, accountability & inclusive decision-making for all school & policy-making boards; implement publicly-funded, universal play-based preschool; reduce class sizes (+20 to 17) in schools impacted by poverty, racism and language barriers; implement programs which increase graduation rates for minority students and those from underserved communities; and support adult education programs.
However, to truly reduce the achievement gap & subsequent economic disparities, we need an Educational Evolution in our approach to meeting our shared goals of what education should look like in our communities. We need to start with addressing the reality that much of the issue related to achievement gaps is actually not a school issue - it is a poverty issue. It's a societal issue that shows up at school. Think for a moment of the most underperforming schools - where are they located? Generally, in the most chronically economically-depressed areas? When there are areas of concentrated poverty, no matter the resources poured into those schools - the trainings, the teaching, the leadership trainings, the incentives - the insipid nature of poverty will creep into the children's lives and distract their attention from the learning that needs to happen outside of the classroom. their preoccupation with their life, indeed their survival, will take precedence over their studies, their education. These students would benefit greatly with the type of purposeful school integration that places low-income students into schools in more affluent areas.
Additional measures we can take to evolve education is to work directly with our Students, Parents, Educators & other Stakeholders to determine exactly what services, programs & supports are required to meet student needs. Instead of employing one-size-fits-all teaching methods, we can customize our educational systems to truly teach our young people how to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and innovators. We can help them use all of their learning modalities - audio, visual, sensory, demonstrative, hands-on practice & experimentation, etc. to learn new skills and further develop learned skills.
We can ensure the educational needs of all students are determined equitably and on the basis of (i.e. true need) rather than parents’ zip codes & bank accounts. So, parents who can afford pre-school classes or community college, should certainly pay the fees they can afford, based on a sliding fee scale. For those families unable to afford to pay the fees, a fee waiver would be available.
Based on many of the social dynamics currently existing in our schools, we must provide full wraparound mental health & social services for all students & families, ensuring teachers and staff are provided proper training to handle situations which occur in a culturally-sensitive and knowledgeable manner. In order to fully address many of these issues on a daily basis, it is imperative teachers, teacher aides, substitutes, counselors, administrators are either hired from the neighborhoods which service trauma-affected youth or are adequately trained and undergo extensive firsthand experience dealing with these youth in a culturally-sensitive way to attain an appropriate level of cultural competency and sensitivity to the issues affecting these students (especially that which may hamper their ability to be fully engaged in the educational process).