Systemic Ed Reform is Key to Breaking Structural Inequality
In difficult economic times, we as a nation need to provide all children, especially those in struggling communities, with access to the opportunities and resources they need to succeed in school and in life. In a CNN op-ed, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, points to the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign's "2020 Vision Roadmap: A Pre-K Through Postsecondary Blueprint for Educational Success" as the systemic approach we need to reform our nation's education system and combat structural inequities.
In the absence of a new federal education framework, Otis says that states are forced to chose between continuing with the failed policies of No Child Left Behind or apply for a waiver "and be subjected to unrealistic requirements and reforms that aren't much different." Either way, our nation's most vulnerable students are getting lost in the debate:
"As the parent of two children in public school I am saddened by the tone of the debate about the future of education and the lack of imagination in popular reform proposals that seem to be directed largely at privatizing our school systems. Many of the men and women shaping policy can afford private schools, tutors and have access to other well-funded supplemental programs, but it is our children in struggling communities who are becoming casualties of these education battles."
In Chicago, schools subjected to "turnaround," a favorite strategy of federal and state policymakers that does nothing to address the structural inequities students face in their daily lives, showed less improvement than schools that invested in meaningful reforms focused on improving school leadership and community ties, supporting for teachers and cultivating student-centered learning climates. Policymakers, and our society in general, need to spend less time laying the blame at the feet of teachers and administrators and begin enacting reforms like those laid out the "2020 Vision Roadmap." Otis explains:
Education is the most vital resource in our communities. When students fail, future economic prospects are diminished and our communities ultimately suffer. Punishing schools that receive insufficient resources and focusing on privatization only further alienates struggling communities. We cannot tolerate failure, but we must stop placing blame solely on teachers. Accountability also rests with policymakers, the clergy, media conglomerates, businesses, civic groups, parents, and community activists. It rests with all of us.
Just as we are bound together in this inescapable network, so are the factors that determine our success or failure. They are woven together in a complex tapestry that traps too many of our young people in generational poverty that we have ignored for too long. Fixing our schools is critical in breaking the bonds of poverty. It’s time for our policies, practices and investments to support an aggressive and comprehensive approach to education reform that gives every child the opportunity to learn.