Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Today, Where Tomorrow? ... Cities, Schools, Students, Unions and Politics ... Proximate vs. Root Causes

Riots are occurring in Baltimore. As a result, the schools are closed today.

But apart from safety, maybe closing the city's schools is not such a bad thing, assuming We the People are preparing ourselves to tackle the root causes --- as opposed to the proximate causes --- of the fundamental problems in too many large American cities with inadequate systems of education and a resulting lack of work opportunities for the young and old alike.

People with a solid education do better in life than people without one. And knowledge, aka showing up, thinking, working hard and acting right, are learned behaviors necessary for a life well lived.

But when our system of education is inferior and knowledge isn't gained in sufficient quantity at an early age, our future opportunities and odds for a successful standard of living are diminished. Then we tend to believe it's 'hopeless' to believe in a better future.

As a result, sometimes riots happen, looting takes over and the city shuts down. That's Baltimore today.

The proximate cause, of course, is the death of a young man while in police custody. The root cause, however, is more likely the lack of opportunity and hope for the future of citizens in inner city Baltimore today.

In my view, a lack of a solid education and not knowing how to act as members of a civil society all too often result in widespread poverty and ignorance (not stupidity but ignorance).

So what about We the People setting about working hard to improve education? Isn't that perhaps the root cause of what's happening in Baltimore today?

Shutting Bad Schools, Helping Students is subtitled 'Relocating children to a new school isn't popular, but research shows it is a boon to their education:'

"As difficult and disliked as school closures can be, a new study being released Tuesday by the Fordham Institute indicates that the students usually benefit. When we looked at the impact of closures on their achievement, we found that, on average, children directly affected by closure gained significantly—the equivalent of an extra month of learning in their new schools.

Shutting schools is politically dangerous. Just ask a big-city mayor or superintendent who has tried it. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had to fight for his political life after taking heat for closing scores of schools in 2013. Even with school budgets drowning in red ink, authorities in Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., and many other places have faced intense resistance to school closures. Survey data helps explain: Nearly 60% of Chicago voters disapproved of the school closures supported by the mayor.

So shutting schools is unpopular. But what if that’s best for the kids trapped inside?

For our new study, we looked at Ohio, home to cities that have struggled with sluggish economies, waning populations and competition from charter schools. . . .

As one might expect, these urban school closings affected mainly disadvantaged pupils. In the nearly 200 closed district and charter schools we studied, 73% of students were African-American and more than 85% were poor. The average student in a closing school scored at approximately the 20th percentile on Ohio’s math and reading tests. . . .

To suggest the size of the educational impact of closure, we presented the findings as “additional days of learning,” which assumes that a year’s worth of learning happens over a 180-day school year. This metric captures the incremental benefit of an intervention—in this case, school closure—on test scores, and is frequently used in education research to convey the results of statistical analyses.

The research reveals that displaced students typically receive a better education in their new school, relative to what they would have received in their closed school. Three years after closures, the public-school students had gained, on average, what equates to 49 extra days of learning in reading—gaining more than a year of achievement growth, as measured by state reading exams. In math, they gained an extra 34 days of learning, as measured by state math exams. In the charter sector, displaced students also made gains in math—46 additional days. These learning gains correspond to an improvement that moves students from the 20th to 22nd percentile in the achievement distribution.

Across both sectors, when students landed in higher-quality schools than the ones they left behind, the gains were even larger—60 days in both math and reading for public-school students, and 58 and 88 days, respectively, for charter students. In other words, students displaced into a higher-quality school make gains that boost their achievement from the 20th to 23rd percentile.

These results suggest that charter and district authorities should welcome school closures as a way to improve the education outcomes of needy children. Of course they must also be judicious, take into account the supply of higher-quality schools, and work with parents and community members to ease the transition. But done properly, shuttering bad schools might just be a saving grace for kids who only get one shot at a good education."

Summing Up

Far too many schools in American cities aren't operated for the benefit of their students.

As a result, our society becomes weaker, opportunities are lost and our overall
American economy and quality of life suffer.

If we never get serious about improving education in our cities, our society will continue to deteriorate. But the good news is that the choice is ours to make. It's not for the teachers' unions and local politicians to decide.

Will We the People finally address the root causes of our problems or, as has long been the case, simply sit back as observers and choose to condemn the actions of either the police or the rioters? The choice is ours.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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