Education Week - May 11, 2016 - (Page 22)

COMMENTARY Relative Motion in Education A By Arthur H. Camins s my morning train passed through the tunnel, a faster-moving train on a parallel track grabbed my attention as it passed on my left, going in the same direction. For a few moments, I experienced the discomfiting feeling that I had spontaneously reversed direction, moving away from, rather than toward, my final station. Reason told me that I was still headed to my destination, but I turned to my right and peered through the darkness at the stationary tunnel wall just to check. My sense of forward motion returned. Physicists explain this phenomenon as relative motion. Speed and direction are measured in relation to a reference point. Contrary to the adage, perception isn't always everything. Stick with me. This is a metaphor for education policy and social justice. In education, it is vital to remember frames of reference. We need to know about both faster- and slower-moving trains. We need to be clear about what we left behind, where we want to go, and with whom. We need to be cognizant of who is traveling on which track and not forget to take into account the complex education transport system. An external observer of my morning train, or any passenger grounded in reality, would have known that rela- Getty tive to the departure point, both trains moved continuously forward. So it is with education-with one big difference. External critics often ignore the fact that some trains have more powerful engines, ride on tracks with less friction, hold a larger supply of fuel, and carry different passengers. However, unlike physicists, policymakers often forget to consider frames of reference. They ignore a fundamental principle of science. Scientists use models to investigate and explain the natural world, but understand that models have limits. Designers of current education improvement, on the other hand, tend to focus blame on teachers and principals while ignoring other significant parts of the system. It is like blaming the driv- ers, conductors, and passengers for the speed and arrival time of the slower train. Many current education policymakers try to explain complex phenomena such as disparity in education outcomes with reference to only some parts of the system, such as teachers' or students' persistence. They ignore other contributing factors, such as unemployment, family and neighborhood stability, differential access to health care, and inequitable school funding. When they look exclusively at narrowly defined scores on standardized tests, everything seems like backward motion. When some critics of American education look at seemingly faster-moving school systems such as those in Finland or Ontario, they only notice Education Policy Should Address Student Poverty By Helen Ladd, Pedro Noguera, Paul Reville, & Joshua Starr E ducation policy in the United States has taken a turn in a new direction, and anyone with a stake in public education should celebrate this. Policymakers increasingly recognize that stresses related to student poverty-hunger, chronic illness, and, in too many cases, trauma-are the key barriers to teaching and learning. And calls for tending not only to the academic but also the social, emotional, and physical needs of children are gaining ground across the country. Indeed, the inclusion of the whole-child perspective in the Every Student Succeeds Act shows that this mindset has moved from the margins to the mainstream. This is a far cry from where we were as a country in June 2008, when a diverse array of education, health, economics, faith, and civil rights leaders-including two of us, Helen Ladd and Pedro Noguera-created the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education to advance an education policy agenda that addresses the barriers poverty poses to children's educational success. Eight years ago, we urged policymakers to implement quality earlychildhood-education programs, health and nutrition supports, and enriching after-school and summer options for students. Research shows that these supports are critical to boosting achievement and helping students graduate with the skills to succeed in college, careers, and life. Although it was backed by substantial scholarly evidence, many dismissed the agenda as radical. An opposing camp led by civil rights organizations and highprofile district leaders called the initiative's focus on mitigating the effects of poverty an "excuse" for weak " [We must] ground school improvement efforts in community input so that key voices are heard, valuable assets are leveraged, and critical needs are met." 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 11, 2016 | accountability and bad teaching. Their perspective has largely driven education policy, resulting in more high-stakes testing and a "no excuses" mindset for most reform efforts. But it is clearer every day that their strategy hasn't worked. Gaps in achievement have persisted and even grown. For example, stagnation or declines in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, among Englishlanguage learners and racial and ethnic minority students have highlighted growing deficits for those students relative to their more advantaged peers. And as Detroit, Newark, N.J., and other high-povery urban districts that emphasized the use of student test scores to make key decisions show, poverty and structural racism stand in the way of substantially improving academic and social outcomes and limit the success of attempts to improve teaching. The good news is that when poor children have the same opportunities as their better-off peers-high-quality prekindergarten, enriching after-school activities, reliable health care, and nutritious meals-their teachers can teach more effectively, and they can achieve at higher levels. Our increasing national understanding of the importance of such opportunities has led to a shift toward better education policy. High-quality prekindergarten is a top priority for the Obama administration, and cities from Boston to New York to San Antonio are demonstrating how to make it happen. New York City increased the number of children served in quality, full-day pre-K programs from 13,000 to over 70,000 in just two years. With growing numbers of students coming to class hungry, the community-eligibility provi- sion in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has helped high-poverty schools not only make lunch available to all students in high-poverty schools, but also serve them breakfast and even dinner. And in teacher-powered schools, those closest to the classroom-teachers, parents, and students themselves, who were sidelined just a few years ago-are taking on a more central role in shaping school policy. The challenge we now face is to transform these examples into a cohesive response to the widespread injustice and poverty that continue to hold schools and students back. Racial inequities-such as hugely disparate rates of expulsion between black and white students and the lack of college-preparatory coursework in high schools serving students of color-are endemic. And for the first time since the federal government began subsidizing school meals, over half of all U.S. public school students now qualify for free or reducedprice lunch. We need a refreshed policy agenda that builds on this momentum to broadly define public education as a public good that directly mitigates poverty's impacts and prepares all students for college, careers, and civic engagement by supporting learning from birth year-round. This means providing schools with the resources to both meet the full range of student needs and attract middle-class families to reduce segregation, which has been on the rise since desegregation efforts were dismantled in the 1980s. It means designing accountability systems that help teachers improve their craft and make working in highneeds schools more attractive. Massachusetts and New Jersey have long been leaders in providing eq-

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 11, 2016

Education Week - May 11, 2016
Bungling Student Names: A Slight That Stings
Popularity of Ed Tech Often Not Linked to Products’ Impact
As ESSA Rolls Out, State Officials Vow To Hear Local Voices
Rich Districts Post Widest Racial Gaps
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study Says Teachers Feel Stressed, Discounted
Amid Rocky Start, College-Access Coalition Hires First Director
Migrant Students Kept Out of Schools, AP Investigation Finds
Scores Decline for Low-Performers On 12th Grade NAEP
National Survey Shows Rise in Student Safety
Blogs of the Week
Education Funding a Key Factor In Illinois Budget Showdown
ESSA Paves Way for Deeper Access to Wealth of K-12 Data
Blogs of the Week
Relative Motion In Education
Education Policy Should Address Student Poverty
Quality Physical Education Is a Life Changer
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
‘People Support What They Create’: Stakeholder Engagement Is Key to ESSA’s Future

Education Week - May 11, 2016