Kids in poverty are behind before they get to school, which means the problems we need to fix are not problems with school.
One teacher gives a first-hand account of how incredibly huge the gap is between kids who have a stable home life and kids who don’t. This, too, has nothing to do with what the school provides.
And an experiment in post-hurricane New Orleans revealed data to show that a good school is not a passage out of poverty. New Orleans parents in poor school districts got vouchers to send their kid to any school — even private school — and the kids scored no better than poor kids who don’t have a choice of which school they go to.
The most successful school reform is turning school into a social service arena—including healthcare, food pantries, and parenting classes.
But that solution doesn’t work until we admit that school should be social services. Because when we pretend school is not life support, we tell ourselves it’s okay to stop school in the summer. But actually kids in poverty have a hard time losing the structure and stability of school for the summer, and struggle to adjust again come the fall.
I am starting to believe that the only way to give poor kids a chance of escaping poverty is for everyone else to leave the public school system. Stop sucking up the resources your family doesn’t need.
This is already happening among the wealthy—few of the economic elite in the US send their kids to public school. So it’s the middle class who think they cannot stop sending their kids to school.
Ironically, though, for the middle class to create economic mobility for their kids, they, too, need to get their kids out of public school. If the wealthy homeschool, then to compete with those kids, the middle class kids have to stay home from school. The benefits of homeschool are too great to leave them all to the rich kids.
Once we start believing that keeping kids at home is a normal thing for stable families to do, there will be only impoverished families taking advantage of public schools, and that’s how it should be. Schools are not in any position to serve kids who are not at risk. What schools do best is provide stability and predictability. If your child can’t get that from you, only then should you send your kid to school.