TREND Fall 2018 - Page 18

Richness of Poverty in Our Struggling Schools Education remains the key to escaping poverty, even as poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education. According to the Southern Education Foundation, over 50 percent of the nation’s children are in poverty. Poverty is a vast and complex issue that plagues all communities in a seemingly endless cycle. No county in Tennessee is immune from poverty. Tennessee has the fourth highest food insecurity rate in the United States. More than 1 in 5 children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, it’s 1 in 3. We know that students who live in poverty come to school every day without the proper tools for success. As a result, they are commonly behind their classmates physically, socially, emotionally or cognitively. This means more absenteeism and truancy, bullying, and trust and engagement issues that can weaken the learning environment. This feeds the school to prison pipeline. The Nashville zip code 37208 has the highest percentage of incarceration in the nation, according to a Brookings Institution analysis. Does Tennessee have the capability to move to online testing? Promoting the Profession We need to be raising the professional status of teaching, attracting the best and brightest into teaching, and restoring respect for the education profession. When McKinsey & Company compared educational performance around the world, it came to the seemingly obvious, conclusion that “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” Schools need to do three things: get the best teachers; get the best out of teachers; and step in when pupils start to lag behind. The issue of restoring respect for teachers is also urgently needed. Far too often the voices of classroom teachers are not included in the decisions that impact their livelihood or their students. Few occupations are given so little say in their chosen field. That must change. Teacher Retention We know without a doubt that teachers are the number one in-school influence on student achievement. Data indicates that in the last 20 years, teacher attrition has nearly doubled. In fact, 16–30% of teachers leave the teaching profession each year. It is estimated by some that nationally we spend well over $1 billion a year to replace these teachers. The average cost to replace a teacher is about $20,000 each in many districts. One-third of today’s teachers will retire in the next five years. Shortages also persist in specific areas: mathematics, science, special education, English language development, and foreign languages. Turnover rates are 50% higher in Title I schools, which serve more low-income students. Turnover rates are also 70% higher for teachers in schools serving the largest concentrations of students of color. Teacher retention is critical. And teacher benefits are a critical component of that strategy. Parent Engagement We are w ay beyond simple community involvement. You are already involved, even if you are just a taxpayer. I firmly believe public education should focus on building community support and engagement. There is strong evidence that parental involvement and engagement can have a positive effect on children’s learning motivation, well-being and learning outcomes at school. It is hard to define the appropriate amount of engagement for parents in the education process. There is no one size fits all, and it may vary from child to child, district to district. A 1966 report titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (otherwise known as the