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National PTA's Every Child in Focus is a campaign to strengthen family engagement in schools by celebrating the achievements and reporting the disparities within diverse populations, and sharing resources and advocacy tools to help understand the needs of every child. January is the Month of the Suburban Child. Guest blogging for National PTA is Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. Her work primarily focuses on urban and suburban poverty, metropolitan demographics, and tax policies that support low-income workers and communities. To learn more, visit PTA.org/EveryChild

Mapleton Public Schools—a suburban district just north of Denver, Colorado—serves more than 7,600 students from Pre-K through grade 12 in its 15 schools. Though its enrollment numbers have remained steady in recent years, this district has been grappling with significant changes. In the span of a decade, the number of Mapleton students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch doubled. By the 2010-11 school year, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the student body was eligible for subsidized meals. As the number of low-income students has climbed, so too has the need for extra assistance that will help kids be ready to learn—from clothing and food to additional academic support.

Mapleton Public Schools isn’t alone. Suburban districts across the nation’s 100 largest metro areas have become home to growing low-income populations in recent years. In the last half of the 2000s, the number of suburban students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches grew by 22 percent, compared to an increase of just 8 percent in city districts during that time. At the same time, many school districts are also seeing more students experiencing homelessness.

These trends reflect larger shifts in the geography of poverty within the nation’s largest metro areas. Between 2000 and 2012, the population living below the federal poverty line in the suburbs (roughly $23,500 for a family of four in 2012) grew by 65 percent—more than twice the pace of growth in large cities and faster than the increases registered in smaller metro areas and ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

The National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker is an invaluable service that can help districts better prepare their students for college success.

The National Student Clearinghouse is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 by the higher-education community to track students who received loans to help pay for college tuition. Graduate schools provide enrollment information, while the NSC verifies to lenders that students are taking the necessary course work.

Since expanding its services, the NSC currently holds records for more than 137 million students and 3,500 institutions of higher education, covering 98 percent of the current enrollment in both public and private colleges and universities. Today, the NSC continues to provide enrollment, diploma verification, and ...

By Jill Cook, Assistant Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

Robin Zorn believes school counselors can make a difference in students’ lives, and she goes out of her way to prove it.

It’s this belief that informs her work every day at Dr. M.H. Mason Jr. Elementary School in Duluth, GA, and her advocacy work at the district and state level. Her efforts were recognized last week when the American School Counselor Association named her the 2014 School Counselor of the Year.

Robin and the six previous winners of the award exemplify the work school counselors across the country do to increase academic achievement while promoting students’ personal/social development and career needs. Since she became a school counselor in 1999, the profession has undergone a transformation from being reactive to proactive and from ancillary to a critical cog in overall school improvement. 

This transformation is due largely to the ASCA National Model, which was published in 2003 and provides a framework for school counseling programs so they are comprehensive in scope, preventive in design and developmental in ...

Earlier this week, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the results of the 2012 Programme for International Assessment (PISA). As predicted, the results show little change in the performance of U.S. students since the assessment was last administered in 2009.

While much of the media coverage of the release focused on PISA’s ranking of education systems, with the U.S. remaining below many international peers in performance in mathematics, reading and science, the education community responded differently, focusing not on numerical results but on the lessons we can learn from OECD’s research on the policies and practices that high-performing nations use in successful efforts to improve student achievement – policies and practices that suggest a strategy for education reform that is much different than the one that we as a nation have been operating under for more than a decade.

As American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said in a statement, “none of the top-tier countries, nor any of those that have made great leaps in student performance, like Poland and Germany, has a fixation on testing ...

Cheryl S. Williams's picture

Learning from PISA

The Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of leading education organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and policymakers, has released the following statement:

Today, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test of reading literacy, mathematics, and science given every three years to fifteen-year-olds in the United States and approximately seventy countries and economies worldwide.

It is vital that parents, educators, policymakers and other education stakeholders view these results in context. While the ranking of the United States is disappointing and reflects little change in how our nation’s students are performing relative to their peers around the world, this ranking is only one indicator of student achievement. Other measures show significant improvement in the performance of U.S. schools in recent years. The U.S. estimated on-time graduation rate has improved dramatically since 2000 – the first year of PISA. In addition, on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th and 8th graders made significant gains in math scores between 1995 and 2011.

We would also like to remind stakeholders that there is valuable information in the PISA report beyond the rankings that we should not ignore, including the results of OECD research on the policies and practices that high-performing nations use ...

By Karen Kleinz, APR, Associate Director, National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)

As the nation marks one of our most solemn, watershed moments this week with the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, I find myself taken aback by the reality that five decades have passed (how many times have those of us who were alive then uttered the phrase, “I remember exactly where I was when…”?) and at the same time bemused and saddened by how much remains the same.

Senseless violence continues in our communities, in spite of our horror and belief that we can be better. And what is most disturbing are the incidents involving youth perpetrators. From Columbine to Newtown, Conn., to Aurora, Colo., to Danvers, Mass., to the unchronicled incidents that occur daily on city streets – the list of tragic events continues to grow, and we continue to struggle with how to address the root causes.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy delivered a Special Message to Congress on Mental Illness and Mental Retardation (note that the term had a different connotation at the time), discussing his plans for national mental health program legislation, which proposed comprehensive community mental health centers, improved care in state mental institutions, and increased research. Earlier this month, the Obama administration issued a final ruling requiring insurers to treat mental health and ...

And Why Aren’t We More Ashamed?

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) recently released a report entitled A New Majority:  Low Income Students in the South and the Nation that reveals low income children are a majority of students in 17 states, primarily in the South and West. Across the nation low income students are a near majority at 48 percent. A separate report Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card analyses the education funding systems in these states and reveals that serious funding inequities continue to exist years after court cases across the nation have required states to reform their funding systems to alleviate such discrepancies.

Among the findings uncovered in the two reports include the following: ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA: The School Superintendents Association

Many Americans believe public schools are failing our students. Public officials, the media, and investors seeking to cash in on the billions of dollars supporting education by privatizing schools often reinforce this opinion. This opinion is wrong.

Substantial evidence illustrates public schools are doing better than ever. The dropout rate is at an all-time low. Conversely, the high school graduation rate is the highest it’s been in decades.

Unfortunately, we have dysfunctional schools where students’ needs are going unmet. These schools are capturing the public eye, causing observers to ask, “How could they exist in the richest and most powerful country in the world?” The predominant populations attending these schools are children of poverty, and in most cases, ethnic minorities. This isn’t an educational problem. It’s a problem within our society.

Driven by the economy, the achievement gap casts its ugly shadow long before students ever come to school. Compared to all industrialized nations, we live in a society with the highest percentage of children in poverty. Our society refuses to acknowledge that poverty is, by far, the single-biggest factor in determining student achievement. We operate in a society that funds its educational system in the most inequitable way, allowing wealth—or lack of it—to determine ...

By Sharon P. Robinson, Ed.D., President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)

Growing up in Louisville during the civil rights era, with activist parents who believed in the inherent connection between education and equality, I understood early on that a quality education can increase opportunities and improve outcomes for all children. I recall the civil rights hymn, "Woke up this morning with my mind – stayed on freedom," which inspired so many and captured the urgency of addressing the injustice minorities faced in America at that time. Today, educational equity continues to be in the forefront of my mind.

August marked the 50th anniversary of two major milestones in this country's pursuit of justice – the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King, Jr. stirred the soul of the country with his "I Have a Dream" benediction, and James Meredith's graduation from the University of Mississippi as the history-making student who integrated that state's flagship institution. We should all celebrate these victories. For teacher educators in particular, in honoring the memory of these achievements, we will find inspiration to redouble our commitment to our unique social justice imperative – to prepare all future educators to improve the opportunities for all ...

Special Olympics youth and athlete leaders were recently featured in a new book called Stand Up! 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can Too! from John Schlimm. You can read all about the full book here, but we also wanted to share some of the Special Olympics stories featured in the book. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to read these inspiring stories of youth changing the world through Special Olympics. And if you’re interested, you can purchase Stand Up! online.

Our first amazing story comes from youth leaders Danielle Liebl and Kaitlyn Smith… a story of true friendship! This is just a small preview, so make sure to check out the book for the full story.

The summer of 2010 is a summer that will always be remembered by the both of us. It was a summer of growth, new beginnings and cherished memories, but most importantly, it was the summer our lives intersected for the first time. That summer, Special Olympics hosted the 2010 National Youth Activation Summit in Omaha, Nebraska, which both of us attended.

Danielle was an intern while Kaitlyn participated as a Unified Partner with her friend Kathleen. We briefly met at the summit when Danielle went up to Kaitlyn’s Partner, Kathleen, to wish her a happy birthday. Little did we know that we had each just met a lifelong friend. Later that year, Kaitlyn joined Special Olympics’ National Youth Activation Committee, in which Danielle was already a member. At our first meeting in Washington, D.C., we instantly bonded over our uncontrollable laughter, similar sarcasm and sense of humor.

Our friendship was growing, and our friendship meant the world to the both of us. The comfort to be ourselves when we were around each other was proof that we were perfect friends. We never felt compelled to try to ...

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