Hearts & MindsSM - Information for ChangeSM

Troubled Schools
And how you can help

The achievement gap
Education is not always fair in the United States. White and minority student have dangerously wide differences in academic achievement and graduation rates.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an organization that evaluates academic tests, recently reported that white and Asian/Pacific-Islander students outperformed their Black and Hispanic peers in 4th and 8th grade reading and math exams

A 2001 study by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators concluded that while 30 out of every 100 White kindergartners in the U.S. went on to college, only 16 out of every 100 Black kindergartners did so.

These statistics are not surprising - the U.S. Census Bureau states that for children under 18 in broken families, 27% are Hispanic and 30% are Black, compared to only 13% White. Minority students are often raised in low-income, single-parent families that cannot afford to invest much time or money in their children’s education. The sub-standard schools that they attend have little access to updated textbooks, libraries, and computers, or educational materials like microscopes, calculators and art supplies.

Teacher quality
When hiring teachers, it is important to consider measurable qualities such as academic degrees, years of experience and substantial knowledge of the subjects they will teach.  But troubled schools also call for bolder and more innovative teaching methods. As the poet W.B. Yeats said, "Education is not filling a bucket with water, but lighting a fire."   

Working in sub-standards schools often leaves teachers frustrated and discouraged. They expect little from their students. The students also expect little from themselves. Instead of encouraging a love of learning, creativity, cultural awareness and social activism, failing schools leave students apathetic about their crime-infested, impoverished environments.

As a result, student discipline problems, drop-out rates, and teenage pregnancies increase. This leads to more single-parent families living in poverty and a higher crime rate, continuing the cycle. Many discouraged teachers quit their profession or move to schools with better security, more resources and higher salaries. These schools, usually located in suburbs with less crime and few minorities, receive sufficient government funding and invest the money in more effective programs.

"No Child Left Behind" and other solutions
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy that President Bush proposed in 2002 intended to close the achievement gap between White and minority students, and raise all students to academic proficiency by 2014.  It urges schools to challenge the "soft bigotry of low expectations" by raising academic standards; and uses student test scores to determine whether a school should continue to survive. 

Under this policy, schools that do progress toward meeting academic standards receive additional assistance. Continued failure brings sanctions - schools may be forced to restructure, for instance. In addition, children in public schools that have not made enough progress in two years could transfer to a better-performing school of their choice. 

Supporters claim that one the best things to come out of the policy is money invested in math and reading. "[The students] are actually getting more money for what they should already be doing," said Krista Kafer, an education expert in the Heritage Foundation.

Critics argue that some schools have lowered their academic standards by providing students only with what they need to pass standardized tests, allowing the school to meet  the state's academic standards and escape sanctions without providing a full range of quality education. 

Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, adds that sanctions are too tough for schools that do not meet the academic standards. Also, many rural schools have a hard time meeting teacher requirements. A big argument is whether the federal government provides enough funds. "Most of the schools I talk to say they haven’t," Houston said. 

Increasing government funding can help provide children with the materials, programs, and faculty they need to become informed and productive members of their communities. Increased involvement by parents in their children's education can also help.

You can help by supporting improved policies. Here's a letter you can send.

Free Newsletter

More on Education
Top of Page  |  Home Page  |  Site Guide
Contact Us

This web page and entire website Copyright: 1997 - 2015 by Hearts and Minds Network, Inc. http://www.heartsandminds.org/education/letter.htm - online August 25, 2004, latest text changes April 11, 2006.

Helpful Info


Inspiring Quotes

Site Guide

Hearts & Minds
Volunteer with Us

Donate/Become a Member

About Us

Copyrights, Reprints & Important Notes

Home Page