The Cure To An Ailing Nation's Report Card: Address Inequity In Our Schools

The current Hunter Mill District Fairfax County School Board Member Pat Hynes, while sharing the previous post on this blog, Advanced Academic Programs Hurt Basic Education, wrote:

If some kids are always reading below grade level, maybe that’s because we never hold them accountable for more. Labeling, sorting, and separating kids fosters a fixed mindset in teachers about their kids and, tragically, in kids’ own self awareness.

With Pat Hynes not seeking reelection, Hunter Mill now has a choice between two candidates. No longer having Hynes on the school board can easily mean losing an individual on the board who recognizes and understands the scourge of inequity in basic education. Standing up for equity in our schools is clearly not a glamorous task. In Fairfax county, for instance, one can win the ire of its Chinese American Parent Association:

Above copied from
Chinese American Parent Association of Fairfax County

Unfortunately, one of the candidates vying for Hynes' position simply echoes the above sentiment. Saying that the move for equity is simply about not having too many Asians or Whites in advanced academic programs completely misses the point. Of course, we want Asian American children to thrive in our schools. A candidate for school board should know better than to take advantage of our racial fears. A school board member is expected to lead, not cater to our whims and biases. The recently released Nation's Report Card should help inform us what equity means. Here is a recent article by Natalie Wexler in Forbes:

Above copied from Forbes

The inequity is actually so much more than what Hynes mentioned. It goes beyond having different expectations. The inequity stems from "not giving vulnerable students access to the kind of knowledge that could help them succeed". The reading portion of the Nation's Report Card is very helpful in drawing this insight because reading comprehension is so much more than just being able to decode a language. Doing well in reading comprehension requires knowledge. Reading scores are sensitive to a child's knowledge in the other subjects. How much a child knows about civics, science, arts and music determines how well a child does in a reading comprehension test. This is what the Nation's Report Card on reading is telling all of us. With the drop in scores especially among below average performing students, the "cause and effect" conclusion seems inescapable.

Wexler writes near the end of her article:

This year’s NAEP Day panel, composed of educators and state education officials, also failed to mention the elephant in the room identified by the panel last year. Although the topic was educational equity, no one brought up the difference in access to knowledge between kids from wealthier, more educated families and their less privileged peers—or the fact that schools are failing to build knowledge for the children who need it most. Instead, the panelists urged the usual recommendations: the need to have high expectations for all students, the importance of basing interventions on data.

Focusing on our fears will not help us see. This is why we miss the sad fact that inequity is brought into our schools the moment when we decide which children should be taught based on how we perceive them. Inequity is wrong, and being Asian does not make it less wrong.



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