Monday, April 9, 2012

Comparing Inequality

When we are comparing school based solely on their test scores, is the objective, subjective, or just silly. In my opinion it is silly and taken out of context to such an extent that we become blinded by testing results. Do we take into account that student who wants to do well and succeed academically, yet when they go home they are taking care of their three siblings while their parents are at work trying to provide for them. What about that student who lives in constant fear due to a violent or dangerous neighborhood. How are they supposed to be compared to the student who lives in a wealthy socioeconomic area who has no worries or fears about any of these other issues? This is simply the tip of the iceberg of how a student’s personal life directly affects their ability to concentrate academically. While it isn’t impossible for a student growing up in a lower socioeconomic status to become successful, it surely takes a lot more effort.     VS.     
If you take the social aspects of socioeconomic status out of the picture, our schools are very comparable and competitive right? Not even close. Schools in areas surrounded by poverty and low socioeconomic status are in turn going to reflect their communities. They are going to receive less money from property taxes because, if the median home price is 60k in one school district as opposed to the one across the lake where the median price is 200k. These schools are burdened even more by the fact that when hiring perspective teachers, the wealthier district is they are more likely going to pay more to start than the state minimums. This often means that the more desirable teachers are going to choose a job that pays 10k+ more a year over the one that starts teachers out at the state minimum. While this doesn’t mean that there aren’t good teachers in these lower economic districts, they are however more likely to leave their position to move to a district where pay is increased and budgets are less restrictive.
As much as we would like to think that we aren’t in this career for the money, everyone needs to make a living that is able to support their families. If this means that you have to change districts to make more money to support your own family, you are likely to do so. As a father, I know that I would do anything I can to give the best possible life to my children, and if that means moving jobs than so be it. This is the un-ideal situation that many teachers are faced with. There comes a point when money is the deciding factor and ultimately you have to do what is best for your own family.
Making sacrifices like these are what hurts struggling districts even more. They already bring in less money from taxes and yet are then penalized by the state when their test scores don’t meet a certain expectation. Since school taxes are based off of property value, the math is simple; a house that costs 200k is going to pay more to their district than a house worth 60k. Less money means poorer building conditions, less supplies, older technology, and less/older equipment. While there are grants to offset some of these deficiencies, they can’t possibly make up for it annually. With all of this in mind, how can we ethically compare two schools of drastically different socioeconomic statuses and expect them to perform equally? We can’t, and until congress can come up with a better plan, schools are going to continue to struggle, and the weak are only going to continue to be pushed to their breaking point.

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