Education is the responsibility of the entire community, not just the schools themselves, and successful collective impact calls for the engagement of a broad cross-section of stakeholders from different sectors.
The evidence is overwhelming – public education in our region is failing to serve Black, Hispanic and lower-income children, and there is significant room for improvement for higher-income and White children as well. TCCC was established because our community leaders find unacceptable the persistent and growing disparity in opportunity that results from the achievement gap. While causes and solutions may be uncertain, we collectively believe its continued existence is an impediment to ALL students. Gap-closing measures in support of children of color and children from lower income households will help every child reach his or her potential.
Many of the persistent problems in our education system are the result of inequities. Allocating resources to address socioeconomic and other disparities will benefit ALL children. Policies and practices that have proven successful in closing the opportunity gap must be identified, implemented and maintained with fidelity. Opportunity and achievement gaps are more likely to close when classrooms, schools and districts consistently offer a culture of high expectations and support for the success of the whole child as an integral part of teaching and learning.
Toxic stress due to prolonged exposure to childhood adversities like: living in extreme family poverty; living in disenfranchised, unsafe neighborhoods; and/or experience with abuse, trauma and neglect adversely affect physical and social-emotional development and academic performance. About half of the kindergarteners in our region live with such stress daily.
Resources have been invested in our community to support children in many schools, yet gaps exist in the delivery of services. The concentration of services in select areas and in limited grades leaves some children without the supports they need to improve and others without the supports needed to maintain improvements.
Adding to the problem, support service providers in partnerships with schools report insufficient impact on children’s development and attainment.
The lack of relationships among support providers and with schools often leads to duplication of services and missed opportunities for collaboration and shared learning. Many families are unaware of services offered in their neighborhoods, other communities and districts, preventing students from receiving the continuous and consistent supports that could benefit them the most.
Children who change schools frequently are often those who struggle the most. The negative impacts of this upheaval can be reduced if districts and service providers work together to provide continuous support and consistent adult relationships as children move from one school to another.
Trident United Way (Links), Charleston Promise Neighborhood and some school districts are demonstrating the courage to publicly share where their results fall short and to make changes to become more effective.
Long-time education reform efforts by the NAACP, ACLU and others have been joined in recent years by new community groups like the Quality Education Partnership, The Coalition – People United, and the Movement for Effective Schools with similar calls for school reform.
As South Carolina continues to refine subject and grade level standards, state-mandated student assessments also continue to change. Students in 3rd to 8th grades will have taken 3 different reading and math assessments in 3 years by the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Future assessments must be consistent and comparable to national standards in order to be meaningful.
Our Path Forward
Promote teaching practices and school cultures that address the needs of each individual child as a ‘whole child’ in order assure that every child is successful;
Develop a cohesive system of support for our under-resourced children from infancy through workforce and career readiness;
Re-allocate resources and change policies and practices that have disproportionately negative impacts on students of color and contribute to the achievement gap; and
Pay closer attention to leadership requirements and fidelity of implementation by school districts and support providers alike in future collaborations.
“Each of us must come to care about everyone else’s children. We must recognize that the welfare of our children is intimately linked to the welfare of all other people’s children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else’s child will perform it. If one of our children is harmed by violence, someone else’s child will be responsible for the violent act. The good life for our own children can be secured only if a good life is also secured for all other people’s children.”
Lilian Katz Former President, National Association for the Education of Young Children