Friday, July 25, 2008

What do you do about the schools?

Among the big issues Atlanta needs to do a better job with is our public school system. For all the folks moving into the city, not many of them have kids. I think a decent number plan to have kids - why else would you buy a four bedroom house? Well, Americans do have a lot of junk these days, but that's a different topic. Most folks I talk to who moved into town after growing up in the 'burbs plan on staying even after they have kids. Where will they send their kids?

If we can get APS up to snuff, I think Atlanta's population would absolutely explode. And we certainly owe it to all the kids currently in APS. I am not an education expert, so its not like I have any great ideas. I just wanted to direct your attention to Kevin Drum's post on poverty and education:
There's nothing wrong with writing about the efforts of school districts ... to integrate their schools and improve performance. But the elephant in the room is that by far the biggest problem with poverty-stricken schools is in big cities, and in big cities there's simply no way to do this. No amount of busing, magnet schools, charter schools, carrots, sticks, or anything else will reduce the number of low-income students in each school below 40% when the entire school district is 80% low-income...

If the effect of concentrated poverty really is "one of the most consistent findings in research on education," and if there's no plausible way to reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts, then we're stuck. We can play around the edges and make small gains here and there, but in the long run nothing will change.
76% of APS students get free or reduced lunch (pdf). Anyone got any ideas? While the School Board handles the APS, I'd really love to hear the Mayoral candidates weigh in on this over the next year.

I spent 10 years in Atlanta Public Schools, and finished the last three years in a private school. The biggest difference was in discipline - the b.s. I got away with in public school just didn't fly anymore. I don't blame the public schools for this, by the way - they have their hands full. In terms of minor policy tweaks to help this, I think school uniforms are a great idea. But, like Kevin Drum said, how do you deal with the long run?

1 comment:

  1. As a public school teacher (not APS) I can definitely say that a "substandard" school system will see automatic improvements as suburban or middle class families move into the district (in this case Atlanta and APS) and decide to enroll the kids in public school. I really don't believe that most of the issues with APS originate with individual schools or with administration, but the issues come from the community...poverty, lack of parent involvement, disinterested students, lack of funding, crime or perception of crime, inner city distractions, etc. It all adds up to a low performing school. If enough new residents will opt for public school, the situation would improve dramatically.


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