One of the teachers that I most admire is a woman named Mary who works with some of the highest needs students in one of the poorest counties in her state. She is at once passionate and intelligent, understanding the complexities of issues that other teachers rarely work to tackle. More importantly, Mary is an outspoken advocate on what it takes to help restructure schools in high needs communities.
Mary recently read my entry on staffing high needs schools and left the following comment that I wanted to highlight:
As I read Bill’s eloquently written, researched based article, I can appreciate the depth of his views on the subject. Every child deserves our best but we know that it will not happen as long as the playing fields are not leveled.
The question that most grabbed me was when he asked, "Did I get a good education because of the neighborhood my parents elected as our place of residence?" Here in lies the truth and the painful reality of class, caste, systemic inequities. If we were to ask all children, "Who wants to be born in poverty?" we would get no takers. "Who wants to be taught by teachers that are not certifed, accomplished, and lacking in vision and preception?" we would get no takers.
So, how will we get equitable funding, resources, highly qualified teachers and administrators? Will it take a private institution’s plan to raise the performance level of public schools’ performance? The guilt Bill feels comes more from being part of a system that has biased practices, but he can’t control how government spending is channeled. I wonder what it would take for Bill to leave his school system and school to teach the children who had no choice in the matter of parents, economic status, neighborhood, principal, or teacher.
While every challenge issue he raises is true and every proposed solution is what school systems like mine in Halifax County needs, I feel that it’s impossible to fully understand what is needed in high needs schools unless you are willing to teach in those schools and live within a proximinity of those communities for more than one year.
While I agree in principle on many things Bill writes, the one thing that is crucial to success in high needs schools is the freedom to allow flexibility, creativity, and top notch leadership to flourish. I can almost guarantee that those essential principals are absent in low performing, high needs schools. The way to combat poverty is with resources. What most high needs schools are deprived of is economic, human, capital, and academic resources.
The true question remains,"Does my state consider the education of the children in my school significant enough to society to strategically address and provide empowering vehicles to bring about major changes in the current way high needs schools operate? Is our state willing to revamp the entire school’s program and provide the same economic and substantial opportunities for learning that Bill’s County and school district offers? If not, isn’t this notion of addressing the real issues of high needs schools just another debate?