Bruce Baker, professor of educational theory, policy and administration at Rutgers, discusses isolation and segregation in education at ETS forum.
WASHINGTON — To change the life trajectory of children from families of lesser means, more attention must be given to their plight and crafting policies that increase their likelihood for academic success.
That was the heart of the message delivered Wednesday by the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, during a research forum titled “Poverty and Education: Finding the Way Forward.” The event featured the release of the report by the same name.
The report compiles previously publicized but perhaps not-so-well-known facts and figures that delineate the scope and depth of poverty in America. For instance, 22 percent of the nation’s children are in poverty, 20 million Americans have incomes of less than half of the poverty threshold, and about 1.5 million households with about 2.8 million children are classified as being in “extreme poverty,” that is, living on $2 or less of income per person per day in a given month.
Though the poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,550, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the report notes that “large differences” exist in the income needed by families in various parts of the United States.
The report also contains recommendations of things that can be done to ensure better educational outcomes for children from poor families, such as improving the quality of the teacher workforce and reducing isolation and segregation along racial, ethnic and income lines.
More specific recommendations in the ETS report, which are “within the purview of education policymakers,” include:
Some of the recommendations were criticized as being off-base.
For instance, Andrea Giunta, senior policy analyst in the Teacher Quality Department at the Center for Great Public Schools at the National Education Association, said most teachers leave their jobs not because of lack of pay or large class sizes but because of the inability to be involved in decision-making at the school level and in the selection of course materials.
One audience member asked how the authors of the report would go about the business of reducing isolation and segregation.
Bruce Baker, professor of educational theory, policy and administration at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, conceded that the problem of isolation and segregation is “one of those intractable problems.”
“We would suggest that states that have more aggressive judicial interventions or even proactive policies around housing integration may be able to achieve some reduction of segregation,” Baker said. “But it’s clearly one of those difficult things to overcome.”
He added more equitable funding for schools could help solve the problem because school funding impacts class size and other factors that homebuyers with children consider when moving into a neighborhood.
Baker also acknowledged that improving teacher quality was just one piece of the puzzle.
“If we focus only on trying to get competitive wages to recruit and retain teachers in high poverty settings, we’d only be putting a small dent in things,” Baker said.
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