As a former educator, in the classroom with Kindergarteners, through 5th graders, in the Atlanta Public School system there is a clear difference in the have and the have nots. The APS system is diverse as segregation in the community is still prevalent. There are neighborhoods where persistent poverty is all around, and if you go 30 miles north, in the same district, affluence abounds. I can say with no angst, books were handed down from affluence to pp schools. Even within the same district. Parent Teacher associations were active, supportive, they had library boosters, hosts of parent volunteers, great tutoring programs and the level of pupil to teacher engagement was quite high in the affluent schools. The attitude quite different in the lower socio-economic schools. In my 6 years in the classroom, I can count how many times I had actively engaged parents and never a well organized or run Parent-teacher association. The ratio of single parent homes was greater in my school than in any other school in the district. Often these little children were left to fend for themselves….came to school many days in a row with the same clothes on, no baths, the only food they had was lunch and breakfast provided by the school, sleepy as many we’re up roaming the streets with their mom until the wee hours of the morning…these children too little to have an choice, had to do what their guardian dragged them around to do. I had Kindergarteners in pull-ups, nobody bothered to toilet train them. Didn’t know their legal name, didn’t know their address, phone number etc. didn’t know even the alphabet song – that was my job reasoned several parents, that is why they send the children to school. Others told me it was free babysitting, didn’t care about their children learning or their behavioral problems. I might have one student out of 30 who could actually read simple words and to stifle that child for the other 29 wasn’t exactly fair either.
I say all of this and more to say that starting at a deficit, and with no support whatsoever from home or interested grown ups actively investing TIME into their child’s educational growth they are behind before they even get started.
Atlanta public schools was decimated by a horrible cheating scandal, where teachers helped students to pass standardized tests. (Made national news) I can see why that happened on two fronts. One, pay for performance was stressed, and I should say the cheating scandal only affected the schools in predominantly poverty stricken neighborhoods. The teachers saw that the affluent school teachers were attaining raises every year, they were being disciplined and fired because of their students poor performance. True they shouldn’t have cheated, it helped no one, most especially students, but they too wanted raises. Plus their students were horribly behind. Many still couldn’t read, much less comprehend a standardized test by the third or fifth grade. Promoting students to the next grade was also an issue. After a certain age, a child is move on regardless. You will never see a nine year old 1st grader, although if that is where the student needs to be, something needs to be done. There is zero support at home or in the community for this child…now what.
Many children graduate from the Atlanta Public School system still not able to read, write, comprehend, no language skills, no arithmetic skills, can’t tell time, etc. and sadly it’s most noticeable by race.