Mayor Antonio Villariagosa of Los Angeles is in the midst of seeking power to control the Los Angleses city schools. This effort continues a pattern of urban mayors trying to reform the schools. In considering this direction it is important to consider what mayors could do with their current powers.
Here is a brief from West Ed by Richard Rothstien from his recent book, Class and Schools: Using Social , Economic and Educational Reform to close the Black-White Achievement Gap. (2006)
Reforms that could help narrow the achievement Gap.
Policymakers almost universally conclude that persistent achievement gaps must result
from wrongly designed school policies — either expectations that are too low, teachers who are insufficiently qualified, curricula that are badly designed, classes that are too large, school climates that are too undisciplined, leadership that is too unfocused, or a combination of these. This exclusive focus on schooling is wrong. Without complementary investments in early childhood preparation, health care, housing, after-school and summer programs, and other social and economic supports, the achievement gap will never be closed.
Americans have concluded that the
achievement gap is the fault of “failing schools”
because it makes no common sense that
it could be otherwise. After all, how much
money a family has, or a child’s skin color,
should not influence how well that child learns
to read. If teachers know how to teach and if
schools permit no distractions, children should
be able to learn these subjects whatever their
family income or skin color.
This common sense perspective, however,
is misleading and dangerous. It ignores how
social class characteristics in a stratified society
like ours may actually influence learning in
school. It confuses social class, a concept which
Americans have historically been loathe to con-
sider, with two of its characteristics, income and,
in the United States, race. For it is true that low
income and skin color themselves don’t influ-
ence academic achievement, but the collection
of characteristics that define social class differ-
ences inevitably influences that achievement.
If as a society we choose to preserve big
social class differences, we must necessarily also
accept substantial gaps between the achieve-
ment of lower-class and middle-class children.
Closing those gaps requires not only better
schools, although those are certainly needed,
but also reform in the social and economic
institutions that prepare children to learn in
different ways. It will not be cheap.
What follows is a series of reforms, in addi-
tion to school improvement, that could help
narrow the achievement gap.
The contents of this issue of Policy Perspectives are excerpted from Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and
Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap, by Richard Rothstein, and published by Teachers College Press (2004). Class and Schools is available at booksellers and at http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm?id=1792.
THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP