Changing urban education is not impossible, nor is it easy, but we as individuals and as a community must make changes within ourselves to ensure the success of every student. Focusing on parental involvement, teacher involvement, early childhood education, building positive living communities, and decreasing poverty will improve students’ performance in school and success in life.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, individuals have both deficiency and growth needs. Deficiency needs are basic needs for a person’s physical and physiological welfare. Growth needs, on the other hand, include the need for knowing, appreciating and understanding; these needs can never be fully satisfied (Slavin, 2005). The growth needs of the students are not able to be met unless the basic needs are taking care of, and you can’t have one without the other.
Our government and our school system have to understand that unless the basic needs of every student are met education and learning will suffer. Many students who attend urban schools live in single parent households and live below the poverty line, so the student community must focus on basic needs. As a result, students in urban schools start off with a major disadvantage. On the other hand, students in suburban schools with their basic needs being met are have a community where they are able to focus on learning, appreciating, and understanding education. That is why urban school systems need special attention and dramatic changes.
Parental involvement in schools is very connected to children’s academic success, but many urban students come from families where that is not the reality. One of the prominent stereotypes is the idea “that low income parents do not care about their children’s schooling, are not competent to help with homework, and do not encourage achievement.” (Loot 2003) Instead, it is not that parents do not care, but many times for low-income students there is only one parent providing for their family. In this case, the parent may work when their child is out of school and they are not able to help their children with their homework.
However, parents and the educators need to find ways work together to ensure the child’s success. Even though the parent is not always able to be there, parents can show interest in their child’s education and teachers can help them do that. When they are able to be there, parents should build their relationship with their children and ask them questions, encourage kids to teach them what they learned in school, and to hold them to very high expectations.
Teacher involvement with urban students is another key factor that can have an effect on the student’s level of achievement. In order for students to succeed they must have teachers who are devoted and dedicated to teaching students and helping them achieve both academically and outside of the walls of the schools. Some teachers may not understand that students have lots of people who walk in and out of our lives. In today’s urban schools, students cannot afford to have teachers denying them help and letting students down instead of lending a helping hand and helping guide them to success.
Poverty and violence in living communities are obstacles to students’ success, and they need to be changed. Ainsworth reported that one dramatic way neighborhood and community environment may affect residents’ lives is through the influence on educational outcomes of the children (2002).
Because the lack of activities to interest students after school, many children going to school in inner cities are forced to rely on the guidance of their community in which they live. If there are not structured school programs or opportunities, children are often left to the streets of their communities, where violence, drugs, and crime are common. The school system and the government need to create programs to assist students living in poverty to learn and lead so they can overcome the hardships of poverty and violent neighborhoods.
This needs to happen immediately. Although many people believe that schools is a way to reduce poverty and the achievement gap in the future, the problems that urban schools face today limits students’ success in the first place, so the gap isn’t changing. Poverty in inner city schools needs to be focused on instead of ignored in order to raise student achievement and success.
Early childhood education in today’s society is very important and crucial to a child’s success. However, access to pre-school is not a reality for much of the country. In a 2011-12 CRDC collection it was found that about 40 percent of public school districts do not offer pre-school, and where it is available, it is mostly part day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district. Also in the same study is was found that black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of preschool students suspended at least once, and 48 percent of the preschool students suspended more than once. Early childhood education should be offered to every individual, not just to a small percentage of neighborhoods that can afford it.
Without positive changes to these factors, students struggle to learn basic skill sets that are required in order to move to the next grade level. Once these students move on to seek higher education, they might not be able to compete with the students around them and have to take remedial courses. These students are falling through the cracks of the inner-city school system.
Some might argue that our city’s school system is already improving by building and remodeling more and more schools every year and planning to add a few more sport programs. Building and remodeling schools is not the key to fixing the problems we face today in urban education. The school system is giving us the toolbox and not showing or teaching us how to use the tools, and the dangerous environment where we work is not changing. The students can play their part by having the heart and the desire to use the tools they are given.
Changing urban education is not impossible and it will not be an easy task, but we must make changes within ourselves to ensure the success of every student. We together can change today’s urban school system if parents, educators, governments, and students join forces and promote early childhood education and push parental involvement, teacher involvement, and positive community environments.