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Education The Almighty Buck

Turning Around a School District By Fighting Poverty (npr.org) 413

New submitter gomezedward40 writes: Through her unconventional focus on addressing poverty, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson has been credited with rapidly improving the school district of Jennings, Mo. NPR reports: "The school district of 3,000 students has taken unprecedented steps, like opening a food pantry to give away food, a shelter for homeless students and a health clinic, among other efforts. 'My purpose is to remove the challenges that poverty creates,' she says. 'You can not expect children to learn at a high level if they come in hungry and tired.' That unconventional approach has had big results. When Anderson took over in 2012, the school district was close to losing accreditation. Jennings had a score of 57 percent on state educational standards. A district loses accreditation if that score goes below 50 percent. Two years later, that score was up to 78 percent, and in the past year rose again to 81 percent, Anderson says. She points to a 92 percent 4-year graduation rate, and a 100 percent college and career placement rate."
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Turning Around a School District By Fighting Poverty

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:05AM (#51233135)
    Next thing you know, kids will get out of the poverty trap.
    • The only way I can feel good about myself is to know there are people who have much less than I do. How can I get someone to mow the lawn or shovel the snow if there are not poor people who need the money? We need poor people.

  • by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:06AM (#51233139) Journal

    This isn't new news here, this is all data that's been proven out over more than a decade of study. What's news is that someone has finally had the wherewithall to actually use the data. Hopefully, this will be a wake up call, and just the first of more to come.

    No student can focus on learning when they're distracted with the struggle of just living, hoping they'll have food to eat tonight, and a warm place to sleep, clean close to wear. All the things that so many of us take for granted.

    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:21AM (#51233179)

      Sadly, in my son's district, a school failing due to poverty is told they're failing because of "bad teachers" and the school is put into receivership. They then have 1 or 2 years to turn it around (how much is determined by State Ed who are the ones blaming teachers). If they don't turn it around enough, the school will be given to an outside agency who can turn it into a charter school and restrict student admittance to whomever they want. In other words, they'll kick out "under-performing" kids or kids with issues that require extra assistance - pushing them to other public schools - and then they'll show how they've "improved" scores and will push for more schools like theirs. (Using more taxpayer money, of course.) Meanwhile, the poor kids will still be worrying about whether they'll be able to eat or have a place to sleep tonight.

      I'd go for a funny line like quoting Futurama's "Thus solving the problem once and for all.... ONCE AND FOR ALL" but, sadly, these politicians refuse to look at the studies that show poverty is the leading factor and instead want to channel public school funds to companies that donate to their campaigns.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:38AM (#51233215)

        If they don't turn it around enough, the school will be given to an outside agency who can turn it into a charter school and restrict student admittance to whomever they want.

        This should really be called "class warfare", but somehow the term only applies when it is the poorer parts of society taking action against the wealthier.

        Offtopic: Are the /. devs trying to kill the site by driving away readers through persistent, unfixed login issues?

      • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @05:26AM (#51233645)

        This is just yet another illustration of the privatization fallacy: that privatizing public services somehow makes them more efficient and cheaper NO MATTER WHAT. I've never been able to understand the reasoning behind - when the state provides a service, they do not have to produce a profit for shareholders, whereas private companies exist mainly to do this; all things being equal, how can a private company deliver the same service and skim off a profit? The answer is of course that the private company doesn't actually deliver the service, for one thing. The other side of the answer is that public services are cronically underfunded, and the staff is underpaid - which leads to poorer quality services that rely on overly complicated bureaucracy, since nobody is willing to take responsibility and take real leadership; public servants are simply not allowed to do the things that would lead to efficiency and real improvements.

        That said, I think traditional welfare is probably not the way to help the poor; in order to manage your life well, you need more than a home and money to spend; there's a lot of life skills that you never had a chance to learn when you were a child and which are are very difficult to pick up when you are constantly running to keep things together as an adult. I know this - I grew up in poverty, and although I managed to climb out of it, I had to fight many years with the debt trap, and the fact that I had never been in a situation where making a budget was a realistic proposition; how can you make a budget, when you know you are going to be hit by more bills than you can possibly pay - and on top of that, even if you do make a list of everything, there is always going to be several that you have missed? It is very easy to simply give up and think "what do I care"; a lot of poor people do just that - they know they will never have any real hope. What you need in that situation is a way to get rid of their debt once and for all, and then coaching in basic life skills: budgetting, planning, even cooking good meals - all the things they didn't get the opportunity to learn, because they grew up knowing they were just trash and society didn't want to know about it.

        • Arguably privatizing saves costs by cutting the extreme benefits and making working weeks more normal vs. what public sector employees get so it's conceivable that private vs. public can actually provide the same level of service for less - at least for the short term.

          Long-term I agree with you that over time profit considerations will cause problems like lack of investment in infrastructure, cost vs. safety problems, etc.

          On your second paragraph I agree 100% having lived, from the sound of it, in more or l

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          The reqson that many think privitazation is a solution is the same as many think (IT) outsourcing is a good idea. Because the companies telling them it will be cheaper (and sometimes are right.) It also fails for the same reason. In those cases where they ARE cheaper, they fail because of loyalty to the wrong group. People are loyal to those who pay them. If they work inhouse, that is who they are loyal to. If theu work for the outsources, that is who they are loyal to. (In general)
          These two parties might n

        • The reason that privatization may work is that government employees can't be fired. This is especially true for teachers but also applies to pretty much everything government. When organizations (public or private) get large, bureaucracy starts to take over. Instead of striving for good outcomes for the organization, people start manipulating the situation for their own benefit. In private companies this harms the shareholders. In government it harms the tax payers. It also harms both of their custome
          • The reason that privatization may work is that government employees can't be fired

            They can't? Tell that to those who have been laid off because of cut-backs and privatisations. But perhaps that is different in America than in Europe.

      • There are two ways to fix schools. First, by putting a blunt end to all poverty [wordpress.com], thus reducing one external factor. The second is to fix the education curriculum.

        Sadly, in my son's district, a school failing due to poverty is told they're failing because of "bad teachers" and the school is put into receivership.

        Education--we're talking about real education, not workforce development (college) mislabeled as "education"--involves complex interactions between parents, students, teachers, administrators, and politicians. If the parents don't raise their kids right, they're difficult to teach--hence poverty impacting academic performance--and the schools

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and am very familiar with the Jennings area. My old roommate was a graduate of Jennings high-school, in fact.

        That area definitely qualifies as one of the poorer districts in St. Louis and I can absolutely see how basics like ensuring students are fed helps with the learning process.

        That said? I think there usually is a combination of problems with these schools, including mis-use of funds by faculty and general corruption, plus the fact that sometimes they really DO h

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:06AM (#51233141)

    >> She added round-the-clock care for children with crappy parents.

    So...federal breakfast+lunch+dinner+afterschool+foodstamps+welfare = fail? Can we just invest in what she's doing then and cut back on all the other social programs that are not addressing poverty?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:10AM (#51233149)

      A fellow in Florida took his lottery winnings and started day cares for people in his district. Free of charge. School attendance went way up. Parents could get jobs and help their families...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ranton ( 36917 )

      >> She added round-the-clock care for children with crappy parents.

      So...federal breakfast+lunch+dinner+afterschool+foodstamps+welfare = fail? Can we just invest in what she's doing then and cut back on all the other social programs that are not addressing poverty?

      Looks like they are just doing more of the same, showing welfare isn't the problem. Not enough welfare is the problem.

      • by vlad30 ( 44644 )

        Looks like they are just doing more of the same, showing welfare isn't the problem. Not enough welfare is the problem.

        No the wrong kind of welfare giving money to parents who waste it best to give precisely food, clothes, medical and shelter for the children first and welfare for the parents second after all they had their chance. Notice in the article she gives parenting classes maybe add to that home budgeting and they could break the poverty/welfare cycle.

        • While that's not valueless, it's not really the major problem. Everyone has some ideals about what the problem in every large system (welfare, education, American government) is, and they're all largely symptoms or tangential disturbances.

          I happen to agree with an EBT system for children, while many of my contemporaries have this ridiculous idea that we should give $4,000/year to parents for *every* child they have, flat out. That's stupid: to ensure that only 3 in 1,000 fail to thrive, you'd have to s

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      >> She added round-the-clock care for children with crappy parents.

      This isn't about parents who said "We could afford to do your laundry or take you to the doctor but we're too busy partying on our yacht to do that." This is about parents who are working two jobs (each in the case of 2 parent households) and even then barely able to afford the bare necessities of food, clothing, and housing. These are parents who have to make the serious budgetary decision of whether they feed their kids dinner toni

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Sorry, but this is welfare. Welfare just isn't a globally derogatory terms.

        I do not believe that this is an appropriate way to solve the problem, I think a guaranteed income is a better solution, but given her circumstances and what she has to work with it's probably the best she can do. All she's in a position to do is patch a broken system...probably knowing that the patch will fail fairly soon either because her funds are cut or for some other reason. This *is* welfare. It advantages some over others

      • I fixed all that [wordpress.com] but nobody will listen.
    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @01:52AM (#51233365) Journal

      So...federal breakfast+lunch+dinner+afterschool+foodstamps+welfare = fail? Can we just invest in what she's doing then and cut back on all the other social programs that are not addressing poverty?

      Most likely, no.
      With programs like these, often it is a single person who cares that makes a huge difference. In the foster-child program, for example, the people who are hired by the government to handle cases are the difference between a horrible program and an excellent program.

      You can try throwing money at the problem, but unless people care, it's not going to make a huge difference.

      • So...federal breakfast+lunch+dinner+afterschool+foodstamps+welfare = fail? Can we just invest in what she's doing then and cut back on all the other social programs that are not addressing poverty?

        Most likely, no.

        With programs like these, often it is a single person who cares that makes a huge difference. In the foster-child program, for example, the people who are hired by the government to handle cases are the difference between a horrible program and an excellent program.

        You can try throwing money at the problem, but unless people care, it's not going to make a huge difference.

        You can also turn that around and say that you can have people who care but if there's no money to support the program (ie. the free food, shelters for homeless kids (what country is this again!?!?!?!), etc that the program cannot succeed.

        As the man said, Money can't buy you love but I can tell you from experience that Love can't feed a hungry child either.

        • You can also turn that around and say that you can have people who care but if there's no money to support the program (ie. the free food, shelters for homeless kids (what country is this again!?!?!?!), etc that the program cannot succeed.

          No, it just adds an extra step for people who care (and raises the barrier somewhat). See The Freedom Writer's Diaries for example, or Stand and Deliver.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It's possible to create a programme that gets good results consistently, we don't just have to rely on chance to get good individuals. It's the same with lots of other areas, including things like operating an aircraft or administering treatment for depression.

        Depression is largely curable with cognitive behavioural therapy. It used to take a skilled psychologist to help someone with depression, but now relatively low skilled people can follow a programme and deliver good results. There are exceptions, whic

        • No, psychological therapy is something where the individual therapist matters even more, because therapists are teaching the patient to become like they are (though inadvertently).
    • > Can we just invest in what she's doing then and cut back on all the other social programs that are not addressing poverty?

      I'm afraid not. It's not a "new paradigm of education science", it cuts corners on bureaucracy to fund staff and programs other than teachers, and it puts tenure at risk. Even if the district teachers are on board with it, middle management at the district and state level will attempt to fit it into their particular programs, and especially into federal funding guidelines. The disc

  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:30AM (#51233203)
    they just keep throwing money and gadgets at the school building with little or no thought for the other 18 hours of the students' day.
  • While I don't mind a government organization tackling poverty, I think it's sad that the affairs are in such a disarray that a school district has to do these things. All of the poverty tackling services should be separated from the school budget.
    • Organizationally, the school district might actually be pretty logical.

      These sorts of things aren't supposed to be the school's problem; but it seems hard to argue with the idea that they have become the school's problem anyway, since the readiness of the students they have to work with is being seriously affected. When something becomes your problem, having the option to deal with it is ugly; but often much less painful than waiting hopefully for whoever is supposed to fix the root cause of the problem
  • Who ever heard of homeless children going to high school? Is that even allowed, I would sort of imagine that the government would want to scoop them up and drop them in some orphanage.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Who ever heard of homeless children going to high school?

      High school teachers.

    • by jopsen ( 885607 )

      Who ever heard of homeless children going to high school?

      1 out of 30 american children experience homelessness in 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/17/report-one-in-30-us-children-homeless).

      This doesn't mean living on the street, but it's when a family is kicked out of where they live without having anywhere to go... I would imagine it means sleeping in a car or a shelter until you find something..

      Children shouldn't experience not knowing where they are going to sleep (nobody should experience that).

  • In my experience, most schools in the US are actually pretty well funded, but they're horribly mismanaged. In the intercity areas, these daycare programs and such are immensely helpful - but for those that live in better off areas but perform average, this wouldn't help nearly as much, as poverty is not as much an issue. I would think that we could improve schools in those areas without introducing all of this, and instead focusing on spending the money they receive more effectively. For example, personal a
  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @02:39AM (#51233449) Homepage

    Working in UK schools, I think I'm safe in saying that a homeless child coming to school would be a priority one issue and get solved pretty damn quickly.

    Children coming without proper breakfast - yes, we have breakfast clubs for those parents who can't get up and spend ten minutes making cereal (not an insult to them all, some of them just literally do not have the time and must go to work).

    But a child (anyone under 18 now) coming in with even unwashed clothes, or hunger? That's an issue that gets referred to social services pretty damn quick. I'm not saying they can act immediately, but we have a range of neglect laws and getting taken into care can happen pretty damn quick if the parents obviously aren't around, can't cope or don't give a shit.

    It's not the school's job to be doing this. And it's quite telling of a complete failure of social care, rather than a success story for a school. "We finally fed the kids, now they are doing better"? Well, fucking yes!

    Something like 40-50% of kids in the UK are eligible for free school meals, you have to declare the figure as part of being a school and I've been involved in that many times. But even in schools where that's been near 100%, I've yet to see kids suffering complete neglect or lack of suitable social care to this extent.

    • But a child (anyone under 18 now) coming in with even unwashed clothes, or hunger? That's an issue that gets referred to social services pretty damn quick. I'm not saying they can act immediately, but we have a range of neglect laws and getting taken into care can happen pretty damn quick if the parents obviously aren't around, can't cope or don't give a shit.

      That sort of support exists in America, too. In this situation, it's not really clear what was going on, why that wasn't happening already, the article doesn't go into enough detail.

      • But a child (anyone under 18 now) coming in with even unwashed clothes, or hunger? That's an issue that gets referred to social services pretty damn quick. I'm not saying they can act immediately, but we have a range of neglect laws and getting taken into care can happen pretty damn quick if the parents obviously aren't around, can't cope or don't give a shit.

        That sort of support exists in America, too. In this situation, it's not really clear what was going on, why that wasn't happening already, the article doesn't go into enough detail.

        Yes and no. The support exists but in areas where a significant part of the population is incapable of housing and feeding themselves, social services are just plain unable to keep up with what is required to get such on track to self improvement.

        As far as parents that aren't around, can't cope or don't give a shit - there are many who are working two or three jobs and doing the best they can aren't able to provide a healthy environment for their kids. Getting taken into care would not be a good thing for

        • but in areas where a significant part of the population is incapable of housing and feeding themselves

          These areas should get less of the kind of dollars you suggest. Handing out money to "sustain" the situation just sustains the situation. It doesn't fix it. It doesn't do anyone any favors either.

          Stop creating welfare cities. I'm talking to you, Democrats. I know you do it because the politicians told you its a good idea, but they only told you that because the local large factory owners wants inexpensive workers and make large campaign donations to them, and to seal the deal on this over-supply of worke

          • but in areas where a significant part of the population is incapable of housing and feeding themselves

            These areas should get less of the kind of dollars you suggest. Handing out money to "sustain" the situation just sustains the situation. It doesn't fix it. It doesn't do anyone any favors either.

            Stop creating welfare cities. I'm talking to you, Democrats. I know you do it because the politicians told you its a good idea, but they only told you that because the local large factory owners wants inexpensive workers and make large campaign donations to them, and to seal the deal on this over-supply of workers the politicians you are parroting also pass laws that discourage or even prevent other factories from being built in the area.

            Do tell us about what the people that create welfare cities say about worker rights, while ignoring what they actually do to make workers less and less valuable.

            And your solution is what? Stop creating welfare cities....fine: How? Do you have any actual ideas or are you just antisocial to the point where anything that doesn't benefit you directly must be bad?

            Well speaking as someone who was born into a welfare family and effectively raised on state money and, because of that, was eventually able to break out of the cycle of life that most poor people get stuck in generation to generation I can vouch that this money is not only wasted but is absolutely necessary u

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @06:34AM (#51233741)

      But a child (anyone under 18 now) coming in with even unwashed clothes, or hunger? That's an issue that gets referred to social services pretty damn quick. I'm not saying they can act immediately, but we have a range of neglect laws and getting taken into care can happen pretty damn quick if the parents obviously aren't around, can't cope or don't give a shit.

      The home for children that I grew up in was closed out of funding a few years ago having been blocked by the state for the home not having employed a full time on-site doctor and all the costs that go with it.

      I spent eight years living in that home and with a full-time nurse and two hospitals about ten minutes away by car there was never a need for a full time doctor so I can only assume this was a thinly veiled trick to cut the state budget.

      With a poverty level of 24.4% in 2013 (about the same as Jennings, MO), New Haven CT certainly has no fewer kids in need than it did in my time so I don't see the need for such homes decreasing - and if anything the opposite.
      http://www.city-data.com/pover... [city-data.com]

      With antisocial policies being espoused by those who feel that their hard earned money shouldn't be used for 'socialist' programs like getting the dirt poor out of the cycle that they are stuck in I am not surprised that the number of homeless children in the US is increasing.
      https://commons.wikimedia.org/... [wikimedia.org]

      So yes, you're right that this is not a problem for schools. The failure is in the people of the US who want to cut social services, and in those social services themselves who are incapable, for whatever reasons, of fixing what is an endemic problem in the US.

      So hats off to the woman who has found a way to make it work in her part of this mess.

  • U.S. official turns on brain and acts like a first world authority -> Gets first world results.

    Who would've thunk that?

  • It's totally obvious that the failings of most US urban school districts really have little to do with bad teachers or administrators, but instead with the totally broken social environments kids come from.

    But instead of really acknowledging this for the problem it is, we instead try to morph the school district into a comprehensive social welfare delivery system. We then destroy the curriculum by adopting every gimmick that can be dredged up in the name of closing the "achievement gap", assuming that the

  • That's where the money should be going. Nip the problem at its source.

  • First the state should require equal funding per child for every student in the state instead of each county having its own funding. Next there should be a ban on most private schools. Exceptions could exist for special purpose schools such as schools that cater to music major types, or people with disabilities, or students who have already shown advanced mathematics or science skills. When the rich figure out that their kids will get exactly the same education as the poor the standards of t
  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @12:24PM (#51235093)
    These comments are so depressing. Someone is helping hungry kids eat, have somewhere to sleep and get medical attention and all the top voted comments are THE TEST SCORES ARE FAKE, KIDS CHEAT MONEY WASTED.

    Man, America sucks sometimes. Take care of your KIDS for christsakes.

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