If we want better school outcomes let's pay attention to Iowa

Mar 27, 2015
Yoga Foster / flickr

One kid’s trauma can be a lot to handle. Managing a whole school of kids who have been traumatized  can seem insurmountable. These kids are more likely to act out in class, have attendance problems, and get lower grades than their peers.

flickr/clappstar

Robin DiAngelo was right out of college when she started thinking about it. She'd landed a job leading workshops on racism. And she met a man who became very angry, and pounded on a table. He said white people are the target of discrimination, white people can’t even find jobs anymore.

DiAngelo looked around the office and she saw nothing but white people, all of them with jobs.   

"It was unnerving," she says now. "It was like, 'This is not rooted in any racial reality that is happening, in this room, in this workplace, or in this man’s life.' And yet, these feelings are real. His rage is real. How do we do that?"

Brian Paris / flickr

When I was in eighth grade my social studies teacher explained to my class the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

This lesson in American politics is my only specific memory of anything I "learned" in any class that year. For example, I'm sure I learned things in honors biology. But in my memory I see nothing except  for a kid doing push-ups in front of the class because he swore. 

user Andrew Blight / flickr

Hi there! This is going to be a pretty quick blog post, since I'm knee-deep in documentary tape, but I wanted to share with you a few stories that have resonated with me lately. 

The first is a radio story from This American Life. It's called Three Miles and it's about an exchange program between two high schools: a public school in "the country's poorest congressional district" in the Bronx, and a private school three miles away that costs $43,000 a year to attend.

Five takeaways from our reporting on poverty

Mar 20, 2015
Brendan Riley / Flickr

In America, we say we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they live or how much money is in their parents' bank account. 

But not all kids have access to opportunity, and low-income families are repeatedly at a disadvantage.

State of Opportunity has devoted close to three years investigating the barriers low-income kids face in trying to get ahead in Michigan.

We think it's time for a look back at what we’ve learned so far.

flickr.com/dbtelford

In 2013, a group of business leaders in Oregon decided to take on an issue that many other business leaders often shy away from: poverty. Not only did they talk about it, they set a strategy, with specific goals in mind.

But the Oregon Business Council didn't take on poverty reduction as an exercise to show what wonderful, caring people they are. The council acted because poverty represents a long-term threat to a healthy business community. 

The Council's 2015 Policy Playbook laid out the case: 

Declining revenues from personal incomes – combined with growing poverty rates – were reducing state resources and increasing funding demands for Medicaid, human services, and corrections. This, in turn, starved funding for education, especially postsecondary education. Declining investments in education reduced opportunities for Oregonians to prepare for well-paying work, which fostered lower incomes and more poverty. This amounted to a self-reinforcing downward cycle – a circle of scarcity.

The Council, through its Oregon Business Plan, has set a goal of reducing the state's poverty rate to less than 10% by 2020. It's an aggressive goal, but if there's any group that can pull it off, business executives may be it. 

courtesy of The Diatribe

"Can you read right now at least please?"

Fable is harassing one of his students.

"Can you at least read in front of us?" he asks.

The student, Jocelyn, already said she doesn’t want to read her poem. She hardly ever speaks at all in this class.

But Fable, whose given name is Marcel Price, will not let up.

"I won't ask you for anything ever again," he says earnestly.

Fable is one of the teachers of this class, one out of four members of a poetry collective known as The Diatribe. The other poets are Rachel Gleason, G Foster II and Shawn Moore. They all pile on Jocelyn, the only student here today who hasn’t yet read a poem out loud.

The four poets plead, each in turn.

"Please."

"Please."

"Please." 

"Please."

user Frank Juarez / Flikr

I've been spending a lot of time at Cody's Medicine and Community Health Academy in Detroit for our next State of Opportunity documentary, and I thought I'd use today's blog post to highlight a few observations. But before I do, there are a few things you need to know about Cody: 

Kevin Dooley / flickr

Michigan has been scolding  "you're going to pay for that!" to young offenders across the state for close to two decades. 

This punishment comes in forms traditional to criminal justice: juvenile detention, jail for those 17 and older, probation, parole. Increasingly though, it also means that young offenders must literally find the money to pay a host of costs to courts and sheriff's departments across the state. 

Sharyn Morrow / Flickr

Dr. Vincent Felitti, father of the seminal Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study that has informed so much of State of Opportunity’s reporting and recently this NPR series, was recently in Michigan for a conference on how adverse childhood experiences affect health.

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