STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

What did you learn about The Education Gap?

I don't know about you, but I feel like any gap I had in my knowledge about disparities and inequity between schools was closed by Jennifer Guerra's documentary yesterday.

As kids and education gets tossed around like a football between the different stakeholders---parent, administrators, politicians, and the media---the comparison of School X and Meadows in Novi, MI was enlightening from the kids' perspective.

What's it like to want more than you're getting from your educational experience? 

We have a listening guide that you can view here, but some additional key themes that stuck out were: 

  • the idea of transience and what this means for teachers who move from school-to-school based on "years in the field" hierarchies and children who move from school-to-school because of life circumstances that put them in different school settings. The re-training for everyone involved into new norms and environments, as the doc shows, can have a detrimental impact on moving toward larger learning goals and dreams. 
  • the lack of emphasis on the future that comes from not seeing people achieving educationally and occupationally. The research often gets distilled into the type of platitudes that we might not even hear anymore: "Kids need role models!" But listening to one School X student's wonder at the fact that Jen had gone to college and even beyond undergrad reinforced the idea that children need to see their options. Recall Dustin's interview with Howard University Professor Ivory Toldson  and his critique of programs that only show kids what not to do, as opposed to what they can achieve: "He says, ultimately, this barrage of negative messages about black males – it puts the focus on the wrong thing. The goal, and eventually the policy, becomes to just avoid a negative – prison – instead of promoting all of the many positive paths young black men can take." 
  • Jen points out the trifecta that's making it hard for the whipsmart Hannah McAllister, featured in the documentary, to get the education she deserves: truancy, apathy, and discipline issues. And those aren't her issues, but those of the other students, classroom, and the school at-large. Listening to Hannah articulate the problems in her classroom made me certain that I don't know more than a 5th grader. 

There's a lot to unpack, so pull up a chair and listen again here

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