In order to sustain and scale success in communities of poverty, everyone needs to be part of the solution. High expectations need to be met with high supports that nurture children to meet their whole needs from cradle through college. The following are a few of the many, many ways those in and around education can encourage a systemic culture of success:
Educators can teach an empowering curriculum grounded in student culture that explicitly teaches students the following foundations of success: purpose, adaptability, resilience, building relationships, and resourcefulness. They can build strong relationships with students, flood them with positive role models so they see schooling as a legitimate pathway to success, and help students envision themselves as capable of achieving success through education.
Parents can build a strong foundation of work habits and literacy for children, support them with a safe space at home to do homework, and be involved in school as much as possible.
Students can put forth strong effort to achieve educational goals, get involved in opportunities that will better the school and community, and seek out opportunities outside the classroom to expand possible horizons.
Schools can cultivate a sense of purpose and belonging in students and create safe spaces for them to be part of a broader community solution, including mentoring and leadership positions. They can provide after-school support programs for students and encourage them to get involved in opportunities outside of the classroom where they can see the real-world application of learning.
Districts can coordinate efforts to realign community services at school sites. They can provide increased funding to schools in need of support services, decreased class size, and after-school programs.
States can support districts with funding and programs to provide additional support. They can provide incentives for teachers and monitor equitable salary distribution across districts so that teachers who teach in high-need communities are paid at least as much as their counterparts who teach in more affluent communities.
The federal government can increase grant funding of programs, like Promise Neighborhoods, that provide intensive cradle-through-college support for those in need.
Teacher preparation programs can expand program and course offerings that train teachers how to meet the special needs of students, as well as target recruitment efforts towards applicants of similar backgrounds as the students they will be teaching.
Communities and businesses can develop programs to offer schools support services, including guest speakers for career days, mentoring students, and internships.
It takes a nation of individuals willing to step up and scale out to make this happen. But considering the alternative, aren’t our kids worth it?
Linda Yaron is an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. She holds National Board certification and served as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the U.S. Department of Education.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.