Sending them away–for their own good Scott Gold (LA Times)
While this human interest article in the LA Times presents an extreme situation, most of us in the education field can likely identify students who have been forced to deal with similar circumstances. The article does not detail the educational performance of the kids, but it is not difficult to imagine that school has not been a priority–and understandably so. Violence, poverty and dysfunction become the norm. A common paradox presents itself: education is viewed by many as a path out of poverty, but the circumstances of poverty and violence make education a low priority. Kids are often forced to assume adult responsibilities (i.e. babysitting and surrogate parenting), before they have developed the maturity to deal with multiple tasks.
What can schools do about this? My thought: our potential to intervene is limited. Schools can, however, play a role in a network of support that will hopefully assist students who face violence, poverty, homelessness, etc. Knowing student circumstances, examining data, and addressing as many specific needs as possible is vitally important. This may include accommodations and/or challenges–dependent upon the individual circumstances of the student. Mentoring is not a “magic bullet,” but for some kids, having an adult at school who cares (and shows it) may be the difference between academic success and dropping out.
My thought is that there are a lot of things schools are being asked to do that are unfair expectations. Ideally, schools should be working in concert with parents to provide a student’s education. That being said, we know that in many cases this is not the reality. These are circumstances beyond our control and they do not excuse educators from making the effort to provide an exceptional education for all students.
I certainly don’t have all (or many) of the answers, but would be interested in hearing how others work with “at-risk” students in an effort to overcome the negative influences that detract from a proper education.