The Atlantic Article that Should Have Been Called “Why Poor Students Should Not Have to Attend Dysfunctional School Districts”

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A fascinating article in the Atlantic about the lack of textbooks in Philadelphia district schools would have been even more illuminating if the author had discovered that the district spends $20k per student per year.

The blindingly obvious conclusion to draw from this article is that plenty of money exists to get these students all the textbooks they need, but that the district simply has other priorities.  The district spends the money, they just spend it on something or someone else, and mysteriously classroom learning never makes to the top of a priority list.  These are not “poor schools” but rather wealthy schools that are poorly run and victimizing poor students in the process.

11 Responses to The Atlantic Article that Should Have Been Called “Why Poor Students Should Not Have to Attend Dysfunctional School Districts”

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Your opening sentence = BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

  2. pdexiii says:

    Even worse, as you probably know already:
    There are teachers and schools whose pedagogy involves not using a textbook. Of course, when these students perform poorly on standardized tests they blame “poverty” when the real culprit was the adult in the room who failed, or CHOSE not to teach the content.

    • I beg to suppliment your analyses. One teacher does not undo, on average, what years of poverty, or low income, the above average stresses that are often ‘off the graph’, — on average, the various inadequacies within the households, neighborhoods,along with alot of hard-working, underpai dedicated parents, Auties, Grand Pops, etc. The History Textbooks I am instructed to use, either have to be supplimented, otherwise you are letting the students “discover” that the U.S. was the greatest experiment in Freedom [meaning what?] ever attempted!! And by golly, the Constitution still exists, therefore?? it must be good?? it stood the test of time!! That argument is so deep I cannot even begin to unravel it– after all this time — teaching History and Economics for 33 years, with a Ph.D in Political Economy. if I only used the Textbook and only followed the Curriculum Guide, I would be committed to “With Liberty and Justice For All” — not ‘for some’ “This land belongs to you and me” — instead of Agri-Business, the Pentagon, and on and on. Every study in every country ever done shows that when a standardized test — of sufficient degree of difficulty is administered, THEN AVERAGE SCORES ARE DIRECTLY CORRELATED with Average Socio-Economic Levels of Households. The higher the average household $$$, the higher the average scores: mean, median, and mode Average Scores in Poverty/Low-Income Districts cannot be put on the shoulders of A TEACER, or even 2 TEACHERS or even …. Hierarchical, social stratified, racist, faux democratic societies reproduce ….. and in the last 30 years, in Amerika, the gaps between and among the topp 1/10 of 1% and the bottom 95% are so inhumane, language cannot capture the immorality– in my view

  3. patty joseph says:

    I am a science teacher and I supplement all the time. We have 13 year old text,. They are too expensive to buy new. I know what I have to cover and I know that my text doesn’t supply. What you are asking the teacher to do is “Teach to the test” which might help a kid score high on the test but will it prepare them for college?

    • Greg Forster says:

      What state do you live in? Let’s find out how much money your state school system spends per student to put some context around the idea that new textbooks are “too expensive.”

      • patty joseph says:

        I work in Ohio. The lowest paid district in the state. It is easy to look at how much money is supposedly spent per student but it doesn’t necessarily go toward the students. We have a 76% free and reduced lunch population (translation: poor community). You would be surprised how many students I have that can not read. If kids aren’t nurtured at home and prepared for school then we are always playing catch up and we never do.

        Full disclosure, we are going to try to use i-pads this year. Our kids get the choice of buying, leasing , or just using them at school. We got a grant because we are so low income.

      • Greg Forster says:

        Sounds like you are in total agreement with Matt’s post that the public schools have no excuse not to have textbooks! The problem is not that the textbooks are too expensive but that the enormous geyser of money we pour into the school system “doesn’t necessarily go toward the students.” What more damning indictment could be brought?

        According to this site:

        …if we exclude one weird district with only 93 kids in it, the lowest spending district in Ohio is Avon, which spends $7,181 per student. For that much money there is no damn excuse not to have textbooks.

        In fact, those numbers are a couple years old so by now it’s more.

  4. Matt, you are too kind: it’s not “discovered”; it’s “disclosed”.

    • matthewladner says:

      I’m not certain about that MK. The state of financial transparency in PA is pretty poor. It took me at least two minutes to google up a source…:-)

  5. Susan says:

    Per pupil spending is a blindingly fallacious method of determining anything. If my best friend and I are at a bar and we determine that the average of our salaries means something and then Bill Gates walks in how does that change the equation? Poor schools spend a disproportionate amount of their budget on special education. If it costs the district 100k to send a kid to a residential placement how does that skew your equation?

  6. Linda Myrick says:

    All of you, including the author of the original article, sadly miss the obvious picture staring right at us. Why should any of us buy into this crap? Why should the textbooks or tests be used? They are taking us down a path that disrespects students and teachers, benefitting only the textbook/testing companies. We are watching art, music, PE, civic, play, creativity, literature discussions, theatre become smaller and smaller parts of public school experience, while we cram kids’ brains with stupid, boring content from questionable textbooks, so kids can pass tests. All of the families should OPT OUT of the tests. Teachers should refuse to administer them. Teachers should assess their own students and teach things that matter and that engage their students. RESIST this stupidity.

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