Thursday, July 07, 2005

Under the radar considerations

I’m afraid that for me the term ‘achievement gap’ has no helpful meaning. I think the term is diabolically designed to steer dialogue straight into the Dark Abyss of low test scores, those (use your favorite pejorative) teachers and their (use another favorite pejorative) unions. (Or, 'Fuhgedabout poverty, racism, and violence; the real problems are low expectations and low test scores').

We really need to figure out how to talk about the under the radar issues without getting trapped into the Dark Abyss, as mentioned above. For instance, one better question: what are authentic solutions to public education which also attends to problems stemming from poverty, racism and societal violence?

This rest is bit OT and rambling but here are a trio of articles I ran across recently, all quite disparate. But I think they touch on a few of those aspects that get lost when we consider why kids struggle in schools. These stories highlight ‘out of the box’ considerations rarely mentioned in the improving education script.

NYT shows us 'mental health in disguise', a mental health clinic within a HS. From the viewpoint of the physician in charge:
What she had come to believe most deeply was that underneath medical trauma lay emotional turmoil, which was rarely diagnosed or treated until after the explosion.

"These kids were stressed, depressed, PTSD," she said, using the acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. "Mental health undergirds everything in adolescent medicine. To prevent things that are killing them, you have to address the way they feel about themselves."
The article mentions almost half of all the kids visited the clinic, and the leading cause of death in kids in this community is 'homicide and suicide'. It makes sense to me why test scores are low. Still, the solution developed here just rocks.

My point in this WaPo, 'Healers Prescribe Tribal Tradition', is more indirect. We know the Western prescriptive for sadness is therapy and anti-depressants. Could there be more effective ways? This article tries to discuss an intriguing approach involving both Western and tribal medicine in helping kids, a reminder that our Western Eurocentric ways are not necessarily the best prescriptive for everyone.

From Angela Valenzuela, this article: “To keep kids out of gangs, give them identity”. Keeping kids out of trouble and identity: these are societal issues the kids face, thus a part of school life as well. And the solution: you've got to do more than banning gang colors and clothes.

Lots of other issues beyond the cultural ones raised above, including raising the minimum wage.