Sunday, April 20, 2008

Still Doing a Crappy Job

According to this recent report from the Massachusetts Department of Education and the MA Board of Higher Education, too many public school graduates are requiring remedial courses at the state's universities and colleges. More troubling, though, is the variance in rates by socioeconomic status and race. Over half of African Americans, Hispanics and low income students enrolled in remedial courses in college. In addition, over 60% of students who received SPED services in high school and 50% of LEP students took remedial courses.

While it is not too surprising that SPED and LEP students might need some help in college to catch up, it is an abomination that our public schools have continued to fail our neediest students. The findings in this report make clear that we have two different school systems in Massachusetts- one for the middle and upper classes and another for the poor and minority students.

It ought to be clear to all that we need to devote more resources to our neediest students. Yet, the state's fiscal crisis has forced school districts to cut back on programs or implement fees. Beyond the fees for sports and other extra-curricular activities, many districts charge for kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. This not only undermines our commitment to universal education, but further exacerbates the gap between the educational haves and have nots.

We are, in essence, consigning an entire class of children to the education underclass. And this has effects beyond those felt by these children. Their need for remedial education diverts resources that could be put to more productive use. And, if they cannot catch up, they are more likely to drop out of college and earn less income, which means lower revenues for the state and potentially more criminals. It is not rocket science to figure out that providing a quality education to ALL makes for a stronger society, both economically and structurally.

Yet, we continue to ignore the problems of the underclass, even here in Massachusetts. And for that, we are all to blame.

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