The Value of Challenge

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It has become increasing apparent that selective admission to high schools is a sophisticated method of segregation. Students in low income neighborhoods and whose parents are non-native English speakers struggle to gain admission to highly rated schools and are often forced to settle for neighborhood schools, where they are left unmotivated, in environments where safety is more important than education.

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are most often offered in the best schools to the highest achievers with the most ambitious parents and to those who can afford the test fees and tutorial support if needed. Results have shown these students to continue on a successful academic path, rising above the average, better prepared for the college experience.

However, in a recent study reported by Jay Matthews of the Washington Post, he found that all students regardless of economic background, when given the opportunity to be challenged by AP and IB classes actually have thrived in these challenging learning environments, and they were found to be far more likely to succeed in college.

The IDEA Public Schools in Texas “with over 30,000 mostly low-income students” have found success in requiring all students to take AP classes. Along with other similar programs across the nation, under achieving students of low income families have proven to be successful in raising the bar for achievement and college success. It is true these students must be nurtured into these programs just as we nurture learning from infancy. One cannot walk before crawling or read without language. But these students participating in supportive and gradually challenging environments have been found to thrive in the AP and IB programs.

This great news should be spread across the nation to all parents, educators and governments whose funding is necessary to make these opportunities available to all students regardless of ability to pay. But as often found with good news, there comes a glitch. Matthews reports that last year Congress severely cut funds directed for low-income students.

So I return you to my previous blog (Grooming for the Future) and encourage educators and government leaders to be a part of this successful grooming process. We cannot settle for mediocrity or even less simply because of economic status. Join me in speaking out, reminding our elected officials, school boards, PTA’s, school principals and teachers that studies continue to prove challenged students far exceed their environmental expectations. The gift of education is essential to our children and we must work together to challenge all of our children to succeed, reach for new goals, and not settle for mediocrity or even less.

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