The current issue of Dome magazine has an article from the folks at Gongwer about the just enacted education reform legislation. It ends with comments about how the real problem with student achievement is families. Kids coming to school not ready to learn.

Its an important part of the case that many make that “those” kids can’t learn. Its not the schools fault, its the parents. Of course, families matter. It clearly would be better if all kids came from families that “properly” prepared their kids and highly value learning.

But they don’t. Never have and never will. So does that mean we are asking schools to do the impossible when we expect no child to be left behind. We have answered that question convincingly over the last decade. Largely through the experience of new urban schools. Which are getting high graduation rates, high college attendance rates and improving standardized test scores.

What we know is, if educators believe kids can’t learn, they won’t. And if schools do what they have traditionally done – largely teach content – most kids won’t meet high standards. The schools that are getting high achievement, from many students lots of us believed couldn’t learn, are reinventing teaching and learning.

At the core of their success is a culture among the educators that all their students will succeed and if they aren’t the educators need to change, not the students or their families. They have made taking responsibility for the whole child a central element of  what school is all about. So dealing with issues that we normally think should be taken care of at home, become important parts of the school day.

We invest so much in schools – this year’s school aid fund is more than ten billion dollars compared to a general fund of less than seven billion dollars – because we believe quality education is the best way to provide every child with an equal opportunity. As a matter of public policy we need to be focused on creating schools that work for all kids – no matter what kind of families they come from. Rather than creating excuses for why schools can’t.

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