April 1 — 2:44 pm, 2011

Edition sheds light on critical issues

To the editors:

The December 2010 edition ("Teachers and reform") provides insight into the extremely difficult position Philadelphia teachers confront. They would seem to be at the crux of all our society’s contradictions.

The article on poverty struck me as particularly on target. The data began to fill in for me the broad picture of social stresses teachers are somehow expected to cope with, pretty much on their own.

The story notes, "One economist found that about 60 percent of achievement is explained by non-school factors, such as family income." Sixty percent! That finding suggests a whole program of investigation and action that would be required to transform the city’s schools.

Here are some follow-up questions that readers might want to see more about:

  • Who in Philadelphia is addressing "non-school factors" – whether through research, teacher initiatives, union policies, or community organizing?
  • How do we identify the links between children’s school performance and the political and economic dynamics of the area?
  • How does the likelihood of ending up in low-wage work or the military, or being fed into the bulging prison-industrial complex impact on students’ learning and motivation?

Hopefully, your investigative reporting can throw light on these questions that affect our children’s future.

Chip Smith
The writer, who was the first staff person at the Notebook from 1995 to 1997, lives in Rocky Mount, N.C.

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