Recognizing Disparities the First Step to Reforming Education

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When I attended Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s public forum for state superintendent candidates last month, I watched John Barge(R), Joe Martin (D), and Kira Willis (L) tackle critical questions about what makes a successful work relationship between the governor and state superintendent, the role Race to the Top should play in education reform, and their message to teachers and administrators during these struggling economic times. What I was waiting for from the panel was a question about investment in early education—pre-k and closing the achievement gap that exists between various racial groups, socio-economic statuses, and regions. But that issue never emerged.

The key to breaking the cycle of poverty that has kept communities and schools in bondage for so long is a child with a strong educational foundation.  That’s why investing in pre-k is critical to the success of future generations. Just some of the many negative factors associated with poverty—high-school drop outs, teen pregnancy, and entering the penal system—should be enough to motivate us to help improve the public education system so children are not forced into a life where they can never realize their full potential. If we fail to address the disparities that exist in the education system, we will not be able to maximize education reform efforts.  A one-size-fits-all solution to education reform doesn’t take into account the context of economic, geographic, and racial disparities. If we are to be effective in our reform efforts, we need to recognize the disparities that exist in the public education system and then craft solutions that will address these inequalities head on so we can close the student achievement gaps that have swallowed our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

We help our elected officials make informed decisions in solving the broad spectrum of issues that face the education system through our comprehensive collection of data, research, and information on Georgia’s children, families, and communities.  Our Connected to Public Policy series provides an objective overview of the Georgia legislature and how particular bills will impact children and families across the state.  Volunteer at your child’s school, join the PTA, or attend your local school board meeting.  Being actively involved in the community is one of the first steps to creating the change that is so desperately needed in the education sector.

How can we focus our efforts on preventing the gains that we have worked so hard to achieve from backsliding during this global economic crisis? Simply put, we must be willing to change our way of thinking.  It’s time for us to reorganize our efforts, stick with what works, and let go of strategies that don’t advance our mission. Now is the time for everyone to become involved. What role will you play in helping to improve education for future generations?