Week 7 Readings
As I read through all of this data, I was not the least bit surprised by the fact that poverty, or school poverty, is the most significant contributor to achievement gaps. However, I was surprised to learn how well the school district I went to faired. I grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah. Although the overall data says that poverty is the largest factor for the achievement gap, I assumed overall spending would also be a factor. Being that Utah, last I checked, has the lowest paid teachers and smallest amount of money spent on education out of all 50 states. Being Utah is not a state with high poverty (lower than the national average by 1.5 percentage points), I didn’t expect to have a large achievement gap. When I compared my school district (Davis County) to Philadelphia County, I was blown away by the differences in test scores. Of course overall funding is a contributor to this, but poverty and funding are different issues. Utah has low funding. Philadelphia has high poverty. The implications of this are paramount.
One of the implications of poverty and educational achievement gaps/test scores are the ways students and families must exist in their city. For example, when students are living in poverty, they still need to get to school. In Philadelphia, this means using public transit, whereas in the suburbs of SLC, this usually means getting a ride from a neighbor. If one does not have money for public transit, doesn’t live close to a stop, has to drop younger sibling off at a different school cause parents are working (or sleeping from a night shift), the student is likely to miss school. This does not only impact test scores but also has legal implications such as truancy. When students get a truancy, they become criminalized and have to deal with a litney of buracracy to address the issue, which greatly impacts their parents too (parents often have to go to multiple meetings, take off work, and pay for transit). Transportation and truancy are only one of the many issues students face outside of the classroom that likely impact test scores. However, more important than impacting their test scores, they are marked as a criminal and are much more likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system in ways that negatively impact their life chances.
From the first time I engaged with other Temple students, I felt out of place — now I have evidence that shows me why. The medium income for a Temple student’s family is $97,900 and 20% of students come from the top 20% of family incomes. Never before had I interacted with so many students from such economically privileged backgrounds. My parents are working class and make a combined $55,000 per year and have 8 kids. Growing up my friend’s parents were also working class — other than a few. One of the implications of coming from a working class community is the overall discourse around college. I was always told to go to college, but it was never an expectation. My dad always said “if you don't want to be like me, go to college”. He was trying to tell me that college would allow me to live a more economically privileged life than he. However, I always wanted to be like my dad and following in his footsteps was something admirable to me, although it wasn’t a path to economic “success”.
Now, I am about to graduate and according to the New York Times model, I am poised to be making almost as much as my parents combined — $46,700 per year (although this may be skewed cause I am a nontraditional student and already 30 years old). Albeit near my parents combined income, I have student loans near $100,000 dollars. Although I have virtually had a 4.0 thoughout college, recieved several college, state and national awards, was the president of a honors society and the student body of my community college, I only got small scholarships. I cannot say for sure why this is but I believe a large factor here is not having a parent who went to college guide me through this process. Had I applied to other schools, or been more intentional about how I framed myself in my application to Temple, I would likely not be in such crippling debt. Its a continual reminder that Temple University, and college in general, was not built for working class people. In reality, it was meant to separate the middle class from us — poor people. Although Temple has a high mobility index that would give me a [theoretically] higher chance of becoming rich, I do not know of a single job that would bring me into the top 20% of earner while being true to my values and morals.