What is a failing school? The phrase is popular in the media and among those who want to reform the education system in the United States. Dig deeper and you will find that schools that people describe as “failing” usually are full of students who are struggling against the roadblocks of poverty.
This is true of the schools in Edgewater and our surrounding community. 9 in 10 students at our local schools (Edgewater Elementary, Lumberg Elementary, Molholm Elementary and Jefferson Jr/Sr High) receive free or reduced lunch rates which is a proxy for poverty.
Does the fact that our local schools are full of students who face economic challenges make them failing schools? The fact is that growing up in poverty negatively impacts the educational outcomes of students. BUT the challenges of poverty can be overcome.
With a rapidly gentrifying community full of skyrocketing housing prices, we are focusing our mission at Edgewater Collective on partnering for thriving schools. We firmly believe that a thriving community like ours should have thriving schools. For our schools to thrive, it will be take our community and county working together for this to become a reality.
How will Edgewater area schools thrive?
1. Take a hard look at data and what is working
The Jefferson Success Pathway project is a data-driven initiative to help area children succeed from cradle to career. This fall our partners are taking a hard look at the data from our local schools to see which teachers are experiencing the most student achievement growth. What teaching practices are leading to the most growth for students? Then how do we help other teachers learn and implement these successful practices?
2. Bring in the right resources to help families thrive
The roadblocks of poverty do impact what is happening in the classroom. There are a number of initiatives in the area which are bringing partners together to listen to parents and connect them with resources that can help them find new jobs, develop parenting skills and grow in leadership. The desire is that the Jefferson Community Center at Jefferson Jr/Sr High School will be a hub for these efforts.
3. Enroll more neighborhood families in our local schools
With increased housing costs in the 80214 area, families are moving out of the area and having to pull their children out of our neighborhood schools. This is leading to a drop in enrollment at all our local schools. Drops in enrollment mean that our schools are loosing funds. Based on data and conversations with residents, our local schools have been losing the support of local families even as far back as the 1970s. At last count, 45% of students who live in the Jefferson Jr/Sr High School enrollment area choose to attend schools other than Jefferson. Schools with a high percentage of free/reduced lunch students are hard to turn the corner and see high student achievement growth. But when schools are mixed socioeconomically, all students see a rise in their achievement.
4. Reinvest and reconnect with our local schools
We have heard people in town explain their lack of support of our local schools by saying, “Well those aren’t OUR kids.” We firmly believe that the children attending our schools in Edgewater ARE our children even if they might be a different race or economic situation. It is time to reinvest and reconnect with our local schools. Over the next few months we will be working on a public awareness campaign in Edgewater and the surrounding community to share what is happening in our schools and provide an avenue for local residents to connect with our schools.
Our Edgewater community is thriving economically with rising home prices, new businesses and a renewed pride in our community. Now it’s time that our schools and our children thrived too. To see thriving schools in Edgewater, it will take collective hard work.