Robert Winner


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Are we branding schools and students in reports and media

Rep Paul Boyer, Phoenix AZ introduced a bill to add 20 days to the states schools making the school year 200 days. That is not a big deal but the report cited that ... schools serving a high proportion of students from low-income families, with almost 90 percent of the district qualifying for free and reduced lunches showed improvement with the additional 20 days.

There was no mention of how "other" schools fared.

This has become a benchmark for educational comparisons ... If you are poor and eligable for a free school lunch then you have a low IQ and are a educational lab rat to be monitored.

I read a report that two professors challenged the PISA exams because some "low income free lunch kids" took the exam. I'm not for sure what point was being made here ... but if I was low income free lunch eligable I would be insulted.

Sure many of the inner city schools have high drop out rates for a multitude of reasons ... but it would be unfair to say it is because they are dumb or to hold them up as a lab experiment.

If we continue to name these schools in reports and news releases what is the impact on the self esteem of the students ... does it make it harder for the teachers ... does failure become the norm and only the "lucky beats the odds and gets a education".

Is this a receipt for failure.

  • Mar 11 2013: Displaying this image of a "low-income free lunch" student does have its negative ramifications: confidence issues and undergoing unwarranted generalizations; however, although I agree with its consequences, it is a constant reminder of the issue of education equity in the United States. There have been a plethora of studies done that have tracked the achievement gap between those of lower and higher socioeconomic status, many of which demonstrate lower performance. It stems from a lack of resources - books, tools, science equipment- effective teachers, and overall a community and culture that fosters and values education. In some cases, that is what is needed for some students to perform better.

    So I think an underlying question is what can we do to reduce this achievement gap that will reduce the stigma and hurt that is associated with the term "free lunch students"?
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      Mar 11 2013: The low income "free lunch" group show a higher rate of improvement that all other groups combined in the PISA exams. The mind should not be judged on the cost of the meal.
      • Mar 11 2013: I agree. The potential an individual has is not a function of their racial or economic status nor their gender. This term stems from the constant reminder that those who aren't as fortunate have generally performed more poorly due to lack of a good education that make it more lightly for higher drop-out rates. It's not because their "mind' isn't as competent. In fact, their minds are capable of much as anyone.
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    Mar 11 2013: I think the media is sometimes bias and doesn't add full details on students impact or the impact of schools, also must of the statistics shown by the media are not usually full verifiable
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    Feb 11 2013: I agree that the way people talk about "low income free lunch kids" creates a negative image. In my secondary teaching, I was a specialist in highly gifted kids, and the most promising and accomplished student I taught by any measure was from a very low income family. How happy I was to see her accept a "full ride" at MIT!

    I worked with another such child who came to school every day with no lunch, claiming he wasn't hungry. The truth was the family hadn't enough money for the purpose, but they did not want the stigma associated with participating in the program and carrying the label. Some mothers started packing extra lunches and others packed extra food their kids could share.

    I don't know the particular case of the PISA exam, but international comparisons often compare kids in countries with free education for all against countries in which only the elite go to school long enough to take such tests. Was that the context?