Current Connection 4

This week’s article is titled “ Urban School Reform, Family Support, and Student Achievement” by Kiersten Greene and Jean Anyon. This article does an incredible job of encompassing the true disconnect between Urban Schools and the economic obstacles individuals face. These authors want to shift the focus away from reforms that solely focus on buying schools new books, computers, etc., and focus on the political and economic reforms. As noted in the title of the article, achievement is a driving force behind what this article is attempting to accomplish. If achievement is the overarching goal, it begs the question; If a student is low-achieving due to economic and political factors, how can we improve these as a society? 

Greene and Anyon purpose a variety of solutions to the question I just posed, all of which are evidence supported by research. Many points made throughout the article are done in regards to the disproportionate number of students in Urban areas that are low performing in terms of academic achievement. A statement from the authors of this article note, “What the authors are suggesting is that research on the achievement of low income students must begin to more explicitly acknowledge the power of socioeconomic status (SES) to trump education policy and the efforts of teachers and administrators in urban schools and classrooms.” So while it is imperative to not downplay the role of pedagogy and curriculum on student achievement, it truly starts at home and in the community.

The authors of this article further support the overarching issue of SES being the largest component that affects a student’s achievement by providing us a cultural perspective throughout the reading. It is through this cultural lens the authors are able to paint a picture of the struggles that are associated with living in an Urban area and what those implications may be. What struck me upon reading more into the affects SES has on achievement is the fact that bottom live, poverty severely limits educational opportunities and access. Not only does poverty force individuals into exhausting situations, but it also has detrimental effects to children’s mental health. A question I was grappling with was if children have to help pay bills, why would they ever be concerned about school? How could achievement be a priority of theirs when they are struggling to meet basic needs?

Research was given that supports the stance of paying into the community and increasing financial resources for families in need to help not only raise achievement of poor children, but help them in all aspects of academics. The article provides us with various studies that found improving family incoming reduced negative social behavior of children as well as improved their school behavior and performance. In addition to this research, other programs were noted as improving children’s achievement by providing wage supplements and subsidized child care as well as other necessary family support. Hearing about these various research studies and programs had me thinking about the old saying “It takes a village”, and just how true that is. If Urban areas are going to succeed, society must improve the lives of the families who live there. School reform is not to be diminished, but paying into the community and giving everyone the tools to succeed is what will truly reform Urban education. 

The current connection article I chose was written by the NY Times author Keith Schneider titled,“How Lebron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development” (2021). This article is talking about all of the positive social changes Lebron is making in the urban community he grew up in, as well as various ones across the country. 

Lebron throughout the article is using his worldwide notoriety in order to elicit positive changes in otherwise forgotten communities. He has funded multiple projects across the country that include new schools, residential buildings, sports and entertainment facilities, and even office spaces. While many individuals are advocating for school reform, Lebron focuses his effort as stated in the article by endorsing Socially Responsible Development. As quoted in the article, “The term was initially defined by advances in design like energy efficiency, environmental safety and affordability. Developers now construct buildings and neighborhoods that make those assets and others — health care, recreation, good schools, safe streets — accessible to residents in neglected communities.” 

Lebron’s efforts are noted as being different from other stars because of his shift from capital to embracing social goals and building projects and programs to enhance those goals. One of the driving factors behind Socially Responsible Development is to develop projects that curb family disorder and instill lifelong learning and skills that allow underprivileged children a chance at being successful in school and in life. I found the statement about family disorder to be especially striking because family dynamic places a crucial role in student achievement. This is something all educators need to be aware of when their students come into school each day. Often, school can be a safe space for children, but it can also be grueling when their home life is not a safe or healthy one. It is also noted in the article that this model Lebron follows is promising for community redevelopment at a whole level. Which as noted in the Urban School Reform article is the key to allowing children to succeed if we first address the issues in the community. 

The current connection article was truly able to enact the founding idea that the Urban School Reform article presented. Such as if we expected children to perform well in school with high levels of achievement, we needed to first address the community in which they lived. Lebron is doing incredible work in Urban areas by giving the community resources to succeed in which they could not have attained otherwise, everything from work training to community centers. By Lebron engaging in Socially Responsible Development, he is paying into Urban communities and improving many families SES, which was shown to be the driving force affecting student achievement.

As I posed the question earlier about how could achievement be a priority of children when they are struggling to meet basic needs, this article helped me to gain clarity. When I was reading about this innovative development of forgotten or otherwise neglected communities, it made me realize that the Urban School Reform article was correct in saying that it all truly starts in the community. The education system in that particle Urban setting is an integral part of the neighborhood and the community. If the neighborhood and the community as a whole as struggling, how will anything ever improve? Lebron in this article is proving to the community that there is nothing wrong with Urban settings, nor should they be forgotten or neglected. Instead, people who are in a position to help should allow for members of the community to have access to resources to assist them in succeeding in all aspects of their lives. If we are willing to pay into the community and truly focus on the root of the problem, we will be able to improve not only student achievement, but the community as a whole.

Greene, K. & Anyon, J. 2010 Urban School Reform, Family Support, and Student Achievement, Reading & Writing Quarterly, 26:3, 223-236.

Schneider, K. (2021, March 9). How LeBron James Uses His Influence to Improve Community Development. The New York Times.

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