Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Promise of Urban Schools

The Promise of Urban Schools outlines five key components that are required for excellence in urban schooling. The five elements are provided in the acronym, AEIOU. The first componenet is "Agency". Agency is the "power to understand, act on, and effect positive change in one's personal and social context." "Equity and Justice" is the second component. Equity is different form equality, as some contexts may present an "equal but not fair" situation. Equity, in their description, would deliver equal outcomes for each student. Justice is closely related to equity, as justice ensures that resources and support mechanisms are provided fairly to the students based upon the students' needs. "Instruction and Curriculum" is the third ingredient for successful urban schooling. The authors assert that students must have "access to quality instruction", which requires highly qualified instructors. Students must be challenged by the material, but also allowed to learn through discovery and creativity. Students in urban schools must be afforded access to all the resources and materials that are provided to students in the most well equipped schools in the nation. "Outcomes and Impacts" describe the need to assess the multi-faceted intelligences of students. This certainly seems to be applicable to all students in all schools. Standardized tests quantify narrow avenues of a student's capacity, while lacking any representation of student's creative abilities, knowledge of the natural sciences, and creative writing skills. The last component is called "Urban Conditions & Context". This section desribes the general attitude of the public in relation to urban schools. According to the text, the public has little confidence in urban schools, and "many urbans schools are in disrepair and suffer from low morale and low expectations.

The two sections I most closely connected with are Agency and Equity/Justice. "Agency embodies a sense of hope and possibility...". This is absolutely paramount in education. All the oppurtunities and resources in the world would be useless to students who do not value the utility of education. It is the sense of hope and possibility that keep students motivated through struggle and overwhelming work loads. This notion applies to students in all economic classes and situations. I will illustrate my point using a personal example. I went to a high school that serviced students from my town and the next town over. The town adjacent to mine is one of the wealthiest in the country, and some of the students were on a path to take over their parents businesses, meaning that they would inherit multimillion-dollar paying jobs. Many of these students had no vested interest in their education. They had no sense of possiblity, and failed to see the importance and power of education. So you see, it is hope and possibility that help to drive the learning process.
Equity and Justice was the other facet of urban education that really moved me. The article states, "...Equity and justice can produce better-qualified, committed citizens who strengthen our democracy. School equity goes hand and hand with social and economic justice..." The quote exemplifies the notion of the school being an agent of social reconstruction. If we can instill in students the values of social justice and equity through education and practice, we can transform society into a more fair national community.

No comments: