Guest commentary: We need to work together to close opportunity, achievement gaps in education | AspenTimes.com
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Guest commentary: We need to work together to close opportunity, achievement gaps in education

Amelia Helzberg
Guest commentary

I chose education for my passion project because I have been interested in education and education equality. I saw the faces of Valley Settlement (an organization that helps immigrant families) kids when we delivered activity bags and knew I wanted to make a difference. The other main reason I chose education for my passion project is that my parents are very involved in organizations and schools to help lower socioeconomic families with their future educations. I am inspired by my parents’ passion and commitment. The essential question that I wanted to learn as a result of my research was how to improve education for lower socioeconomic families.

From my research and interviews, I have concluded that we need to ask ourselves why there is an “opportunity gap” as Rob Stein (superintendent of Roaring Fork School District) and Tony Kline (superintendent of University Academy Charter School) both said. We need to make education equal for all socioeconomic statuses and races. In other words, all students are capable of achieving at the same level, but not all students have access to equal opportunities.

One thing that is helping lower socioeconomic families, and could be a way for more improvement, is providing wraparound services. Wraparound services are services that help provide lower socioeconomic families with whatever they need at home. For example, there are many lower socioeconomic families with broken homes. Maybe they need counseling. There are also many homeless families and maybe they need food services or help with money and a place to stay. Home situations are directly related to a child’s education because they are not ready to learn and focus if they are hungry or tired. Overall, I think that wraparound services are already improving and could keep improving education for lower socioeconomic families so that they are ready to learn when they get to school.

Another great solution or improvement to making education equal for everyone is providing equal funding and equally qualified teachers for all schools or giving kids or schools more funding. Some teachers at public schools don’t have the same level of education or experience, and to help fill the opportunity gap, we need to make sure all teachers are qualified to teach. Lower-income schools need more funding than higher-income schools. If we gave funding based on how much the school needs, that would make tremendous improvements. As Stein said, “Our school system is pretty much designed so that the rich get richer and the poorer get less.” This quote means that richer schools are getting funded better than poorer schools, and poorer schools need more funding.

Finally, qualified teachers and funding given to poorer schools would make amazing improvements because it would fill a lot of opportunity or achievement gaps.

The last main improvement that would be very beneficial is supporting the whole family. We are responsible for all the world’s children, not just our own. Like I said before, there are a lot of broken homes which make children not ready to come to school and learn. Supporting the whole family will give the child a better education by decreasing stress, hunger, fatigue and many other things. One thing that families could do is take 20 minutes to read with their children or help with their homework, although that is not possible in many families because of time and work, as Farihide Rodriguez (Valley Settlement teacher) said. Educators can help the whole family by getting to know the whole family and their situation at home, communicating with the family, providing wraparound services, finding more learning resources at home, and many other things. Supporting the whole family would not only be very beneficial to the child’s education but also could help further the whole family’s education. In summary, supporting the whole family would be a vast improvement for lower socioeconomic families.

In conclusion, wraparound services, equally qualified teachers and funding, and supporting the whole family would be great improvements for the U.S. school system. Personally, I have packed activity bags for Valley Settlement children and created a website to spread awareness. I also wrote this essay to spread awareness. I want to be more involved with organizations that help lower socioeconomic families with education, and want to keep learning more about this subject. My main takeaway from the research interviews I have done is that we need to figure out how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps in education today. We need to make high-quality education available to everyone, not just high-income places. Overall, I have learned so much through my passion project and can’t wait to learn more. How do you think education for lower socioeconomic families can be improved?

Amelia Helzberg is a sixth-grader at Aspen Country Day School and her essay was submitted to The Aspen Times by one of her teachers. The Passion Project was an extended assignment for Tyler Valtin’s class.


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