Closing the learning-time gap [COMMENT]

This article reveals the results of a data analysis James Lytle compiles on “students observed [in] both public and private schools — including inner-city, magnet, suburban, independent, and boarding schools.” I am interested in one of his initial conclusions: “why kids in the inner city do relatively well through 3rd grade before starting to fall by the wayside. Lytle feels that “they are not getting nearly enough time in structured learning environments” and I couldn’t agree more. Lytle breaks down inner city school students’ time  commitment to learning versus those in the aforementioned learning environments.

His analysis is not surprising at first, but after internalizing and comparing what he sees with our current problem in Philadelphia (and the country overall) I am left with the overwhelming feeling of anxiety. Argh! Lytle feels explains further:

​This basic analysis tells us that inner-city kids are engaged in learning for about half the amount of time that suburban students are, and about a third of the time of private school students. Factor in the hours that suburban and independent school kids may attend summer camp, play on a traveling sports team, take music lessons, or learn by surfing the Internet, and the learning-time inequity only worsens.

I don’t disagree with what he says, in fact I emphatically agree. But being an educator I am compelled to find a solution. However, this isn’t a math problem that we can turn to the back of the book where we find the answer. Furthermore, I feel finding a solution isn’t the least of our problems in education, implementing it will be more difficult…

Based on his study, Lytle draws the following conclusion:

By the time they’ve finished high school, kids at independent schools have already accepted the fact that they might commit upwards of 90 weekly hours on the job. That kind of commitment is unimaginable to kids at urban high schools. They have, unknowingly, been prepared for the hourly workforce.

I couldn’t agree more. Most urban students I work with can’t imagine putting this amount of time in towards anything; even playing sports if it guaranteed them a spot on some professional teams roster. We need to change the way our public inner-city schools work. We need to change the culture in which students learn. If this means that teachers need to lose tenure, so be it. If this means that most of our public inner-city public school transform to independent schools, so be it. I believe the culture of learning must change in order to backwards plan for success.

I also think it is a grave understatement that time is needed to fix the amount of time urban students use in learning in and out of school. How time is spent is much like learning, a culture. You learn similar to your peers until you have that breakthrough moment. The breakthrough can go either way, positive or negative based on your situation, but in public inner city schools we are seeing the negative breakthrough’s more often. Why?

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