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Editorial: Low-income students need a connection

Any educator will tell you that a graduation rate of 100 percent is the goal. The reality in New Hampshire is that, according to national figures released last week, about 86 percent of the state’s high school students go on to receive their diplomas.

That rate is good enough to place the state eighth in the nation, which is a laudable number if you value state-by-state comparisons. But you shouldn’t, because the number that matters most is 72 – that’s the graduation percentage for the state’s low-income students.

The success gap between higher-income students, who graduate at a rate of 91 percent, and those who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches isn’t new here or anywhere else. And it’s not difficult to see why the gap exists.

Many impoverished students are in survival mode. Their basic needs are not necessarily being met at home, which means education is on the periphery of their daily existence. Consequently, teachers often find themselves serving as nurse, counselor and parent, which leaves less time for the kind of education that shows up in test scores.

What low-income students need more than anything is education and positive relationships – to connect with a teacher, aide or administrator, someone who can help them see that a high school diploma loosens poverty’s grip.

Our best educators do that naturally. They assess each student’s interests, and then look for opportunities for engagement and growth. An interest in auto mechanics can lead to a curiosity about the history of American automakers, the use of computers in modern engines, fiction and nonfiction writing that relies on a deep knowledge of a specific subject area and so on. The key to all that is an educator who helps students make the crucial cross-curricular connections.

For their part, administrators must be willing, as many of them are, to empower teachers to offer more individualized instruction and celebrate alternative pathways to a diploma. Common Core standards establish what a student must learn, but it is completely up to a school to determine how they learn it. Extended learning opportunities and competency-based instruction, both provided to students in New Hampshire districts, brighten the future for many students, especially those from a low socioeconomic background.

There is no easy fix for New Hampshire’s lamentable graduation rate for low-income students, but the next step doesn’t have to be overly complex.

In A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Dr. Ruby Payne writes, “Four reasons one leaves poverty are that it’s too painful to stay, a vision or goal, a key relationship, or a special talent or skill.” For educators, the challenge is to bring clarity to that vision while helping all students identify and build on that special talent or skill.

Education and relationships, Dr. Payne reminds us, can break the chains of poverty.

Legacy Comments4

High achievers in regards to immigrants is a whole other world. I know from experience. Folks came here to achieve the American Dream without aid. They were people who had pride, a hard work ethic and expecting nothing to be handed to them. A far cry from now. There are still some folks who manage and do have pride. But that is changing rapidly. If those that work keep hearing about the victims who cannot manage to run their lives, and cry foul against those that do, eventually folks will say why bother working, the govt takes all my money anyway. Todays society does not hold a candle to immigrants. They lost the will to achieve and feel they are entitled. More into immediate gratification and do not have the patience to do what it takes to achieve. That is why they believe that govt should take care of them. They are victims. As far as parents go.We have our kids drugged, obese and out of control. No fathers in the picture in many cases, and adults that are all about themselves. Ask any teacher, they will give you an eye opener about dealing with today's parents.

Common Core advocates say, in effect: "If you like your local curriculum, you can keep it. Period." If you believe this, your credulity is impervious to evidence and you probably are a liberal progressive. Any review of the statistics proves that the level of education of the Parents is a direct correlation to the success of the student. Doctors and lawyers set and achieve high expectations for their children. Lesser educated parents simply dont know what they dont know. A look at the demographics proves it. The left will argue that more money for the teachers will fix education. If you believe this, your credulity is impervious to evidence and you probably are a liberal progressive.

The logical conclusion to BPR's argument (giving it far more credit than it deserves): Only doctors, lawyers and others of whom he approves should be allowed to reproduce. Talk about ignoring factual evidence! The highest achievers are very frequently the scions of immigrants who lack the educational credentials BPR touts and who still believe in the American dream.. You know - the one about meritocracy, not the one about legacy college admissions.

cite a study

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