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When it comes to education, income matters. That’s nothing new, but new research shows it matters now more than ever. The achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, reports the New York Times:

“We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.


One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources.

The school reform movement doesn’t like to talk about poverty. “Poverty is not an excuse for poor performance,” the reformers say.

Yet research shows it matters. So what we do? Reducing poverty would obviously help. So would economically integrating schools, according to a study of Montgomery County, Maryland schools.

But few people want to talk about poverty and integration, preferring instead to focus on closing schools, charter schools, alternative schools and teacher evaluations.

Governor Cuomo thinks school integration is a lost cause, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The newspaper asked him about the concentration of poverty and the possibility of creating metro schools:

In one sense, Cuomo agreed.

“There’s no doubt that structurally, fundamentally, that’s the problem, and it’s vicious,” Cuomo said. “Because as you take the families (who) leave who can leave …. you’re taking the intact families, the higher-income families, you’re leaving behind the poorer family and you’re actually increasing the burden on the (city) school system.”

Even so, the governor said, realigned school districts won’t happen.

“I don’t think you’re going to change the minds politically,” Cuomo said. “What you’d have to do is go to the surrounding suburbs and say, ‘We want to have a unified school district and we want you to have your kids go to school with the city kids.’ They’re going to say: ‘No, that’s why I left, that’s why I moved here, that’s why I pay my higher taxes so I don’t have to do that.'”

The Post-Standard says Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in Syracuse in 1965 and warned of the consequences of the North’s “ghetto schools.” But Cuomo says any suggestion poor, urban school district cannot achieve is a “sad and damning commentary.”

It’s a sad commentary, but one that rings true.

14 Responses to Cuomo: Forget About Metro Schools

  1. Excellent commentary, Rachel. While Cuomo may admit that there is no political will to unify districts, he does not seem to recognize that throwing money into the present structure is a waste of everyone’s money. New paradigms are needed from birth.

  2. February 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    Thank you! I think this analysis of the problems facing urban school districts like Rochester’s is exactly right. When the problem is identified correctly, it becomes possible to work on effective solutions. Clearly the problems detailed above are outside of the power of principals and teachers. I think it is obvious that more resources produce more results. (as the article states, the parents in the suburbs are able to do more for their children). There is a greater need for help (financial help, MONEY) from the state for urban school districts, while I don’t think it would solve problems, it would alleviate them to some degree and turn around more kids lives.

  3. What exactly would more MONEY accomplish?
    The issues which relate to affluence are not defined by resources available while the child is in school, but rather what is available outside of school. Parental involvement and parents’ education levels are strong predictors of success as well. The problems with our urban districts are cultural and societal as well as financial. Unless and until we can correct the cultural and societal roadblocks, no amount of money will fix the problem. As can be seen from the last 20 years of increased funding.

  4. February 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    @Jeff, I tell my mechanic the same thing, but he still says that I have to pay him to fix my car. I think the military tends to accomplish more when they have sufficient funds also. MONEY is what pays for people to devote careers to teaching kids, or counseling them, or supervising extra-curricular activities. Everything costs money, next time you want to go to a professional sports game, tell the ticket taker that you don’t think your money will help, so just let you in anyway.

  5. @Reggie. All good points. Here’s the problem. My mechanic tells how much it’ll cost. I pay him. It’s fixed.
    Military asks for money for bullets we buy them they use them and accomplish their task. The ticket taker asks for money. I give it to him and he let’s me in.
    In each of those scenarios. Their is a finite amount money which will accomplish the task. In education, the answer is always “we need more money”. How much is enough? We keep throwing money more and more money Woth results which only seem to get worse.
    So I’ll ask you. How much is enough?

  6. February 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm PJ Birkman responds:


    I don’t think more money is necessarily the answer. I think more resources for urban schools might be part of the solution, but suspect a lot of that can be accomplished by redirecting wasteful spending at RCSD HQ, State Ed, and reducing state aid to affluent suburban districts where it’s used to keep school taxes down and build elaborate athletic facilities.

    I do have to take issue with part of your comment though – as an Air Force veteran, if you think the military just asks for a finite amount of money to accomplish the tasks set for it, you’re sadly mistaken. The military is just as bad as the education bureaucrats as far as more money being the only solution they know for everything!

  7. February 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    @Jeff, thanks for your very respectful response. I love this posting of Rachel’s because I feel it identifies the real problem for urban schools, the difference in home situations, rather than the difference in teacher/administrator quality. I feel certain that replacing teachers and principals at urban schools based on students poor scores will not be effective. I’m also in agreement with Governor Cuomo that metro schools are not an option.

  8. Cuomo, essentially, can either be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Simply saying that this all won’t happen because of a lack of political will doesn’t cut it.

    He needs to be a leader, like he supposedly was with bringing about marriage equality, and be vocal about the need to integrate our schools.

  9. February 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    @Andy, you can call it political will, or you can call it democracy. Voters won’t support a metro school system. The reaction to a metro school system would be a combination of voting out those who imposed it, and moving out of the metro area.

  10. February 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm Reggie Henderson responds:

    Rather than metro schools, I think the city would be better off going in the opposite direction. Isolate the kids with the worse behavior more and more, get them out of the way of the well behaved kids. Some won’t learn, some will try to avoid being put in the school for kids with bad behavior. And in the school for bad behavior, you could devote resources appropriately to try to change that behavior, without distracting the rest of the kids in the city that don’t need that kind of instruction.

  11. March 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm zubalove responds:

    “Poverty is not an excuse for poor performance,”

    Interesting quote. It isn’t an excuse but it is a reason. Poverty is a factor. I’ll also say that parental engagement is another factor. Home ownership? Age of the parent? I think saying poverty is a factor scratches the surface. Economic distress can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Census data might help bring some of that to light. I have no idea if integration would help.

  12. Pingback: Open Enrollment for Schools » The Rochesterian

  13. April 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm kristine responds:

    #ROC School 12 PTA takes on Concentrated Poverty JOIN US Free entry. Food and clothes donations welcome. https://t.co/lEJ7PZfcsz

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