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Carole Estabrook

A business magazine out of Buffalo recently ranked 431 upstate New York public schools. The schools were ranked based on students’ performance on Regents exams and statewide tests taken from 2007-2010.

Auburn schools ranked 284. Moravia ranked 244. Weedsport was 49 (the highest ranked school in Cayuga County) and nearby Skaneateles ranked 5.

The rankings took me back to a homily I heard from Deacon John Prave several years ago when I was still a middle school student.

In his sermon, Deacon John talked about the then recent trend in bumper stickers that read, “My Child is an Honor Student.” John spoke of the negative impact that these bumper stickers might have on students who struggle academically.

At that time, I was an ambitious eighth-grade student on the honor roll and I remember thinking, “Pfft. If those students want a bumper sticker they should work a little harder.”

As an adult, I now have a greater appreciation of what John was talking about in his sermon those many years ago.

I’ve read varying studies on the link between poverty and education. One statistic showed that only about 50 percent of low-income students graduate from high school on time, if they graduate at all. The same study shows that of low-income students, the college completion rate drops to 25 percent.

These statistics aren’t altogether surprising, especially when you consider the effects that malnutrition, stress and illiteracy in the household could potentially have on a child. When coupled with the day to day hardships of living at or below the poverty line, it’s no wonder students in Auburn aren’t performing as well as the students in Skaneateles.

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Frankly, I would rather see a list of how students from low-income households perform on statewide exams compared to students from less impoverished areas. The results would undoubtedly prove that students from low income households struggle academically compared to students from middle and upper class households.

Or perhaps someone will market a bumper sticker that reads “My child eats three meals a day in a heated home.” A luxury many people take for granted.

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At the end of the day, education isn’t a level playing field. Children aren’t born with an equal chance to succeed and yet we continue to pressure our teachers to perform better in the classroom, which isn’t fair to teachers.

If nothing else, perhaps the recent school ranking will highlight a need for more funding in low-income areas.

Estabrook’s column appears

Mondays and she can be reached at estabrookcarole@yahoo.com.

 

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