My Old KY Home: Where Class Plays a Major Role in Student Advantage

The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, according to a Jan. 9, 2020, article in the Courier-Journal (Louisville), found that here in my Old Kentucky Home black and other minority students are not getting their fair share of seats in gifted programs and advanced courses while in school, in a new national report. Shocking…

The study fingers as the main culprit being “tracking”: students being placed on an advanced path based off of gifted identification in elementary school typically continue on that track through to high school. 

There are multiple reasons why minority students or absent at the beginning of this road toward success, such as,

  • Gifted programs and advanced courses can rely on a teacher or counselor recommendation — often leaving room for bias in decisions. 
  • The screening process itself may also rely on a singular definition of giftedness that was not created with students of color in mind.
  • Students of color often attend schools with fewer resources or high-quality teachers. That can lead to fewer advanced courses, which schools often rely on more experienced educators to teach. 

But the last reason I found most resonant due to the fact that it is found here in Jefferson Co., KY, or the Louisville Area, where I reside, quoted from the C-J article :

Schools with higher rates of poverty or students of color — or both — often had fewer AP classes to begin with. And that means fewer seats for students. 

DuPont Manual, a top-rated magnet school, offers 31 AP classes to its predominantly white students. Ballard, a resides school in the East End, has 30 classes. 

Iroquois High School — which didn’t offer a single AP class 10 years ago — has seven AP courses. It is the smallest offering outside of Fairdale and Western, which offer Cambridge and early college classes, respectfully. 

Socioeconomic status, or SES, is, of course, a major factor in the tracking phenomenon. Along with the above observations minorities have more instances of single-mother households where the mother is the sole bread-winner. This leads to poor moms being at work instead of being at home counseling their children, unlike what happens in more affluent homes.

We are losing the class war in our schools. We must act now.

New Rules for Work Not for Lower/Middle Class

In this op-ed for the NYT, Tom Friedman speaks about how the old rules of “working hard and playing by the rules” no longer is a guarantee for economic prosperity in American life. Now one must have a secondary school education and expect to learn and relearn throughout one’s life.

But what got me thinking is how these jobs requiring more than a high school diploma, or even more than a two year degree, are vanishing because manufacturing positions are leaving the U.S. for China, Mexico, and India. So those who are hampered by their socioeconomic status and it’s prevailing culture have little chance to be successful in life. We need to get help to the next generation through better primary and high schools and lower the tuition rates at community colleges and universities.

Now these are not easily tackled problems in the United States, but we can do it if we put more of an emphasis on learning in our popular culture, I believe, for one. It’s not cool amongst Middle/Lower class kids to do homework and raise their hands in class. It’s cool to play sports and be the class clown.

A greater cultural emphasis on getting a good education, and providing those opportunities to all people despite SES, is our only way forward.