Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms – H. Richard Milner IV
This book was suggested to me recently while I was going through another research paper and also reading Putnam’s “Our Kids”. I just started reading Rac(e)ing to Class, and after a 26-page Introduction (with charts!) and scratching the first chapter, I can already tell it is packed with a lot of relevant and timely information. For starters, Milner makes a big point about not using the term “poor people” but rather “people who live in poor circumstances”; being poor should not describe or define a person, but if relevant, it should definitely describe the environment. Milner also is not afraid to tackle head on the correlations of race and poverty, but he makes some extremely astute observations. For instance, because Blacks and Latinos are over-represented in poverty situations, it is essential that we ask “why?”. But at the same time, on the quest to improve school for all students, the way we address inequity in education for other races in poverty situations will most definitely look different, while no less important. Milner, like Putnam, also highlights the significant role of after-school programs and posits that they can be tremendously advantageous for families classified as living in poverty. A little mischievous thought popped into my head – if afterschool programs are so great, why are they “after” school? Why not just do them all day? *evil grin*
Milner states that he desires a systemic change in the way we approach poverty via education, and he makes that desire explicit by yearning for the day when a superintendent will contact him and ask how to change an entire district (instead of being contacted by teachers or a principal). I get the sense that Milner is mainly targeting educators at all levels (teachers, principals, administrators), but not so much community members. I hope to learn more about this as I dig further.
It does give me a mind to do a bit of research on my own. How exactly has the “achievement gap” evolved in Unit 4 during the past 20 years (roughly starting with John Lee Johnson et al engaged the Office of Civil Rights about inequities for African-Americans)? What efforts have been measurably helpful, which efforts have had no apparent effect, and which efforts have been harmful? How do we gauge “help” and “harm”? What trends do we see with Unit 4 families that find themselves in challenging and vulnerable positions?
One last thought. As I read Milner, I am reminded of Michael Alves work; much of what Alves was trying to accomplish with his choice program falls in line with Milner’s method of determining how vulnerable a family is, using metrics like parent educational achievement, size of household and support network, above and beyond just enrollment in the Free and Reduced lunch program.
I will circle back when I have finished reading the book.
In other news, board meeting tomorrow (Monday). The Board posted a draft of the agenda more than a week ago (did anyone else see that?), and while some things have been altered (inserted or removed), I don’t see much of a controversial nature.