Wednesday, 01 July 2015 22:08

Education: The Key to Eliminating Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi is a co-founder of several charities, including No More Poverty. Today he discusses why we should care less about test scores and more about the tools necessary for success.

The state of education in the U.S. is disappointing, to say the least. The statistics are dismal: 40% of children who live in impoverished communities aren’t prepared for primary schooling, and later on are more likely to skip or leave school altogether in order to find work or care for family members. The current high school graduation rate brings us all the way down to #22 out of 27 industrialized nations. Countless studies have shown us that education is a necessary means to break the cycle of poverty. But here’s the catch: poverty also determines quality and duration of education. And a good education is almost unattainable for children living in poverty. So why does the U.S. continue to brush this issue aside, and why has this been happening for decades?

The problem lies with the inordinate emphasis placed on test scores, which some blame on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. Public schools must show decent standardized testing results in order to receive funding from the Department of Education. As a result, the focus remains not on the children, but instead on a one-sized-fits-all style of testing that does not adequately measure intelligence by any stretch of the imagination. This has only proved to be a recipe for disaster, with teachers becoming more demoralized and even cynical as they struggle to balance federal demands with the desire to provide their students with an enriching education. Another contributing factor is that school aid continues to be distributed unequally between districts in relation to their comparative financial needs.

In order for children to become well-rounded adults, it is imperative for them to learn the interpersonal skills and coping mechanisms that will prove most valuable in every aspect of their lives. Providing children with ways to deal with stress and social demands-- skills that they may not have learned at home-- is proven to improve behavior, increase the ability to be independent, and lead to empowerment. The solution cannot be found in cold, hard numbers. It’s more about helping our students become rational, competent, and healthy in body and mind.

Bill Milliken, founder of non-profit Communities In Schools, captures this idea eloquently: “it is relationships, not programs, that change children. A great program simply creates the environment for healthy relationships to form between adults and children. Young people thrive when adults care about them on a one-to one level, and when they have a sense of belonging to a caring community.” It’s time to stop thinking of our students as numbers, and start caring about the future they could have as educated young men and women.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate poverty throughout the world.

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