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Follow-Up: In Fixing Schools, Money Matters


Jessica Hahn

When I looked over the factors I listed in my first blog post (facilities, resources, lots of people, access to the world) I surprised myself. At the root of these factors is money. As I read the thoughtful posts from the other educators I noticed two trends in the suggestions to create replicable, high-achieving schools. Factors seemed to fall into 2 categories: those that needed money and those that needed an internal-mindset shift. For example, the idea of lots of highly, specialized people working with each child requires a lot of money. Holding all children to high expectations requires a mindset that all children can achieve.

The tangible and the intangible. Obviously, creating and supporting high-achieving schools requires both. But when we zoom out, when our lens shifts to the replicable and scalable part of the question, we must think about the political realities and ramifications of these 2 types of factors.

Who is responsible for the money and the mindsets? And who is accountable for them?
To set up responsibility and accountability as an either/or is dangerous. But I do think that if we are going to sustain high-achieving schools it is important to identify key stakeholders.

When we talk about responsibility and accountability in terms of money, we place the onus on government. When we talk about responsibility and accountability in terms of mindsets, we place the onus on teachers and leadership. Here's the breakdown:

    Money: Government, tax structures, grants PTA

    Mindsets: Teachers, leadership, students, families

Researcher and educator Larry Cuban points out in his latest blog post that in our current educational climate, responsibility and accountability rest heavily on schools and their staffs. They are praised for their excellent results and blamed for their poor ones. In placing so much responsibility and accountability on teachers and leadership, I believe that the conversation around high-achievement in high-poverty schools has shifted too much towards mindsets.

I'm not sure we can do it without the money.

What do you think?

Jessica Hahn has taught elementary grade children for six years in Phoenix and New York City.

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