How Can Something Like This Happen?

At Mitchell Elementary, a K-8 school in one of the poorest sections of Philadelphia, just 3 percent of students scored proficient on state math exams, and 11 percent passed English exams.

I was aware that some schools in Philly were low-performing, but 3 percent?!

Gladwyne Elementary is less than 15 miles away from Mitchell, but it sits in the heart of one of the richest towns in the country. 86% of its students met the standards for math and English.

Are the kids in Gladwyne born smarter than the kids in Philly? I don’t think so.

So what causes such a discrepancy? I think the answer is obvious – money.

Money enables Gladwyne to have things like iPads and textbooks for its students, and to offer them opportunities like field trips. At Mitchell, such resources are on a very long wish list.

Money enables Gladwyne to attract, and retain, top teachers. I am sure that Mitchell also has dedicated and talented teachers, but the high turnover (50%) is a sign of how difficult an environment it must be.

Money enables Gladwyne to have a physical plant that is well-maintained, clean, welcoming, and safe. While Mitchell has worked hard to improve the appearance of its buildings, that’s money that’s not being spent directly on education.

So why should access or lack of access to money be allowed to create such a discrepancy with something as fundamental as providing our children with a quality education?

I think it’s the same issue I’ve talked about a few times, the ovarian lottery. The students at Mitchell just happened to be born at a time and in a place that makes it difficult to succeed, certainly when compared to the students at Gladwyne.

And while this gap between the winners and losers of this lottery starts at birth, the gap just gets wider as the child ages.

That’s why we see scores of 3% vs. 86%.

But all hope is not lost.

Thankfully there are dedicated people like Stephanie Andrewlevich, the principal at Mitchell. On Nov. 20,  she’s running the Philadelphia Marathon as a way to raise awareness of here school and its financial needs. She’s hoping her efforts will culminate in the raising of $94,000 that the school desperately needs to buy computers, which she believes will play a key role in raising the level of academic achievement at the school. She has set up a gofundme page to help with her fundraising efforts.

Andrewlevich has also recruited some of the students to run laps at their school and ask friends and family to contribute what they can for each lap the students complete.

One fourth grader was happy to run, but she wondered why other kids didn’t have to do the same. “They probably didn’t have to run to get their computers,” she said, perhaps fully aware of what life was like at a school like Gladwyne.

I have the utmost respect for people like Andrewlevich and the teaching staff at Mitchell. They are willing to work in difficult situations because they want to make a difference in the lives of these children. While most of us are not so directly involved in such a noble effort, we can certainly help to support those who are.

Here is the link to a Philadelphia Inquirer story about Andrewlevich which was the inspiration for this story.

And here is the link to her gofundme page. I wish her, and her students, the best.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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