How Palm Springs Unified helps children overcome the barriers of poverty – Desert Sun

Posted in Skin Art on Sep 04, 2021

Richard R. Clapp| Guest columnist

I have read the book, "White Fragility," as well as several others of the same ilk where the troubles in our society come down to the color of our skin. Having spent a lot of time thinking about this, I have come to a different conclusion.This is not to say that there isnt prejudice out there because of skin color, it is to say that what is going on in our country comes from a bigger problem.I believe the cause is the growing discrepancy between those that have and those that have not.

It is true that there is a much higher percentage of Black people or Hispanic people in poverty than white or Asian people.It is also a fact that poor children dont do as well in school as non poor children.If you look at standardized test scores, the higher the rate of poverty, the lower the test scores.It is not a straight line and there are always outliers; but, the conclusion seems inescapable:If you want to be successful in school, you cant be poor.

Why?A big part of the reason is that children in poverty do not get the same types and quantity of experiences that children not in poverty get just by the lives they live. If you are reading this column, then the chances are you are not in poverty. How many times have your children been to the beach?Compare what your children have experienced to those children in this valley in poverty.

If these opportunities could be provided to all children, would poor children do better in school?There is some evidence they do, and we dont have to look far to see.

If you look at the school districts in Riverside County and rank them in order of percentage of poverty, the Palm Springs Unified School District is always near the bottom.Usually 21st out of 22 with over 88% poverty.Surprised?

Temecula and Menifee are around 25% poverty. This should mean that when these school districts take standardized tests, PSUSD should be near the bottom. However, when the the last test was given (pre-COVID), PSUSD tested 12th and 13th in math and language arts.

While not at the top, this was certainly much better than our children seemingly should be testing. Why?

Outstanding teaching, enlightened administrationand a school board committed to providing opportunities beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.I was one of the five members of that board for 12 years, as well as being a teacher, counselor and administrator in the district for 37 years, and I watched the impact poverty has on students and their families.

What PSUSD did started with a comprehensive arts program from preschool to 12th grade.Every possible type of fine art, practical art, performing art is provided for all children at no cost.

A recess program at all elementary schools teaches all children how to get along, follow rulesand resolve problems without violence. Many pathways and academies provide choices for post high school. PSUSD began feeding all children years ago because children in poverty dont eat as well as others. An extensive parent support program that does far more than teach parents how to help with homework. A foundation that provides support where the school district cant. And on and on.Again, compare the lives you give your children versus the lives children in poverty get.

I do not think the solution our societal problems is to treat people different because of their skin color. I think the solution is our public school system.

We need to do everything possible to see that all children arenottreated the same, butare given over the 13 years they spend in school the opportunities and experiences their environment has denied them. That way,when they graduate, they can all greet the future with the same expectation of success.This can be done if our schools deliberately mitigate the effects of poverty by providing the experiences and opportunities that some children are missing.

Richard R. Clapp of Cathedral City is a former teacher, administrator and school board member. Email him atrclapp75@yahoo.com.

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How Palm Springs Unified helps children overcome the barriers of poverty - Desert Sun

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