‘Stability’ in school as a guiding principle?

June 30, 2010

One of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s lowest performing schools has done wonderfully well in recent years with one group of students.

Year in and year out, the children who were consistently at or far above grade level – indeed, as of a year ago 100% percent of them – were the children who had entered the school as kindergartners and were still in that school in fifth grade.

These children lived in the same challenged neighborhood as their underperforming peers. Their families were far more LIKE the families of their peers than they were different.

The one thing that uniquely set these children up to succeed even as their peers were failing was the stability of their school assignment. If the family moved, at least they stayed in the neighborhood, which allowed the student to remain grounded at one school.

Many grownups who reminisce about their school years recall teachers who had taught their older sisters or brothers. Or who knew their families. Or were their Sunday School teachers.

These are NOT useless stories. They are a narrative of connectedness. These connections help children grow and learn. The teacher who knew your older sister knew a lot about what it would take for you to learn even before your first day in the classroom.

So here is a modest proposal. Let’s make it a priority to keep children going to the same school through that school’s terminal year. There will always be exceptions, and if parents really want to move their child when they move across town, fine. But for struggling learners, would it not be a good thing to ensure them some stability in their educational life?

Just a modest proposal.