Are students in state-funded districts still at a disadvantage?

Kids in poorer communities need more resources

Editor’s Note: This story is one of many submitted by Union City eighth graders as part of a gifted and talented program assignment. The stories are presented with very little editing.

Christopher George Latore Wallace, the acclaimed rapper also known as the Notorious B.I.G., once said “My teachers told me I would never amount to nothing and look where I am now.” As a youth, Wallace grew up in an impoverished neighborhood where he attended his designated school. His chances of becoming successful were slim to none as children in his area grew up to be criminals or dropped out of school. He lived in an urban area where education was not a priority but merely a dream to most children.
Urban education has always been a point of interest to me because I am one of the thousands of students who attend school in an SDA District and care for my education. I want to know that I have the same chance as any other American to become successful and the first step to do this is to ensure that all children have the same education which will allow them to pass the NJASK exams as their wealthier peers do. From this concern arose my hypothesis, “Students who go to SDA District Schools can score at the same levels as students in more affluent districts of New Jersey.”
My name is Arlene Mendez and I am currently enrolled in the ROGATE (Resources Offered in Gifted and Talented Education) program. Last year, all students in the program had to choose a topic they would like to conduct research on. I chose to create a project on urban education and after some research narrowed down my topic to my hypothesis: “Students who go to SDA District Schools can score at the same levels as students in more affluent districts in New Jersey.”

It is possible for students in SDA or low income districts to score at the same level as ROD District students.
SDA Districts or School Development Authority districts, which were formerly known as Abbott Districts, are the 31 special needs districts of New Jersey. These school districts receive specialized government funding because they are categorized as low income places. ROD Districts, or Regular Operating Districts, are the more affluent districts of New Jersey. In actuality, I was trying to prove or disprove that students who attend low-income schools or live in impoverished places can score at the same level as their wealthier peers.
When conducting my research there were many factors that I had to take into consideration. Not only does the socioeconomic status of the child matter, but whether both parents are present in the child’s life. All of these factors play a role in the child’s education, but my research project was based solely on the economic portion of this problem. In order to determine if my hypothesis was valid I conducted an experiment and analyzed the 2011 NJASK scores for fourth grade students in New Jersey. I retrieved the average scores in Mathematics, Language Arts and Science portions of the exam for SDA Districts and ROD Districts. I then compared them in charts. The discrepancies were astounding. The students in SDA Districts were clearly lagging behind their affluent peers. The biggest difference was in the Language Arts section where more than 50 percent of students in SDA District schools scored “Below Proficient,” which, in other words, is not passing. The results from the data were beginning to prove my hypothesis invalid.
I did further research and interviewed a school administrator from an SDA District School. After he answered my questions and I read various articles on the subject, I came to a conclusion with my research.
My hypothesis was valid under certain circumstances. It is possible for students in SDA or low income districts to score at the same level as ROD District students as long as they are given the resources necessary. If these students are given more rigorous material to enhance their knowledge it would be possible to get students from different socioeconomic statuses at the same level. Students in these areas need to be motivated and education needs to be emphasized on from an early age. Although, there are many problems that need to be addressed in order to close the Achievement Gap this is a start. With a curriculum that focuses on pushing the child to learn, community efforts to emphasize the importance of education and the aid that is being given to SDA Districts, we have a start at giving these children the opportunities that there opulent pupils receive. Of course, this is not the end but hopefully the 2013 scores of the NJASK show an improvement.

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