Rachel's Notes: March 4, 2008

Last Updated: March 04, 2008

Recently, I attended a Board meeting of What Kids Can Do (WKCD) (www.whatkidscando.org), an organization devoted to highlighting the voices and successes of young people. It was founded by our friend Barbara Cervone, who as Coordinator of the Annenberg Challenges was a tireless advocate for rural interests. WKCD operates a website and a publishing company called Next Generation Press. They have focused on such themes as the first in the family to go to college, student input into school reform, and students as resources for community development. Rich examples of student work are on their website including examples from many countries. I often send Barbara good rural examples, but she would print more if she was getting info from lots more rural people. So think about sharing good rural stories with What Kids Can Do. Feel free to forward the stories to me and I'll pass them on.


Richard Rothstein, who is based at Teacher's College at Columbia and also at the Economic Policy Institute, has written some of the most interesting and provocative articles on educational equity in the last few years. His most recent effort is to develop a report card for comprehensive youth development. Rothstein looks at eight broad goals: basic academic skills, critical thinking and problem solving, social skills and work ethic, readiness for citizenship and community responsibility, foundation for lifelong physical health, foundation for lifelong emotional health, appreciation of the arts and literature and preparation for skilled work for those youth not destined for an academic college. He argues that only a portion of the responsibility for ensuring good outcomes on these goals should be assigned to schools. He is even very clear that schools are not completely responsible for the basic academic skills or for the achievement gap in Black and White scores. For example he says that various studies show that about one quarter of the so called achievement gap is due to differences in health.

Rothstein's most recent paper (written with Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder) called A Report Card on Comprehensive Equity: Racial Gaps in the Nation's Youth Outcomes focuses on the gaps in outcomes between Black and White youth. It is provocative and will no doubt garner much criticism for the ways in which it uses data and weights various indicators, but it makes a strong case that using more than standardized tests to measure student success is not only desirable but is also possible.

See the paper at www.epi.org/content.cfm/racial_gaps.

There's no specific rural content in Rothstein's paper. It does, however, provide some strong support for those of us who have long argued for stronger school community ties and for community responsibility for learning. We need great teachers and great schools but that alone will not insure that young people grow into successful adults.

********************************************************************* You might want to get your local newspaper connected to www.RuralJournalism.org, the website for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. This resource for reporters and editorial writers for rural papers has good background on health care, environment, education and economic development issues. This helps rural journalists fit their local issues into a national and international context. The founder and chair of this enterprise is Al Smith, a long time editor and publisher of rural papers in KY and TN. The Director of the Institute is Al Cross, who was a weekly newspaper editor before spending 26 years at the Louisville Courier Journal, the last 15 as the political writer.

As always, keep in contact.

Rachel Tompkins