Studies dating to the 1960s have suggested that children’s experiences inside the classroom are responsible for as little as 20 percent of their overall educational development.
20 percent. For all the focus placed upon on test scores and grading and ranking, the success of a particular student relies (by 80 percent) on factors that their school never sees — of which they might not even be aware. Catalogue Executive Director Barbara Harman made a key point in her response to the NY Times article yesterday:
Aside from the complex educational challenges, what struck me most was the importance of creating an “education culture” for the students at the school and, critically, at home. This is what Gonzales is trying to do, and he’s finding it mighty hard. In our universe of Catalogue nonprofits, I’m always struck by how much work it is, how important it is, to create this culture FOR kids, either in school or, in many cases, in after-school programs that seem to have a culture of their own.
In sum, students are not the product merely of their educational experience, but the education culture in which they grew up, in which they spend their time, in which they invest. Given the deep cuts in discretionary spending this month (and broader focus on “cutting back”), everyone seems to be asking: what is really the most important? What is absolutely necessary and what is just “extra?” While those questions are certainly important, they often dismiss this reality: not only are many things important, but many things are intertwined.
Does the actual school day seem more “critical” than after-care and field trips and library visits? Sure. But as Dr. Harman pointed out, school lessons do not take hold without encouragement, motivation, and a full-time culture of education. Most programs cannot function at the highest level in a vacuum. They are interconnected and interdependent. Human service program need good roads and facilities. Schools need after-care and cultural opportunities. Homelessness prevention organizations need affordable housing options and jobs programs.
And such reliance on one another is perhaps not a problem to be solved, but rather a reality to be drawn upon — a reality that can benefit us. How can we draw attention to this interconnectedness and how can we take positive advantage of it?