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Class Segregation and Educational Opportunity

I recently attended a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute with Robert Putnam of Harvard University, Charles Murray, who is a W.H. Bradley Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and William Julius Wilson, a sociologist and Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. Each speaker presented their criticism of Putnam’s newest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, and offered insight into the increasing opportunity gap among children.

Putnam spoke candidly about the segregation deeply embedded in our society—religious, ethnic, and racial disparities have improved, while classist assumptions have led to greater segregation between the lower, middle, and upper social strata. He briefly explored the implications of these treAEI Putnam Event - Demographicsnds by explaining the terms “summer camp gap” and “Goodnight Moon time” and also called for extensive policy changes to help fix these inconsistencies.

The “summer camp gap” refers to the amount of benefits parents are able to provide for their children, such as piano lessons, sports camps, or vacations, and “Goodnight Moon time” is the portion of the day dedicated to parent-child interaction. Children acquire valuable developmental skills during extracurricular activities and from stable, close contact and socialization with a parental figure. Putnam argues, however, that children in high school-educated homes versus college-educated homes possess fewer resources to hone these skills, which further stratifies social classes.

Murray strongly disagreed with Putnam’s approach to policy implementation, and Wilson believed Putnam’s book did not focus nearly enough on interracial differences.

I believe that the discussion centered largely on the social sphere, and the panelists did not integrate education into the conversation as much as they could have. A child’s social environment is inextricably linked to his or her educational access. This connection can either accelerate or

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A Charter School is Born

A story of how a charter school started out as an idea to meet a need, the struggles it encountered trying to come into being, and the amazing impact it’s had so far on its community now that it is open and serving students.

St. Helen Elementary School, part of the Roscommon Area Public Schools (RAPS) closed its doors at the conclusion of the 2009-10 school year.

The school was located in St. Helen, Michigan, a rural village with a population of less than 3,000 residents. St. Helen, along with the adjacent community of Roscommon, comprised the geographic boundaries of RAPS, with an elementary, middle and high school also located in Roscommon. Until the conclusion of the 2009-10 school year, students from St. Helen attended middle school and high school in Roscommon. The decision of the RAPS Board of Education to close St. Helen Elementary School, due in large part to its perceived lack of financial viability, and consolidate it along with Roscommon Elementary school, resulted in a strong community without a single school. Soon thereafter, RAPS placed the building and the 24 acres of land it was located on up for sale.

A group of community members led by Jennifer Jarosz, a mother of two and owner of the local diner where she waits tables, decided to pursue the idea of establishing a charter school to replace their closed elementary school. Soon thereafter, Rural Education Matters (REM), a non-profit organization whose charge it was to support the idea of establishing a public charter school to serve the children of St. Helen and all others who wished to enroll, was born.

After failing to convince the local community college to grant the group a charter, REM was at an unfortunate crossroads due to the statutorily imposed cap on university-based charter school authorizers being

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Entrepreneurship as Innovation in Education

When I heard the word entrepreneur, the field of education was quite possibly the last thing that entered into my mind. To me, an entrepreneur was always someone who created a new business against a great deal of resistance from outside forces. Think Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook or Steve Jobs and Apple. I never before thought of classroom teachers as entrepreneurs. However, I realized today that teachers are entrepreneurs in every sense of the word thanks to the research presentation held by AEI entitled “The State of Entrepreneurship in K-12 Education.” Teachers work in a variety of ways to ensure that every student who enters their classroom leaves as something more than they were. The goal of every teacher is for students to leave their class more enriched and engaged than they were when they entered.

I would argue that teachers want innovation in their classrooms beyond just an iPad or laptop given to every student. Teachers need more support than that. On one hand, technology can provide that innovation if it is made in a way that supports both the teacher and the student. However, when teachers are unable to access this technology because of slow broadband, limited/no Wi-Fi or impossible to remember passwords, the technology becomes more of a head wind than a tail wind, to use the analogy that was repeated throughout the conference. Tail winds are things that create more “smooth sailing” for teachers, whereas head winds are the issues they are coming up against. For example, school choice can be seen as a tailwind because parents and students are finally able to make their own choices about where they want to attend school. On the other hand, one head wind can be the restrictions currently being placed on teachers that prevent them from

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