Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Lyndon B. Johnson: Texas State Teacher’s College

In America there have been many issues, problems, and mistakes. There have been many attempts to fix these problems that have occurred in the United States and even though some solutions fall short there are some that stand the test of time. Problems that deal with poverty, race, and lack of education are usually intertwined with each other yet not every solution that plans to tackle these three topics fall into place spectacularly. There was one plan though that is still in effect today and leaves a lasting impact on the face of the country and especially in the heart of the south. This act is the Elementary and Secondary Education act put into place by Lyndon B. Johnson.

 Lyndon B. Johnson was a schoolteacher from Texas. Johnson was enveloped in the way that children had to deal with their misfortunes and their impoverished state. He saw these struggles daily because he was an educator for a school that primarily taught students who were under the poverty line and were also of mixed race. Most of these students were the children of Mexican Americans “Johnson’s classes were made up of the children of Mexican-American farmers” says Hilary Parkinson. This was one of the primary reasons Johnson was an advocate for the bill that he eventually signed into office.

This bill that Lyndon B. Johnson signed into office was a landmark when it came to equal opportunity for people of color and for people in poverty. Until this point there had not been any educational reform or bills passed that had this much of an impact on the groups of people that were affected by this bill. This bill impacted the lives of millions of people due to the funds that were funneled into poverty stricken schools and due to the fact that it forced integration in states that were previously purposely ignoring the stipulations put in due to the court case Brown v. Board of Education.

Lyndon B. Johnson knew that he was going up against a racist and prejudice system that would be hard to get on his side, that is why he made it so that if this was not enforced and schools were not integrated he would start pulling funding. Joel Spring goes more in depth on this topic on an interview for a documentary about Lyndon b. Johnson “Most southern school systems ignored the nineteen fifty four brown decision, but suddenly when money got involved in it the federal government had the power to […] go in and say “Are you integrated? And if you’re not integrated we’re gonna cut off your funds.”” This was a way that allowed Johnson to basically force racial integration in the school system.

 He knew that this wouldn’t be an easy task though, In an interview for a documentary on Lyndon B. Johnson, Historian and Dean of Education at the Illinois College of Education, said “ Johnson was from Texas, Johnson understood southern society. […] he knew what he was up against. He knew you couldn’t ask southern states, southern communities to integrate”.

So not only was this great for impoverished students, it turned one of the most segregated parts of the united states into one of the most integrated places in the country. Now this did not prevent racism, it just alleviated the systematic racism and segregation of the south during this period after the civil rights movement.   

The Elementary and Secondary Education act has changed and been amended over the years since its introduction in nineteen sixty-five. The act was recently just amended into a new name and new function. President Barrack Obama Signed off on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in twenty fifteen. This act enhanced upon the old ideas that the previous act had set into motion. According to the U.S. Department of education the ESSA “Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.” With these advances in these more modern times we can see how far we have come from segregation to equal opportunities granted to students, impoverished or not. This however does not diminish the fact that students in poverty cannot get extra help and tutoring for standardized testing that makes it possible for them to get into college.

Students take these tests that are far out of the reign of the public school district. These tests have a history of favoring richer test takers rather than all test takers due to the lack of prep that is given during the actual school day where most students learn material. According to an article by HS insider “The SAT has no correlation between the GPA and graduation rate of college students, fails to measure skills that indicate better success in college, is mastered by memorization over intellect and favors the rich over the poor.” This has not been affected by any of these acts while there is a solid amount of evidence pointing to the fact that these tests do not help in the search for higher education.    

Multiple Counties and How Poverty Affects Their Testing

East Laurens High School

There are schools in Georgia and the United States of America that have no issues with poverty. The schools have no problems with children who cannot afford to eat, who have problems with behavior due to their parents stressing over how to pay bills that are due, who yell constantly at their children to make them behave but have only conditioned them to be unscathed by a raised voice from a figure of authority. Other schools are filled to the brim with children like this. Students that don’t see kindness at home due to monetary issues, who don’t eat right because they do not have the money to. Most students in this situation only get their single meal from the school that they attend. By using the percentage of students who get these free and reduced lunches we can see a broad figure of the Socioeconomic Status of the school and the area surrounding said school.

In Georgia the Socioeconomic status of schools varies wildly when looking county to county. Even schools that share the same district vary when it comes to their free and reduced lunch rates. For the majority of this blog post we will be using this chart that shows the free and reduced lunch rate of all schools in all the counties in Georgia. This chart from Georgia’s Government website sheds some light on the rest of Georgia and how using this we can see counties near each other and schools near each other can fluctuate extremely when it comes to there free and reduced lunch status.

Looking through this chart we see schools with high percentages and schools with low percentages. We will focus our attention on the schools with low percentages and the counties that surround them using this map of Georgia’s counties from Galileo we can correctly identify which counties surround the school we focus on and therefore get a more accurate reading of the Socioeconomic Status (SES) of the area including the counties surrounding our target.

Wheeler County is in the mid-southeast of Georgia surrounded by counties of similar SES on all sides. According to our graph here Wheeler only has three schools within its county boundaries, Wheeler county elementary, middle, and high school. I saw these three schools and noticed something was strangely off. The elementary school had a one hundred percent free and reduced lunch rate but the middle school and high school both had the rate a zero percent. This was preposterous so I did some digging and found that this was not the case. By looking at another website by the name of Public School Review I was able to see that the free and reduced lunch eligibility for Wheeler County high school is not zero percent, when in fact it is ninety nine percent. The same rings true for the middle school as well, on the chart it was listed as zero percent free and reduced lunch when the school is listed at ninety nine percent free and reduced lunch.

After having done this research I then decided to look toward how these schools test while under the intensely high amount of poverty that has stricken these schools. While looking on public school review I was able to find the test scores and average placement for the students in these schools when compared to the state average and the results are fairly shocking. The percent of students that test with proficiency on standardized tests scored significantly lower than the average of the state of Georgia. In mathematics students at Wheeler high school tested nineteen percent and twenty six percent proficient in mathematics and reading/language arts respectively. For the middle school the scores are about the same, thirty percent and thirty percent for mathematics and reading respectively.

Now, looking through the list and at our map, we can see that there are multiple counties that fall under these same situations. If we look at Laurens county, the average free and reduced lunch percentage is 75.78 percent. Digging deeper though, the majority of the percentage comes from the schools on the east side of the county. This is quite unsettling since there are more east side schools, four compared to only two west side schools, and the percentage of free and reduced lunches average at eighty five percent as compared to the west at an average of forty eight percent. This shed light on the fact that these socioeconomic discrepancies can vary county to county and even within the county itself. This is more than a statewide problem; this is an intercounty situation.

Poverty being this far apart in percentage based study yet so close in geographical study was fascinating and horrifying to uncover. This is just one isolated situation in a sea of hundred and even thousands of counties across the nation. If problems like this are persistent within each of these states, serious reforms need to be looked at when your neighbor a few miles down the road is much more wealthy than you are.

Productivity of Students in Poverty

Modern day America is littered with social and economic strife. Racism still plagues the nation in much of the same way that smallpox plagued the Aztec. There are many people living in poverty, so much so that one in five children live in a low-income family. Where these children’s situation is not well off enough to have high quality medical and psychiatric treatment provided for them. These children do not have the ability to get the tutoring, educational camp opportunities, or even the recommended amount of food available to keep their cognitive ability up to what they are asked of daily from their schools. With all these problems that occur with children living under the poverty or low-income threshold there are bound to be problems that occur with their education and their progress when it comes to academic standing and their test taking effectiveness.

According to multiple sources education scholars of the world have found that America tests a considerably large margin lower than most of their first world counterparts. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) “placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science.” Which seems rather squalid when we focus so many resources into education which according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is around twelve thousand dollars per student. When compared to most of the international sphere this is only second to Norway in terms of sheer expenditure on students. These expenditures do cover: Instruction, food services, administration, and a plethora of other things. Considering that this money is being shoved into schools and most of America is wealthy enough to be considered a first world country, why are the test scores so lackluster on a macro scale?

Even on a micro scale the test scores in America fluctuate. County to county and school to school the scores that are made can vary drastically. This is due to a plethora of reasons like, according to Georgia Department of Education there are six different types of schooling in Georgia, with teachers who use teaching styles that are completely different from one another. There are more experimental schools that try methods of teaching and scheduling that differ completely to other schools such as schools that follow Block Scheduling. Aside from the different types of schools and ways said schools are run, there are also many students that live below the poverty line. This means that  students are at a higher risk of not having the right nutrition, suffering mental or physical illness, or having dropped out due to reasons such as: their parents dropped out so why don’t they do the same, and they need to work to help support the family.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) twenty one percent of children in America live in a home that is under the poverty line. This is over one in every five children who is possibly not getting the proper nutrition they need every day, suffering mental or physical illness due to the inability to get proper help, and definitely not able to access special tutoring for their studies or educational camps and after school activities. They are statistically more likely to do poorly on exams and regular schoolwork when compared to the test scores of their less impoverished counterparts. A graph from Huff Post of fourth and eighth grade students comparing the difference between the percentage of students of above average proficiency and below average proficiency in math, and those who are also eligible for free and reduced lunch and those who are not eligible. Free and reduced lunch eligibility is determined by the income of the family, if the family is near or below the poverty line then they are eligible for free and reduced lunch. This research shows that those who have free and reduced lunch have significantly less proficiency in both reading and math when compared to those who are ineligible for free and reduced lunches. In fact, the graphs show that for the majority of eligible for free and reduced lunch students their below average category is significantly higher than the below average category for those who are ineligible for free and reduced lunches.

As we can see from this data, the students who are affected by poverty and by the inadvertent consequences that come with it. These students try to overcome this adversity, but they are given no help outside of school. The less impoverished students get extra help from outside of school because they can afford it, but the students stricken by poverty are unable to attain these extra pushes for their education due to their financial standing. They are also less likely to seek out and be able to afford help from medical professionals and from psychiatric professionals to help with any mental or physical disorders due to lost family members or due to poor living conditions and insufficient nutrients provided by the family.

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