The Learning Community Is Not a “Failed Experiment”!

 

The “Learning Community” represents an experiment being conducted in Omaha, Nebraska, where I live, to determine whether the entire metro area can work together to close, or at least narrow, the academic achievement gap between low-income and middle class students. The extent of the problem is clearly demonstrated by the chart below which shows that starting in elementary school reading proficiency is lower for low-income students and this “gap” continues to get worse in middle school and then gets much worse in high school.  Not surprisingly, the same problem exists throughout the entire state of Nebraska to only a slightly lesser degree.
CaptureNow, six years after the establishment of the Learning Community by the Nebraska Legislature, the superintendents of the 11 LC school districts are putting together a comprehensive report on its operation.  There have been repeated complaints about the fairness of the LC’s common property tax levy because it has created many more losers than winners among the 11 districts.  There have also been questions raised about the costs and efficacy of the “open enrollment” facet of the plan whereby low-income students can transfer to an adjoining district and receive free transportation.  It is useful for the superintendents to address these issues in an organized manner.
What will be difficult, of course, is for all eleven school boards to come together in agreement on a final report to the legislature.  The Omaha World Herald reports today  on how that process is going. The superintendents are actually very positive about a new program for early childhood education as well as other elementary learning center programs housed primarily in North and South Omaha.
One superintendent has suggested to his Board that they might want to tell lawmakers that the Learning Community should be declared a “failed experiment” and dissolved.  But given the enormity of the achievement gap, as discussed above, it is unlikely that a majority of the K-12 educational leadership in Omaha will support such a negative recommendation.
The U.S. must figure out how to do a better job of educating children from low-income families and Omaha’s Learning Community is making significant progress in addressing this very critical national problem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s