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A Tale of Two Programs: When Gentrification Meets Expanded Learning Time | Dear Rashida...

Rashida Ladner-Seward

Rashida Ladner-Seward is Director of Program Support at ExpandED Schools. This blog is part of our bi-weekly advice column where we answer burning questions from program directors, educators and administrators on how to develop and run successful expanded learning programs.

 

Dear Rashida,

My 10-year-old son goes to school in a gentrifying neighborhood. We like most things about the school, including its free afterschool program, which offers an array of activities and homework help for about 150 kids a day. Recently, a group of parents got together and decided to start their own afterschool program, which charges a considerable fee. With the cooperation of the principal, the new program offers foreign language, ballet, chess and piano to children whose parents can afford the fees. This development saddens me. It seems to me that afterschool should be where all kids come together and have equal opportunities to experience new things. But we now have two programs in the same building, side-by-side: one for “rich” parents and one for poorer parents. Do you know how other schools in gentrifying neighborhoods have reacted in similar situations? Can we learn from their experiences and create one, thriving afterschool program which serves all students in the building? I very much would like to tackle this issue at our end-of-year PTA meeting.

 

Sincerely,
A Tale of Two Programs 

 

Dear Tale,

This development saddens me, as well. My colleagues and I here at ExpandED Schools work hard every day to help close the opportunity gap for students in need. We recognize that families who struggle to make ends meet rarely have the discretionary income that affluent parents have to enroll their children in extra-curricular activities like foreign language, ballet, chess and piano as you’ve described. We do our best to work with building leaders and their community partners to identify and blend resources in an effort to ensure all students in the afterschool space have equal access to high-quality enrichments. Fortunately, I know of few schools in your school’s predicament.

A principal is duty-bound to support all of his/her students in a manner that helps them acquire the skills and knowledge they’ll need to successfully transition into adulthood. Research confirms that these skills are not magically acquired during the high school years, but rather, are a series of experiences that build from very early in childhood. Our 6,000 learning gap video sums this research up neatly. Children’s formative years also last well into the late teens (and even early twenties). Therefore, enriching opportunities and learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom space are much needed over the course of a child’s K-12 education to successfully prepare them for their life’s journey. Therefore, a smart principal would work with the entire parent community to bring these experiences to all students attending the program.

I’m not sure if all of the parents know about the second fee-based program, but if I were you, I would bring it to light. It really does take a village to raise a child, and it often takes a village to bring about needed change. Perhaps all of the parents can sign a petition. Perhaps parents who can afford are willing to help subsidize extra activities for those who cannot. If it is not a level playing field then the program should be completely revamped until it is.

Not long ago, a well-known newspaper featured a front-page article about a principal who orchestrated an event to the exclusion of students whose families could not afford the admission fee. The community-at-large expressed its deep disappointment for this principal’s actions, all the way up to the highest office in the school system. Suffice it to say, things didn’t end well for that principal. As parents, you are empowered to hold your school — and your principal, as the school’s leader — accountable so that every student succeeds. It sounds to me that some students are being set up for success better than others, and that’s simply unacceptable.

Best,

~R
 

 

 

♦ Have a question? Send it to info@expandedschools.org with “Dear Rashida” in the subject line. Be sure to check back each week for a nugget of wisdom.


 

 

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