I have hoped not to abandon my position that the church can and should close the achievement gap, but I believe I must, at least for now. After careful consideration, the idea, at least part of it, has become untenable. Actually, I still think the church should strive to close the gap. The problem is measuring the church's impact on our education system. For example, Pastor Louie at Serra Mesa Christian Fellowship, along with members of the church, hosted a rummage sale that raised $700 for the Jones Elementary School's summer reading program. The problem is, there's really no way to know if the church's donation will be part of what affects the students over the summer. As my brother, who is a PhD student at Kansas University said, more research is required. Well, the simple fact is that I'm a Master of Education student, a full-time sailor, a father and husband, not necessarily in that order. I don't have the ability or resources to know if what SMCF did will be a direct catalyst for change in the lives of some of those students.
My mind tells me that it's impossible for the donation not to make an impact. The simple fact is that I can't prove it. And even if I could prove it, I can't guarantee that it will close the achievement gap for that school.
What I do know is that a lack of resources in local schools is a major contributor to the achievement gap. According to Snipes and Horwitz (2009, pg 13), "Improving student literacy in urban districts will also require a considerable investment of resources to mount interventions and support research on effective strategies. This will most likely entail new funding from both the state and federal levels to support the programs and professional development that will be needed at the local level to do what we already know needs to be done to bolster instruction in vocabulary and comprehension."
In my opinion, what SMCF has undertaken is an intervention, tantamount to action research, if you will. What we don't have is the before and after to prove it worked. But that isn't needed to know the truth.
The truth is that churches should be following suite. Let's say for a moment that churches not only can't close the achievement gap, but shouldn't be held responsible for doing so. I will stipulate to both of these conditions for the time being due to a lack of research. What we do know is that local public schools need help, and that the help they need rests not with the state, as almost all states are currently cutting back in education, but with the one resource no one has thought to address...the church.
Snipes, J.,and Horwitz, A. (2008, Fall). Advancing adolescent literacy in urban schools. The Council of the Great City Schools: Research Brief.
You could find research to support either side of this argument. The bottom line is, it is unconscionable that the church would sit by and do nothing. There are many ways to close the achievement gap:
2. sending sacks of food home for low-income families on the weekends(hungry children do not learn well!)
3. being available to read to students
There are many others, and this is only a small sampling. Sending donations of money is nice, but what they really need is our most precious commodity--our time.
Patty, brilliant and wonderful thoughts. Thank you! It's so interesting that when a person gets right down to it, the church just simply needs to be involved. Stop trying to figure everything out and just do something. The world has waited long enough. I like this comment very much!
Thank you for your thoughts!
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