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Lack of jobs undermines true student achievement

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proclaims that we may have to resort to killing our city schools to save the students. He ruthlessly refers to this as a “death penalty,” and says it will be used as a means to correct student success rates. How this cure would help the students is left to the listener’s imagination. Do we infer that by simply moving students to a different building there will be drastic rates of improvement? Or will these alternative schools have a better way of getting improved results? If so, then why not just introduce these concepts into these failing schools immediately?

Study after study finds that the overwhelming indicator of a student’s success is the socioeconomic status of the household. Currently, most of our state’s cities – such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Niagara Falls – have poverty rates that place them in the bottom 100 of all U.S. metro areas. Not so coincidentally, each one of these cities also has a school system that is being pilloried by the governor and the State Board of Regents.

While the latest official unemployment rate for New York State is about 7.5 percent, there is another statistic that counts the number of persons 16 and over who are in the labor force. The number for New York State is 56.6 percent (well below the national average of 63.3 percent). A simple calculation indicates that 43.4 percent are not part of our official labor force. I believe it is this fetid urban labor condition – little access to meaningful and profitable employment – that undermines any genuine student achievement. And until these circumstances are addressed, our leaders will keep failing students and adults.

Michael Tenhagen

West Seneca