WAER’s City Limits Project – investigating poverty in Syracuse turned its focus to education. How is poverty impacting schools and adult education? And how much is the basic mission of these institutions changing as they have to deal with the effects of poverty in our community?
(Full Audio of the panel discussion below)
When you’re inside a school as students are heading to class, the energy and the expectation should be that learning is about to take place to enrich the students.
That could be in a third grade class, a high school, the corridors of a college, or an evening gathering for adult education. But increasingly the effects of poverty are getting in the way. We wanted to find out: How much is poverty affecting education --- and how has it changed what teachers and the institutions themselves have to do.
Our panel was made up of leaders from elementary to higher education, adult learning and psychology.
- Doctor Casey Crabill – Onondaga Community College President. Prior to coming to O-C-C, Dr. Crabill served as Dean and-or President of colleges in New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Maryland, so has a wealth of experience in higher education, including the questions of accessibility and success.
- Doctor Tolga Hiyali – Superintendent of Syracuse and Utica Academies of Science, Charter Schools. He has studied in Turkey, as well as at Seton Hall and SUNY Oswego … and can address keeping students involved and student success given the challenges of poverty.
- Eli Hernandez is principal of Delaware Primary School. He has experience heading up a school in one of the most challenging neighborhoods of Syracuse. Coming from Puerto Rico, he uses his bilingual skills in his school to help those for whom language might be a barrier, amid other challenges.
- Diamond Thaxton is a Mental Health Therapist addressing psychological and counseling needs in schools – especially for children dealing with trauma.
- Mari Ukleya joins us from OCM Boces where she’s Director of Adult Education. We’re going to get into the role of community education as it relates to poverty in our community.
The panel discussion uncovered issues of the deficits on barriers that limit students’ ability to succeed. The problems also g tint he way of the institutions’ ability to carry out their main mission – educaiotn and training – so that the school kids, young adults, college students or adults can move toward a better future.
Principal Hernandez says there’s definitely a difference in performance of children coming from poverty compared to those that are not.
“There’s that hidden curriculum that we have to make sure that we have. A child is not going to be able to learn if they’re focused on, ‘where am I going to sleep tonight, what am I going to eat, who’s going to be home to take care of me.’ That’s a huge impact on our education system when we are focusing not only on trying to teach you, but also trying to help you in being able to just (have) the basics,” said Hernandez.
The Schools themselves have had to make changes. Dr. Crabill from OCC finds the school has to do things that seem outside the mission of a college. OCC’s Community Care Hub essentially acts as case managers, in what she describes as a 3600 care model.
“(A counselor) helps to link the students to whatever resources in the community, whether it’s a domestic violence agency or assistance with subsidized child care or transitional housing, or food, or clothing, or assistance with elder care – whatever the students need. We link to those outside agencies," said Crabill.
Outside pressures and problems also impact student readiness, ability to succeed and even mental state. Counselor Thaxton notes the development from age 0-5 is critical, and schools might have to deal with the child’s upbringing.
“That’s when you start to begin your social development, the impact on how your parents treat you, what was your nutrition. All these things are so significant … and if those things aren’t met, they’re at your door and you’re trying to do what you can do … and get them up to speed.”
You can hear more on these and other issues regarding the impact of poverty on our schools in the two audio segments below.
You can hear more of WAER's City Limits Project - our year-long investigation into the high poverty rates in Syracuse and what's being done about the issue - at our special website: CityLimitsProject.org. Podcasts there cover why poverty is so entrenched; homelessness and getting out of it; the role transportation can play in someone's ability to get and keep a better job; and how I-81 contributed to segregation and poverty over the past 50+ years.