As suggested by Roger Kaufman, the outcome for any educational system should be a graduate who is ready to be a contributing member of society not under the care, control or custody of any person, place or thing. Simply put, a person who gives back rather than takes from the community and is free to make productive life choices.
Education at any level requires a student to be ready to learn. At the entrance to elementary school, every child should be ready physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally. Physically, every child should have all recommended immunizations, vision and dental issues addressed and free from malnutrition or obesity. Intellectually, each child should have an adequate speaking vocabulary, familiarity with standard English used in schooling, and pre-reading skills such as letter recognition and sequencing and eye-hand coordination skills. Socially, each child should know appropriate behaviors for different social settings with adults and other children. Emotionally, the child should have some resiliency skills allowing him or her to cope with anger, frustration and fears.
Measuring these outcomes are a bit of a challenge to do with a standardized instrument, but teacher rating on an individualized record can be used to measure entry and progress and can be aggregated across a classroom or school.
During the school years, the same dimensions can be monitored. Physical can uses attendance, immunizations and health screenings to assess issues and improvements. Grades are an easy measure of Educational progress but it would be a better measure of individual growth if a continuous progress monitoring system is in place. Discipline records can provide data for Social outcomes as well as cooperative activities such as sports, arts or club participation. Several screening instruments are available to measure Emotional risk factors for teens, especially as suicide and gang violence are issues in most communities. Discipline and juvenile crime records can give an indication of both individual social and emotional issues.
There are many effective and research based strategies available to address these outcomes at pre-school and school levels.
Ruby Payne’s strategies for dealing with children and families experiencing poverty, current resiliency research and model pre-school programs all offer ways to value the individual child’s strengths while giving the skills needed to function in the middle class institution we call school. In the Physical domain, ongoing health screening and services is very essential. Intellectually, young children need vocabulary development and a variety of real world experiences. Socially, children need to learn how to “do school”, as well as cooperative learning, social skills in different settings, and understanding class differences in speech, behavior and expectations. Emotional resiliency skills can be taught directly, as well as social skills, but are enhanced when coupled with role models and mentors.
Social skills, critical thinking skills, how to be successful and learn despite a less than adequate teacher, these are important for all children to learn, but especially children in low income communities. Helping children acquire these skills is not easy, but will pay off in a multitude of ways.