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貧窮惹的禍:貧童難得好成績? 正反方各持己見

立報/本報訊 2012.09.19 00:00
策劃、編譯■李威撰芝加哥教師罷工,凸顯了美國公立學校在面對一項最重大的議題上,出現了根本性的意見分歧:如何提供像樣的教育給陷入貧困的孩童。The Chicago teachers strike has underscored a fundamental split over the biggest issue confronting America's public schools: how to provide a decent education to children mired in poverty.家境確實影響學生成績在全美各地,貧窮無可否認地與低落的學業表現有關。去年一項全國閱讀考試,比起家境富裕的同學,來自低收入戶的9年級學生,成績水平整整落後了3個年級,數學成績的落後程度則與閱讀相去不遠。Across the U.S., poverty is irrefutably linked to poor academic performance. On last year's national reading exam, nine-year-olds from low-income families scored nearly three full grade levels below their wealthier peers. The gap was nearly as large in math.根據最新的國際閱讀測驗,來自學校資源較為豐裕的美國青少年,在全球排名當中位於頂尖位置,而那些來自高貧窮率的學校學生,則幾乎是墊底。On the latest international reading test, U.S. teens from more affluent (1) schools were at the very top of global rankings, while those from schools with high poverty rates were near the bottom.包括走在芝加哥抗議警戒線的教師在內,許多教育者不得不同意,只有矯正與貧窮相關的社會痼疾,才能改善在低收入社區服務的學校。To many educators, including the teachers walking the picket lines in Chicago, the inescapable conclusion is that schools serving low-income communities can be improved only by addressing the social ills associated with poverty.芝加哥的教師說,學生餓肚子、沒洗澡就來到學校,有的牙疼、有的連像樣的鞋子都沒得穿。談到活在暴力陰影下的孩童時,教師們說,學校連這些孩童所亟需的輔導人員都沒有。他們指出,芝加哥87%的學童符合聯邦餐點補助資格,但花費在他們身上的經費,連富裕郊區學校的一半都不到。工會表示,芝加哥甚至有160間小學沒有圖書館。Chicago teachers speak of children coming to school hungry and unwashed, with throbbing toothaches, without proper shoes. They talk of kids, scarred by violence, who desperately need counselors in schools that have none. They note that Chicago, where 87 percent of students qualify for federally subsidized meals, spends less than half as much per student as wealthy suburbs; the union says 160 of the city's elementary schools don't even have a library.芝加哥教師工會會長路易斯直言,學生標準測驗成績不佳,不能怪罪老師或學校管理者,而要歸咎於「超出我們控制的因素」。Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, bluntly attributes poor student performance on standardized tests not to teachers or school administrators but to "factors beyond our control."另一派相對的看法卻認為,這些說詞根本是在找一堆藉口。芝加哥市長易曼紐與其他教改人士聲稱,如果孩子成績落後,是學校跟老師們害的,所以公立教育需徹底整頓。Yet a rival philosophy holds that such talk amounts to so many excuses. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other education reformers argue that if kids are falling behind it's because their schools -- and their teachers -- are failing them. So public education needs a radical makeover.改革人士提出的進程,就是先用考試分數篩選學校,再開除表現最差的老師,然後再引入私人管理機制,或是關閉學校。另一項主要策略,就是要求教師承擔提高學生標準化考試成績的責任。The reformers' agenda starts with sorting schools by test scores and taking action against the worst by firing teachers, bringing in private management or shutting the school down altogether. Another key tactic: Hold teachers accountable for raising their students' standardized test scores.包括民主、共和兩黨在內的改革派,都已要求改善都會學校當前面臨的民權挑戰,認為社會已無法再容忍如此廣泛的機會不均及成就不公。Reformers, both Democrats and Republicans, have called improving urban schools the civil rights challenge of our time, saying society can no longer tolerate such vast inequalities in opportunity and achievement.華盛頓特區前教育局長、同時也是教改領導者的李洋姬,最近在《哈芬登郵報》發表的一篇文章中如此說道:「在我們的學校裡,貧窮是一項艱鉅挑戰;但期待孩童能學業成功的話,就不能只看他或她與生俱來的環境。」Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools and a leading reform advocate, put it this way in a recent piece for the Huffington Post: "Poverty presents huge challenges in our schools. But expectations of academic success for a child should never hinge on the circumstances of his or her birth."工會:投入更多資源可換得好成績近幾年,改革運動得到總統歐巴馬以降的兩黨強力政治支持。而在國內少數一些地方,鮮少被宣揚、獲得工會青睞的途徑,則正在接受考驗。The reform movement has enjoyed a powerful wave of bi-partisan political support in recent years, from President Barack Obama on down. Yet in a few corners of the nation, with much less fanfare (2), the unions' preferred approach is being tested.以辛辛那提為例,公立學校校區及一群企業及慈善捐助,在過去10年投注無數經費,幾乎每一間學校都獲得各式各樣的支援服務。In Cincinnati, for instance, the public school district and an array of corporate and philanthropic (3) donors have spent tens of millions over the past decade to wrap nearly every school in a cocoon of support services.貧窮區域的大多數學校教職團隊,都擁有一名全職的資源協調人,負責聯繫困頓的家庭,並協助他們所需。許多學校都有食物銀行、健康診所及諮詢中心。學校的社團、運動、輔導及照顧課程,以及支援團體都開放到傍晚。Most schools in poor neighborhoods have a full-time resource coordinator on staff to connect struggling families to the help they need. Many schools have food banks, health clinics and counseling centers on site. The schools are open into the evening for clubs, sports, tutoring, parenting classes and support groups.結果:這些學校的孩童留在學校念書沒有中輟,並獲得成效,而這是前所未有的。根據學區數據統計,9年級學生2000年的畢業率只有51%,10年後達到82%。The result: Kids are staying -- and succeeding -- in school like never before. In 2000, just 51 percent of ninth-graders made it to graduation. A decade later, the graduation rate hit 82 percent, district figures show.西維吉尼亞州麥道威郡的赤貧採礦社區,也採行了類似辦法:他們建立了一個由80個公私立團體所組成的聯盟(教師工會也一起加入),特別透過解決貧窮的方式來提升學校辦學成果。The impoverished mining communities in McDowell County, West Virginia, are trying a similar tactic: They've built a coalition of 80 public and private groups, including the teachers union, to boost school achievement explicitly by tackling poverty.史丹佛大學教育系教授達林哈蒙德,以及另一名贊成該途徑的支持者都表示,這項辦法曾經發揮過作用。Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University and a supporter of this approach, says it has worked before.達林哈蒙德表示,推動「貧窮作戰」(註)的1960及1970年代,政府投資幼稚園、教師訓練及都市發展。黑人的閱讀能力與白人高中學生的落差縮減2/3,而黑人高中畢業率也增加超過2倍。During the War on Poverty in the 1960s and '70s, government invested in preschool, teacher training and urban development. The gap between the reading skills of black and white high-school students shrank by two-thirds and high school graduation rates for black students more than doubled, Darling-Hammond said.距離現在更近的1990年代末期,在法院屢次下令要求政府改善不平等的問題後,紐澤西開始在貧窮的都會地區學校投入大量資金。根據聯邦測驗成績資料顯示,黑人與西語裔4年級學生的閱讀及數學都有快速精進,不過這筆預算沒有用來弭平較高年級學生的成績差距。More recently, in the late 1990s, New Jersey began investing huge sums in its poor urban schools after courts repeatedly ordered it to erase inequities. Black and Hispanic students made rapid gains in both reading and math at the fourth-grade level, according to federal testing data, though the achievement gap didn't budge for older students.達林哈蒙德說表示:「當孩童擁有所需資源,他們的學習就可以更有效率。」當他們沒有得到那些資源而失敗時:「你不能全部都丟給老師負責。」"Kids in poverty can learn at much higher rates when they have the resources they need," Darling-Hammond said. When they don't get those resources and fail, she added, "you can't land all that on the backs of teachers."教改人士:砸大錢在刀口上改革人士則回應,學童現在就需要協助,無法坐等社會意願的出現,或找到對抗貧窮的新辦法。Reformers respond that kids need help now and can't wait until society finds the will or the means to fight a new war on poverty.他們推動的徹底改革所費不貲。推動的學區要花大筆資金發展新的標準化考試,用以評估教師的教學成效。他們也聘請私人管理者經營有徹底改革需要的學校。Their overhaul (4) agenda does cost money. Districts that embark on reform may spend heavily to develop new standardized tests to measure teacher efficacy. They may also hire private managers to run schools deemed in need of an overhaul.像是蓋茲基金會及沃爾頓家族基金會等慈善機構,都投注無數的資金在改革上,譬如特許學校及新的教師評量制度。Philanthropies such as the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation have invested hundreds of millions in the reform agenda, such as charter schools and new teacher evaluation systems.在芝加哥學區,有10多間表現欠佳的學校轉變成非營利、由專家經營的「都會學校領導學園」(AUSL)。學區官員表示,在轉交出去前,學區花費50萬美元重整校園,包括重新粉刷、新運動場、科學與電腦教室,藉此向學生跟家長傳遞一項訊息:他們在這裡可以有個新的開始。In Chicago the district has turned over a dozen low-performing schools to nonprofit turnaround specialist AUSL, or Academy for Urban School Leadership. Before making such a handoff, the district spends up to $500,000 renovating the school with fresh paint, new athletic fields, and science and computer labs to send students and parents a signal that they're making a fresh start, district officials said.學區每年也花費14萬美元,額外設置助理校長一職。另外,學區也要支付都會學校領導學園管理費用,每名學生每年費用是420至520美元。The district also funds an extra assistant principal position for at cost of $140,000 per year. And it pays AUSL an annual management fee of $420 to $500 per student.官員表示,像這種針對性的花費,也就是提升特定學校的表現,比分散性地承諾要協助所有地區孩童來對抗貧困還要更可行,尤其在芝加哥這種問題叢生的區域,過去3年就背負30億美元的赤字。Officials say targeted spending like this, meant to raise achievement in a specific school, is more feasible than a diffuse commitment to help kids everywhere overcome the challenges of poverty -- especially in a struggling district like Chicago, which faces a $3 billion deficit over three years.隨著貧窮可被克服的證據被提出時,改革人士也指出,全國有數百家「不找藉口」的特許學校端出亮眼的考試成績。As proof that poverty is not insurmountable (5), reformers point to the stellar test scores posted by hundreds of "no excuses" charter schools nationwide.像基博、成就第一、做好準備及諾貝爾等特許學校聯盟,都要求他們的學生(大多人來自貧窮及弱勢背景)遵守嚴格的標準:他們有繁重的回家作業、延長的上課時間,以及嚴格的行為規定,讓諸如坐姿不端正等行為也要受到處罰。Charter networks like KIPP, Achievement First, Yes Prep and Noble hold their students, mostly poor and minority, to exacting standards: They have heavy homework loads, extended school days, and rigorous behavior codes that may lead to disciplinary action for infractions such as failing to sit up straight.並非所有學生都適合嚴格教育工會的領導者指出,許多特許學校並沒有達到成功的標準(而且事實上,成績比其他附近區域的學校還差);工會還指出,只有非常積極的學童,才能熬過艱難繁重的學習過程。教師則擔憂出現二級制度:最好的學生去特許學校,其餘的都去傳統公立學校。Union leaders point out that many charters don't achieve that level of success -- and in fact post worse scores than neighborhood schools -- and note that only highly motivated kids can stick with such a strenuous program. Teachers fear the emergence of a two-tier system in which the best students go to charters while traditional public schools are stuck with the rest.不過特許學校的支持者認為,不是每個學生都能忍受嚴格的學校,但不能以此作為剝奪選擇就讀的理由。Yet fans of charters say the fact that not every student can handle a rigorous school is no reason to deny the option to those who can.芝加哥學校官員同意,他們大量增加2013年花費在特許學校上的預算,金額達7,600萬美元。Chicago school officials agree; their 2013 budget ramps up spending on charters by $76 million.如何提振窮人小孩的教育表現,常引起惡鬥或情緒性爭論。該話題常在推特或部落格上掀起戰火,而敵對性的報導,不是頌揚就是詆毀那近乎神話、高高在上的「不找藉口」特許學校的地位。The debate over how to boost achievement for poor kids is emotional and often nasty; it rages on Twitter and in blog posts and in rival reports that seek to build up or tear down the near-mythical status of top "no excuses" charter schools.然而,尖銳言辭的背後,雙方看起來並非如此敵我分明。以紐澤西紐瓦克的小學閃耀學院為例,該校也加入基博特許學校聯盟。Behind the sharp rhetoric, however, the two sides may not be as far apart as they seem. Consider Spark Academy, an elementary school in Newark, New Jersey, affiliated with the KIPP network of charter schools.這所學校只有4百名學生,但聘請2位全職社工,外加1名專門供學生幫助的主任,讓孩子只需專注學業就好。「有陣營說這些東西都不重要。」希爾說:「就跟那些說我們無法為孩童帶來改變的人一樣,都是錯的。」The school, with just over 400 students, employs two full-time social workers and a dean whose sole job is to get students the help they need so they can focus on academics. "The camp that says none of this stuff matters," Ryan Hill said, "is as wrong as those who say we can't make a difference with these kids." He is the executive director of KIPP's New Jersey network.(Reuters路透)●註:鑒於貧窮率居高不下,美國前總統詹森在1964年推出「貧窮作戰」法案,以投資教育及醫療的方式來作為改善貧窮的策略。關鍵字詞Key Words1. affluent (a.) 富裕的2. fanfare (n.) 誇耀3. philanthropic (a.) 慈善的4. overhaul (n.) 大翻修5. insurmountable (a.) 不能克服的