Upstream Thinking . . . Who will pay for what does not happen?

Teacher’s Corner

“So, together, by wading our way upstream, we can approach a world where the preservation of health is as valuable as the treatment of disease.”

~ Dan Heath

I’m going to take Heath’s quote from above and reframe it through the lens of our educational system. “So, together, by wading our way upstream, we can approach a world where the preservation of the student is as valuable as money spent on the incarceration of the prisoner.”

Did you know that the U.S. makes up only 4.4 percent of the global population yet it holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners?  American prison populations have multiplied by 500 percent over the last 40 years according to GOBankingRates.  Prison spending in the U.S. is outpacing that of which should be one of society’s highest priorities: education.  Education spending in the United States loses out to huge amounts of money flowing into prisons.  

GOBankingRates included data from the Census Bureau’s 2016 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data to determine how much every state spends per pupil.  Michigan spends $11,667.99 per pupil.  The average cost per inmate is $35,809.  This means that Michigan could afford to send three more kids to school for every person it doesn’t send to jail!  

Pause and think about the statistics that were just shared.  Research clearly shows that no one has a greater impact on student growth than the educator.  After family, school is the second most important and formative site of socialization for children. School is where they learn social norms for behavior and receive moral guidance. When students drop out of school, they leave this formative environment. They also leave the safety and structure that school provides.    

So, what can you do as an educator?  How can you intervene so that your students feel supported?  What action(s) can you take so that they want to stay in school?  Conversations that you and your colleagues engage in have the potential to address the needs of students.  One practice within Teacher Collaborative Routines asks teachers to collaborate to analyze academic and non-academic data to make informed decisions.  Armed with data, teachers can make sure that every student is receiving what they need both academically and non academically.  This support can make the difference between a student staying in school or dropping out.  In other words, we are creating a system where the preservation of the student is as valuable as money spent on the incarceration of the prisoner.

So . . . Who will pay for what doesn’t happen? If teachers are not collaborating to analyze data to make informed decisions, then students suffer.  When students do not feel supported, this often leads to them dropping out of school. A 2014 policy memo, Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States, pointed out that there is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by his mid-thirties (The Hamilton Project, 2014, p. 11).  So, who pays for what does not happen?  Society.  What actions might you, as an educator, engage in with your collaborative team to make sure that each student gets the supports that they need?