There exists an achievement gap among wealthy and lower socio economic communities. Students who come from schools within lower socioeconomic communities do not often receive the same education or services from wealthier districts. New Jersey has responded to this inequitable situation with the Abbot funding process. Recently two local communities, Long Branch and Neptune, have been threatened with the loss of their Abbott status; as a result of additional mandates from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, many such schools are being threatened with the loss of their funding if they fail to meet minimum academic achievement standards.
To determine the impact of this potential loss, this paper will provide insights into local concerns in Long Branch to identify how this loss would affect the academic achievement gap. This discussion will be followed by a report on two areas where it is believed equity will be lost to the district. In their Abbott vs. Burke decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated additional assistance for the state’s 30 poorest districts, including Long Branch and Neptune (Quinn, 2003).
According to an Asbury Park Press survey of enrollment data for Monmouth County found that minorities comprise the majority of the school population in Asbury Park, Red Bank, Neptune, Freehold, Long Branch and Lakewood; of these, the survey found that only Red Bank’s poverty rate does not exceed the state’s rate (Quinn, 2003). Furthermore, fully 20 percent of the Hipic students in Monmouth County attend the Long Branch school system (Quinn, 2003).
If the additional funding promised by the Abbott decision is halted or reduced, all of the low-income communities will undoubtedly experience further declines in the academic performance levels that are already precipitously low in many cases, with the thrust of this reduction in funding creating two fundamental problems: 1) adversely affect literary rates; and 2) further exacerbate the segregation of low-income and minority citizens into pockets of poverty.
As to the first issue, Strickland and Alvermann (2004) reviewed the issues concerning the achievement gap in the U. S. and found that literacy demands of the middle grades are exacerbated when the students come from low income and minority homes; in particular, these issues assumed critical levels when the students are members of low-income and minority families. These students are already likely to attend schools characterized by high mobility rates, inadequate resources and facilities, and large numbers of young students with challenging learning needs (Strickland & Alvermann, 2004). Comparable trends are also apparent in the State of New Jersey as well.
According to Lattimer and Strickland (2004), the results from the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) from 2000-2002 identified consistent differences in partially proficient, proficient, and advanced proficient between District Factor Groups (DFG’s) and race/ethnicity. In addition, the differences in academic achievement between special needs districts such as Long Branch and non-special needs districts found similar trends to the 2002 GEPA (Lattimer & Strickland, 2004).
In fact, a 35-percentage point difference existed in the total number of students scoring proficient and advanced proficient in Language Arts Literacy in 2002; the authors point out that the District Factor Group is an indicator of the socioeconomic status of citizens in each district and has been useful for the comparative reporting of test results from New Jersey’s statewide testing programs in the past (Lattimer & Strickland, 2004).
Concerning the second issue of further segregating low-income and minority citizens into “pockets of poverty,” the school superintendent for Long Branch reported that although minorities tend to live in segregated communities, this was the result of a “social trend” rather than segregation; notwithstanding these assertions, though, these high concentration of low-income minority members in their own communities has created “have” and “have-not” districts, with the Long Branch district representing one of the hardest-hit in the state (Quinn, 2003).
Clearly, if the Abbott funding is halted, parents will be faced with a dual-edged dilemma of being unable to provide their children with an adequate education by virtue of substandard schools while being forced to remain in these low-income districts out of sheer necessity. The people of New Jersey in general and the citizens of these low-income regions deserve the quality education that is their American birthright; unfortunately, the promise has not lived up to its legacy in many of these cities, and Long Branch continues to be threatened with even more academic and social miseries if its Abbott funding is stopped.
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