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Beyond the Classroom

Better teachers? New facilities? Preschool programs? All are worthy uses for anticipated new funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. But schools have never been the sole - or even best - source of our children's education, especially poor inner-city students. Read Edmund Gordon's Op-ed that appeared in the New York Times.

Better teachers? New facilities? Preschool programs? All are worthy uses for anticipated new funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. But schools have never been the sole - or even best - source of our children's education, especially poor inner-city students.

Poorer children of color often lack the family and community care that introduces children to the world of books and ideas. This absence may be the major reason that the gulf between their classroom performance and that of their wealthier white peers is thought to be firmly established before they are 3 years old.

Many schools and private programs are trying to deal with this issue through "supplementary education services" - primarily tutoring. Unfortunately, these efforts often lack a vital ingredient: the involvement of parents and communities.

New York City's school system must begin, then, by defining supplementary education holistically, as something beyond extra services for a fee. We must understand it as the formal and informal learning that children receive through their families, in personal relationships and through community groups and religious institutions. Above all, we must provide active engagement with concerned parents, parent surrogates, peers and interested adults.

A growing number of organizations are laboring to create such an environment. The work of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone is one major example - a heroic effort to improve children's development, provide after-school programs, support parents and offer a host of services to all residents of a 60-square-block section of Harlem.

The bottom line is that an education that includes good schooling and rich supplementary education experiences is the right of all children. It's an idea that most political and education leaders would subscribe to in principle. Soon they may have the money to make it a reality.

Edmund W. Gordon is an emeritus professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Published Thursday, Apr. 21, 2005

Beyond the Classroom

Better teachers? New facilities? Preschool programs? All are worthy uses for anticipated new funds from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. But schools have never been the sole - or even best - source of our children's education, especially poor inner-city students.

Poorer children of color often lack the family and community care that introduces children to the world of books and ideas. This absence may be the major reason that the gulf between their classroom performance and that of their wealthier white peers is thought to be firmly established before they are 3 years old.

Many schools and private programs are trying to deal with this issue through "supplementary education services" - primarily tutoring. Unfortunately, these efforts often lack a vital ingredient: the involvement of parents and communities.

New York City's school system must begin, then, by defining supplementary education holistically, as something beyond extra services for a fee. We must understand it as the formal and informal learning that children receive through their families, in personal relationships and through community groups and religious institutions. Above all, we must provide active engagement with concerned parents, parent surrogates, peers and interested adults.

A growing number of organizations are laboring to create such an environment. The work of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone is one major example - a heroic effort to improve children's development, provide after-school programs, support parents and offer a host of services to all residents of a 60-square-block section of Harlem.

The bottom line is that an education that includes good schooling and rich supplementary education experiences is the right of all children. It's an idea that most political and education leaders would subscribe to in principle. Soon they may have the money to make it a reality.

Edmund W. Gordon is an emeritus professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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