Inner-city public schools – merely mentioning it already brings a sense of gloom for some. After all, they are stereotyped as problematic and not ideal for students who want to obtain a quality education.
Sadly, educational inequality is present. Those in inner cities bear the brunt. If parents and students alike want top-notch education, they should look elsewhere. But that is out of the question for those living in inner cities. Either they send their children to inner-city public schools or not, even if there is no guarantee of proper education for children.
Sadly, this situation has been prevalent for a long time and still seems to have no end in sight. The situation even gets worse because the number of students in inner-city public schools seems to be increasing. Still, the resources given to them are decreasing.
This is also just the tip of the iceberg of the situation. The problems that plague inner-city public schools are not limited to a handful of places but occur in the majority of them. We’ll go through the reasons inner-city public schools have problems, what makes them bad, and why they’re failing.
Whether or not you studied in one of these, you should still get a better picture of the whole situation to understand its seriousness.
What Is an Inner City School? Definition & More
Before we dig deeper on the subject, we should first define what an “inner-city school” is.
The dictionary definition of an “inner city” explains it as an older and central location within a more populated city than other areas. The downside of this is that it is also known to be a generally poor neighborhood because more people compete for limited resources, such as jobs. They’re also typically classified as more unsafe.
Informally, an ‘inner city’ is typically used to describe poor urban neighborhoods and homes to immigrants, especially blacks. Its geographical location is irrelevant. Popularized sometime in the 1960s, it focuses more on the demographics and general financial situation. That is why any poor neighborhood dominated by blacks is often casually referred to as an inner-city.
Inner-city schools are those found in such neighborhoods, which means it is primarily catering to students belonging to low-income families. And because they are in a densely populated area, they tend to have many more students than private or suburban options. People stereotype them as problematic, which is unfortunately quite true.
Why Are Inner City Schools Failing?
Given the condition of a typical inner-city, it is not surprising to see why the schools catering to them are failing. It’s due to all the bad conditions we’ll go through here. However, it is not just because of a single reason. There are multiple factors involved, and them being unresolved permanently until now aggravates the entire situation.
1. Lack of Funding & Resources
They greatly depend on government funding to function. Still, they are known to receive less funding than their suburban counterparts. In particular, the funds they receive mostly come from local property taxes. Because of this, increasing the funding will require increasing these taxes.
We all know that increasing taxes never sits well with anyone, much less those living in poverty. Even raising them to increase funds is not considered, a practice in schools found in more affluent communities.
And if in case a tax hike to fund them is approved, the people must pay huge taxes to get the amount needed for them to be at par with other places. With families already having financial difficulties, this adds a burden to them. This is why raising taxes in inner cities is rarely considered. As a result, they can only get available funds from the taxes collected. It’s often insufficient to meet their needs.
Unfortunately, the lack of resources at inner-city schools causes problems.
2. Required Standardized Testing
Due to the federal government’s requirement involving standardized testing, teachers are under pressure to ensure that students obtain high scores in those tests. This is because their performance in these tests is seen as a reflection of the quality of education they can offer. The tests were designed to only test if the students are capable of the basics involving literacy and mathematics.
One whose students performed poorly in those tests is put at risk. This casts doubts on their teachers’ abilities. That is why their funding may be affected, and a budget cut may be looming on the horizon. Or worse, the government may have an excuse to shut down the school. It’s sometimes completely. Poor quality of education becomes poorer, or students must transfer to another place. It adds more burden to them, especially financially.
3. Insufficient Number of Teachers
Inner-city schools are hardly an ideal teaching environment. That is why it does not attract a lot of teachers. The problem is the insufficient funds available to compensate them. Even if they can recruit these teachers, they cannot provide the salary they deserve. They are stuck with only the number of teachers they can afford to pay, which is insufficient given the number of students enrolled.
Teaching there is also known to be stressful. That is why not all who work there stay for long. As a result, teachers and administrative staff have a high turnover rate. It includes principals. Even those who volunteered to teach there do not stay once their contract is finished. Those who remain often complain of being overworked.
And in some cases, teachers even quit before the year ends. This affects the education of the students since they must deal with substitute teachers now and then and on short notice.
This lack of stability also affects the quality of education. It’s even if the substitutes follow the prescribed curriculum since different teachers have different teaching styles. As a result, students have difficulty keeping up with these varying styles. It affects how well they understand lessons.
4. Facilities Are in Poor Condition and Lacking
While not they can not all be considered rundown, it is understood that many of them are. They primarily cater to low-income or depressed areas and receive little funding simultaneously. It means everyone must do with what is available.
In a study made years back, it was discovered that most school facilities in the US already need repairs. A small percentage of them are even unfit to be used. it is not surprising that most of them are found in inner cities.
The study also revealed a direct relationship between poor and incomplete facilities, such as gyms and laboratories, and the performance of students and teachers. Those coming from such places are revealed to have poor performances compared to suburban environments in terms of academics and extracurricular.
Students’ performance is not the only aspect tied to the deteriorating conditions. It can also lead to students’ and teachers’ poor health since they are frequently exposed to poor air quality and mold. A lack of potable water and hygienic toilets is something that many of them are known for. This is one of the many reasons students frequently get sick and need time off there.
Suppose the building dates to earlier than the late 1970s. In that case, it is even a lot riskier due to the possibility of lead paint being present and in an already damaged state. While all these schools should ideally be checked for lead, their limited resources prevent them from doing so. Fortunately, cheap lead paint test kits can be used instead of going for the more expensive traditional lead inspection. Kits to test for lead paint in bulk should cover all surfaces in schools possibly having such paints.
Lead testing is a matter of urgency for any place catering to young children. They are known to place whatever they can get their hands on in their mouths. Toxic lead dust is invisible to the eye, so they may touch it unknowingly and ingest it. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that children are the most vulnerable to and frequent victims of lead poisoning.
5. Issues with Decision-Making
One of the major factors preventing inner-city public schools from making large-scale changes is officials’ decision-making. Because public funds are involved, various officials decide how to use those available funds. It often leads to clashing views.
This is why they are plagued with the negative effects of bureaucracies. Instead of easily making decisions that will hopefully benefit the entire organization, they often end up stuck with their current conditions. It’s because of opposition from various stakeholders. Different organizations also need to have a say in any school decision to complicate matters. It includes unions and politically affiliated groups. As a result, they remain stagnant.
6. Intergenerational Poverty
Poverty is rampant in inner cities, but what sets these neighborhoods apart is intergenerational. Despite attempts to improve the situation, the opposite happens – the poverty gap worsens.
Students attending there are the most affected. It is not unheard of that there are ones that show up hungry all day because there is no food available at home. Older kids tend to doze off in class because they have to work at night or take care of their siblings. These kinds of scenarios greatly affect the concentration and comprehension of anyone while in class.
There are so many other similar situations. What ties them together is that poverty often makes education, not a priority. Despite going to school in hopes of graduating, reality does not happen that way. It is even if it could be their ticket to better lives. The number of students who graduate in inner-city public schools is less than suburban ones, and poverty plays a big factor.
Unlike in affluent neighborhoods, race plays a big role in inner-city public schools. These communities have a diverse and multiracial population. It is common to have kids who have little grasp of English. They may have restrictions in food and even field trips they can join, among many others. This poses a problem for teachers. They are tasked to make their lessons applicable to all their students regardless of race but cannot do so due to various limitations, such as language.
Racism may also indirectly play a part in terms of the funding received. This is because it was discovered that they receive fewer funds compared to districts where the people are predominantly white.
8. Limiting Curriculum
Despite the ethnic diversity present in these schools, teachers must follow the curriculum set by the district and must not veer away from them. The curriculum is a one-size-fits-all type and does not fully meet the needs of everyone attending. Instead of teachers adjusting their lessons and style to meet students’ needs, this restriction limits them from doing what they can to help students understand their lessons better.
This makes learning a challenge, especially for students who have yet to master English. As a result, they lag in education compared to students of the same age but studying in private or suburban settings.
9. Problems Involving Peace and Order
Inner cities have high crime rates, and this extends to their schools. Ensuring that peace and order are present is a major problem for authorities. Some install scanners in the entrances to prevent students from smuggling any object they can use as weapons.
Violence is prevalent in inner cities, which is not limited to acts between students. Teachers also end up becoming victims of problem students. Disruptions are a regular occurrence, mainly fight between students. These disturbances greatly affect students’ concentration.
Students in inner cities are generally considered at-risk and vulnerable to negative influences. It includes drug use, gang membership, and criminal activity. Violence and other problematic behaviors even extend outside the schools, especially for students who are gang members.
Unfortunately, they have inadequate support available to address issues. Problematic students remain as such.
These are the major factors explaining why they perform poorly compared to their suburban and private counterparts. The good news is that there is still hope, as shown by different inner-city schools that have managed to turn things around despite the odds. The bad news? There is still a long way to go until all other public schools experience the same thing.
10. Urban Education Issues
The factors highlighted in the previous section affect the quality of urban education. Problems involving the schools themselves have a domino effect regarding the kind of education that the students from these schools get. That is why resolving these issues is a matter of urgency.
Among those issues that need to be immediately addressed are:
11. Ratio of Students to Teachers
It is a fact that there is a large discrepancy between inner-city schools and suburban or private ones when it comes to the ratio of students to each teacher. Teachers often handle as much as double the number of students compared to their suburban or private counterparts.
To be precise, a teacher in an inner-city school has an average of 35 to 45 students in each class. Suburban and private ones only have an average of 15 to 20. The ideal student-to-teacher ratio is 15:1. Suburban and private schools easily meet that number, averaging just 7:1. On the other hand, inner-city schools have a higher ratio.
Because a teacher handles many students, it is challenging to check on each student’s progress and address their needs. They cannot give them the attention they may need to help them catch up with the lessons and acquire skills typical at their grade level. That is why some of their students seem to fall behind compared to their peers, even if they belong to the same class.
The difference becomes even more pronounced when comparing standardized test results between these schools. It is no longer surprising to see students showing that their skills are way behind what is expected of them at their current grade level. Maybe an eighth-grader is discovered to have the knowledge that is only at par with those from the sixth grade. People are not surprised when they discover that the kid comes from an inner-city setting.
12. Availability of Resources
In an ideal world, public schools fully provide all the necessities for their students. But we all know that this is far from reality. There is a severe lack when it comes to the availability of resources needed to educate properly.
Students need supplies that will aid them in learning, so teachers purchase these necessities and pay for them themselves. They know that asking for help from the school to provide these is futile. Teachers should not bear the burden of providing these, but they do so anyway to help out.
They are known to cater to financially strapped students who can barely afford even basic supplies, like papers and pens. Students often only rely on what the school can provide for them. They do not have anything to use in class if they are incapable of giving them what they need for their studies. When this happens, the difficulties of the individual experience understanding the lessons. It results in poor performance.
And if there are resources available expect them to be limited or severely outdated. It includes things such as books. Because of this, students get obsolete information from them. If the number of books is not enough, students end up sharing them. It makes learning difficult for them because they tend to be distracted by each other. Adding to this problem is the policy of some schools prohibiting students from bringing home these books. That is why students can only learn and understand textbook information in school.
Anyone who is often exposed to poor conditions will experience health issues. And because this condition is prevalent in inner-city public schools, students frequently get sick and miss class. Sadly, chronic absenteeism is the norm. The cause of it is not only because of illness.
Poverty and unsuitable environments play huge roles in preventing students from school. If they suddenly become homeless or need to take care of other people, going to school is the last thing they will think about. And if they have very little money, they would rather spend it on their daily needs like food. It means bus fares to get to school and purchase their school necessities is often underprioritized.
The not-so-ideal environment of these places contributes to the problem of absenteeism. The problem involving peace and order can also be traumatizing for students and their parents. That is why they may opt to skip school until they feel safe to go back.
Missing a day’s worth of lessons can be manageable for students, but being absent for some time is bad. It is the norm in inner-city public schools, and it means missing out on many lessons and resulting in academic setbacks.
14. Quality of Teachers
You are probably aware that teachers have different skills – some are mediocre, while others can be considered great. But with limited funds available, the quality of teachers employed in inner-city public schools is affected.
Because teachers know that working there will likely involve a lot of financial sacrifices, they are hesitant to obtain any offers to teach there. Those who are incapable of doing so will typically choose to work in a private and suburban setting with higher pay and a better environment. Rarely will they sacrifice their pay to teach in inner cities.
Maybe you know the saying, “you get what you pay for.” You need to know that this also normally applies to recruiting teachers in inner cities. This is because the low pay often only attracts those who are only starting and are after the work experience.
You might recall in an earlier section that we mentioned a high turnover rate for teachers. Getting substitute teachers on an already regular basis is an effect of it. Unfortunately, not all substitute teachers are fully qualified to teach. Many do not even have teaching degrees. Schools authorities hire them to make up for the lack of teachers. These authorities even overlook their qualifications when they are desperately in need of teachers.
While there are still great teachers present in inner-city schools, they are fewer in number compared to those hardly qualified to teach. Students suffer because of this since teachers play a major role in the quality of education. This means that if they have a bad teacher, the quality of education they get leaves a lot to be desired.
These issues we presented are the most rampant. There are so many problems plaguing inner-city public schools, and any measures to solve them seem to have hardly made an impact. Adding to the complication of finding long-term solutions is a multifaceted problem. It means people must look at the bigger picture because any possible solution can come up. After all, it affects other aspects of society.
It can even be said that they are a microcosm of society. Society’s problems are also reflected in these institutions, like poverty and peace and order. And since society has yet to figure out how to solve these problems for good, it is not surprising that administrators struggle. Even the government has yet to find a permanent fix for them.
The silver lining to all this is that a few of these institutions are a living testament that it is still possible to improve the situation. If these schools can do it, it is also possible for others to follow suit. It doesn’t matter how long it takes.