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Apodaca: The needy need a real gift – education

December 20, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

Every Christmas I take time to remember my parents. They came from vastly different backgrounds: Dad had a hardscrabble upbringing in the dusty Southwest, while Mom was a frail, bookish New York City girl.

Yet these opposites forged a partnership that lasted more than 40 years. Despite their differences they were kindred spirits when it came to the essential stuff. And what mattered to them, perhaps more than anything, was education.

My parents fervently believed in the power of a good education and they suffused my early years with that commitment. What I chose to do with my life was entirely up to me, but they were intent on giving me the foundation I'd need to have abundant opportunities. It is the greatest gift they ever gave me, and one that, hopefully, I've passed on to my own children.

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But each Christmas I am also reminded that many families aren't so fortunate. Many of us give to the needy this time of year. We donate toys and sweaters, gift cards and food. Yet how do we give the gift of greatest value, the gift that lasts a lifetime and is the surest way to raise anyone's standard of living?

How do we ensure that every kid gets a good education?

There are so many pressing issues in education today. We are faced with ongoing budgeting worries, even as the economy improves, and for the first time in many years, more funding is available to schools. We struggle to meld technology with education, to adequately support teachers and then hold them accountableand to fairly gauge student progress.

But the biggest enemy of quality education, the most fundamental, overarching problem is poverty.

Poverty is the No. 1 reason we see vast disparities in educational outcomes. It is the difference between one school appearing successful and another being considered broken. It is the dividing line between high achievers and those who struggle for merely a passing grade. It is the most reliable determinant of educational failure.

This month, alarms were raised once again when the results of standardized international tests were released and the average scores of U.S. students were unimpressive compared to other industrialized countries. The reaction to the news ranged from the hysterical to reasoned, detailed analysis.

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