It is often difficult to concentrate under stressful situations. The death of a loved one or friend or a life-threatening crisis could very well distract from progress at work or school. The same goes for children living in poverty. Many children in the U.S. today reside in dangerous neighborhoods plagued by gang violence, poverty, and lack of quality schooling, especially in Chicago, Illinois. With the current system in Chicago, hope for these children is nigh nonexistent.
Public schools are federally mandated to evaluate student competency levels in math, reading, and science through state exams. However, students in Illinois have not received an evaluation in science since the 2013-2014 school year, as reported by the Chicago Tribune Newspaper. The state science exam was not given to students in 2015 because the test was undergoing updates, but students who took the exam in 2016 and 2017 have not yet received their scores due to issues with the state budget.
The Illinois school system is currently billions of dollars in debt, according to the Crain’s Chicago Business Newspaper. The state’s inability to fund grading the required state science exam has disabled teachers from evaluating the effectiveness of the test and comprehension level of students. The budgetary issues have also led to significant decreases in spending for classroom supplies and textbooks and substantial cuts to teachers’ salaries. The failed progressive policies in Chicago have dangerously underfunded the city’s poorest schools.
State exams are important, as they evaluate student comprehension levels. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, only 5% of teens meet state standards in science, reading, and math in Chicago’s lowest-performing high schools. In other words, a whopping 95% percent of these students were unable to determine the plots of short stories or perform beyond basic math. Chicago public schools are inadequately preparing children for the future. As found by Chicago Tribune, black males in the Chicago public school system have only a 56% graduation rate. That means that less than six out of every ten black male teens in Chicago graduates high school. High crime, low-income neighborhoods are the locations for most under-performing high schools. Without a high school diploma or GED, Chicago’s teens are at an increased likelihood to live in poverty for the rest of their lives.
What is the reason for Chicago’s kids failing or dropping out of school? Aside from the underfunded classrooms with outdated textbooks and unhappy, underpaid teachers, Chicago is infamous for its high rates of poverty and crime, which likely have detrimental effects on the learning capabilities of children. Children living in impoverished, high-crime neighborhoods may experience chronic extreme stress. According to the KIDS COUNT Data Book, which examines trends in child well-being, over one in three children in Chicago live in poverty. Moreover, two hundred sixty-one murders have occurred in Chicago so far this year, according to DNAinfo Chicago. Last year, Chicago experienced a 58% homicide increase with seven hundred sixty-four deaths, as found by Leesa K. Donner from Liberty Nation.
Constant exposure to extreme stress may result in long-term alterations in brain regions responsible for learning, memory, problem-solving, and impulse control, according to PBS. As noted in a previous article by LN, extreme stress impacts the brain by raising cortisol levels, which may damage areas of the brain’s frontal cortex responsible for regulating emotions and memories, such as the amygdala and hippocampus. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley say that damage to these areas of the brain may be the reason those growing up in violent, impoverished neighborhoods are prone to developing drug addictions, learning disabilities, and mental disorders, such as PTSD and Antisocial Personality Disorders. Not only does chronic extreme stress lead to learning difficulties and mental illness, but also links to criminal behaviors. LN notes that twenty percent of inmates suffer from serious mental conditions, such as antisocial personality disorder.
Malnutrition is another frequent issue faced by those in poverty. As explained by the World Health Organization, undernourishment may lead to long-term cognitive deficits, including learning disorders, depression, aggression, lower school performance, and delayed mental development. Without question, all Americans agree that no child should go to bed hungry.
Chicago’s kids are in desperate need of help. With drive-by shootings and homicides as daily occurrences in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, children are often unable to focus on their studies, and understandably so. As examined by LN’s Jeff Charles, the backward politics by Chicago’s progressive politicians have decreased the safety of children living in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods and underfunded its schools. Politicians must be held accountable for protecting children and creating a safe environment in which they can flourish.