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Unconditional EducationSupporting Schools to Serve All Students$
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Robin Detterman, Jenny Ventura, Lihi Rosenthal, and Ken Berrick

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190886516

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190886516.001.0001

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Schools as Relational Networks

Schools as Relational Networks

(p.34) 3 Schools as Relational Networks
Unconditional Education

Robin Detterman

Jenny Ventura

Lihi Rosenthal

Ken Berrick

Oxford University Press

Changing the economic and structural systems of schooling, as explored in the previous chapter, is essential. But systems change, in and of itself, is insufficient for true transformation (Elmore, 2007). Our schools are more than structural systems. They are communities–networks of human relationships that inform the trajectory of students’ future lives while defining their current experiences. As discussed in Chapter 2, under-resourced, siloed systems create a fractured framework troubled with economic inefficiencies. These same conditions simultaneously promote a splintered relational network. In other words, schools with the greatest opportunity gaps face multiple layers of resource-related stressors that shape not only their physical and systematic design but also the psyches of entire school communities. Parents come to expect that schools lack either the willingness or the ability to help their children and engage with schools in a manner consistent with this underlying belief. Students make sense of the system by figuring out what others expect from “students like them” and acting out their assigned role accordingly. Staff squabble over the few resources that do exist and blame each other for the gaps in support and services available. To mitigate the effects of resource-related stressors we must cultivate school communities of safety, acceptance, and belonging. In this chapter, we ask: How can specific intentional approaches to relationship remediate past experiences of exclusion? Childhood poverty is widespread in the United States and income inequality has become increasingly pronounced in recent years. According to a report published by the National Center for Children in Poverty, nearly half of our nation’s children (30.6 million) live in families classified as “low income,” many without consistent means to meet their most basic needs (Jiang, Ekono, & Skinner, 2016). Nowhere is America’s class divide more evident than in our nation’s schools. Low socioeconomic status has time and again been linked to reduced educational outcomes. Ultimately, students from low-income families nationwide are less likely to graduate on time than their peers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015).

Keywords:   burnout, capacity building, educational trajectory, financial security, implicit bias, professional development, relational trust

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