Reaction Papers


Zalaznick (2016) does a good job in explaining that, it is impossiblefor students to perform well in class, when they are emotionally andmentally unprepared. The author explains that at-risk students facenumerous challenges that make it difficult for them to concentrate inclass or school. Hence, if schools want to promote high academicsuccess, they must begin by finding solutions to the problems oftheir students. I agree with Zalaznick’s argument, because as heillustrates, it is impossible to concentrate when students are“hungry, traumatized or feeling marginalized by a textbook’sinaccurate portrayal of their ethnic group” (Zalaznick, 2016). Itis obvious that a student facing such challenges will be unable tounderstand or focus on learning. Thus, just as the author argues, Iagree that underperforming district schools need to focus urgently onsuch issues. This involves finding ways to solve personal students’needs, which ensures they are prepared to learn. The approach hasproven to be successful in St. Louis area, where the performance ofJennings students has improved from 57% in 2012, to 81% in 2015. Whenstudents are emotionally and mentally stable, they have a higherlikelihood of concentrating in school, which resonates to improvedgrades.

According to Zalaznick (2016) operating social services such as foodpantries and homeless shelters is an effective way of boosting theacademic outcomes of at-risk students. The author continues to arguethat many students from struggling urban districts may not have homesor food to eat. Such students without a doubt underperform in school,because they already have many problems are incapable ofconcentrating in class. The author uses the illustration of JenningsSchool District, where the students are given free lunch, or it issold at a reduced price, and has a homeless shelter for homelessstudents. The school has seen a remarkable improvement inperformance. This is because the services eliminate the barriers,which may hold back students. I agree with Zalaznick’s argument.Schools should not merely focus on teaching content. Rather, theyshould strive to ensure that their students have good livingconditions and are able to access basic needs. This has proven to bean effective way of not only improving the welfare of students, butin ensuring that the students’ performance improves.

In most cases, the curriculum of struggling urban district schoolsis lowered with the objective of making the content easier and inturn leads to higher performance (Zalaznick, 2016). It is presumedthat by promoting low-level learning, via drill and practice,students are able to perform better. I think that such a systempresumes that students from struggling districts and incapable ofperforming due to curriculums being high level. Zalaznick (2016) doesa good job in explaining that, there are better ways to achieve highacademic performance in district schools. These include, “mentaland physical exercises to help students focus on instruction designedto be more relevant to future career aspirations teachers, ratherthan handling out failing grades, work harder to re-teach lessonsuntil a student grasps the concepts” (Zalaznick, 2016). I agreethat these are effective approaches, which ensure that needy studentsare not introduced to low-level curriculums. Instead schools throughtheir teachers work together to device ways of enhancing studentunderstanding of the content taught. Hence, students from strugglingdistrict schools study using the same curriculum for non-strugglingschools.


Zalaznick, M. (2016). At-risk school success stories. DistrictAdministration. Retrieved from: