Inequality certainly has an impact on the life chances and school success of K-12 students in American public education. There is however a difference between correlations of this inequality and real solutions to help students meeting their full potential. The key educational issue raised in Constantino’s article were that children required well-stocked, well-staffed libraries to succeed, and some children were discriminated against as they did not have the benefit of such libraries due to lack of funding.
In her article “Student’s Need Better Libraries, not iPads”, Constantino voices her concern about the educational civil rights of the district’s students who lack the benefit of well-stocked, well-staffed schools. She cites a 2011 federal civil rights investigation which found that thousands of LAUSD students were being denied equal educational opportunities as well as an LAUSD memo that attests to “the correlation between student achievement and well-staffed and well-stocked school libraries documented in many longitudinal studies”. She notes that significant funding hasn’t been provided for school libraries since 1997, and that the best school libraries are actually the result of parent fund raising. Constantino also extolls the virtues of a low staff to student ratio. She states that while the iPad for ever student issue has gotten attention, it is in fact libraries that research proves the benefits of school libraries.
The issue described in the article mentioned the correlation of well stocked libraries with academic success, however it is important to note that such a relationship was likely not causal. Rather, well stocked libraries were correlated with other benefits of socioeconomic status that were positively correlated to school achievement, and school libraries might have little or nothing to do with academic achievement beyond expressing the funding levels of those with socioeconomic backgrounds positively correlated to academic success. One clue is that the funding levels are relatively similar, but that the well-stocked and well-staffed libraries are a result of parental support and fundraising.
Constantino was wrong to draw the conclusion that builder better staffed and stocked libraries would increase academic success, although she was right that they are a symptom of inequality. While the author feels very passionately about the issue, there is no research showing a causal relationship between these libraries and academic success. Rather, the gap in achievement represents the inequality of socioeconomic background. Since socioeconomic background is correlated to educational success, the same factor, socioeconomic background, may be the causal factor. There is, however, some evidence that a high staff to student ratio assists minority post-secondary students with persistence and possibly mitigates drop out rate (Emmons 2011). The most important aspect is that Constantino makes her arguments outside of any knowledge of what the target communities without libraries think of this solution. Conditions of inequality cannot be changed by outsiders.
Well-meaning people have often advocated for the vulnerable, however without accurate research analysis and consultation to better understand the position, thoughts and issues from the perspective of the target of the benefit it may harm not help, and further delay the real changes that need to occur. While Constantino’s argument may be true, it is not evident from her argument, and while impassioned by her cause, children experiencing inequality and the negative outcomes from it do not need ineffective solutions that will not help them. Further research is needed to show that libraries, and not socioeconomic status, is the cause.