247 PICS

CHALK; the eyes of a failing public educational system in the US

EQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY ACT states that "No State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin." We are failing and this is a story that must be told.

CHALK; the eyes of a failing educational system in the US

This is an actual excerpt from my experience teaching in an inner-city school in Richmond, Va.

“Okay boys and girls,” I said slowly, scanning the rug for all eyes on me. “Today, we are going to read a new book called 10 Dogs in a Window. Let’s look at the cover and describe what we see.”
I smiled gently and pointed to the illustration on the big book. No matter what we were reading or how tired and grumpy they were, my class always loved reading all together. I lifted my brows and invited the children to reach their hands way up high and share with the class.
“I see dogs!,” James squealed excitedly.
“That’s right! How many dogs?”
Together the class began to count slowly, almost in unison, “One, twooooo, tree. . . f fo four, five, sicts, sevens, eewight, nine, TEN!”
“That was Great!” No matter how benign it seemed, I always made an effort to make everything fun and exciting. “So what do you think this story is about?”
I could see Edward squirming, “Ummmm ,it, it, it, it, it’s about dogs!”
“That’s right Edward. It is about dogs. Where do you think the dogs are?” I said intentionally pointing to the trim around the window in the drawing.
“In the wall,” cried Shantell with one hand raised and a finger from the other hand up her nose.
“Ummm, well. That was a good guess, but it looks like they are behind glass maybe. So let’s try again.
“I, ah, I think. Yes, em, I think that they, they, they are in a window,” Romello said scratching the scab on his cheek.
I bugged my eyes out as if to express amazement. “That’s right everyone. Romello, great job looking at the picture. Edward, “ I said taking his hand and putting it back in his lap, “we do not touch other boys and girls, we keep our hands to ourselves.”

“Okay boys and girls, now we are going to get out our special detective thinking caps on,” I said pinching my imaginary hat. “Where do you think you might see 10 dogs sitting in a window?”
There was nothing but silence. I looked at the children, eager for a response. A few of them sat there lost, a couple dreaming of lunchtime and recess and a couple also pinching their imaginary hats. I even saw Darius using his imaginary magnifying glass to make the dogs bigger on the cover. All of a sudden a light bulb hovered over James’ cornrows and illuminated the classroom.
“I know,” cried the first grader. “In a pawn shop!”

There were many times while teaching in the inner city where our vast cultural differences were painfully obvious. Although on the surface it’s a rather funny response, I also acknowledge the disturbing reality of a 6 year old’s , “In a pawn shop,” response to a place you might see things behind a window, Obviously it came from an experience they had with an adult, accompanying them to a pawn shop to sell something to put food on the table, clothes on their backs or even a roof over their heads.
I acknowledge the imbalance, socio-economically speaking, not only in the US but in communities around the globe. However, in our country the deplorable difference between public school systems is inexcusable. There is a painful difference in education between schools in lower income neighborhoods vs. more affluent communities and we all just seem to accept this or even worse fail to recognize this problem.
The Equal Opportunity Education Act states that ALL children living in the United States have the right to an equal education. The way that it was written includes ALL children, regardless of their nationality or citizenship, residential locality or family’s financial worth. It includes those whose parents are happily married and making over a million a year as well as those whose single Mom has resolved to prostituting in their 1 bedroom home with the children asleep in the living-room. It includes children who come from middleclass America whose parents have lived in the same town all their lives as well as children from impoverished Tijuana whose parents sacrificed their lives to cross the border.
So, is public education equal? Although I have a clear agenda, the purpose of my project is to make other’s aware of just how unequal our educational systems are. Schools that test well are normally rural schools in higher income areas. These schools are publicly praised and receive more funding from the government as a result of the higher test scores. Schools that test poorly are generally in urban schools in the lower income areas. These schools are publicly demeaned and receive less funding from the government as a result of their lower test scores. Wouldn’t you think that schools where there is less parental involvement, higher percentages of children on welfare and a significant number of children living in the system, need the extra funding? Isn’t this where the best social workers, tutors and teachers need to be allocated. Shouldn’t the government look at the schools with low test scores and question why? It seems as though the government has no intentions of going into these school systems and investigating what can be done to assist these children, guide these schools and begin to create balance. They are merely penalized and punished, humiliated and shamed. It causes nothing but discouragement throughout these communities and added pressures on the staff and students.
I believe that if all schools were given the same amount of funding across the board, the same technology and resources we would see a major change in our students, the staff and the communities in which these schools are built around. It is my belief that if all schools were completely equal in regards to infrastructure, resources and teacher credibility there would not be a need for families to move from one county to another when seeking a better education for their children. To take it one step further, it is possible that this could affect the socio-economic divides between those living in a community.
Working as a teacher in Richmond, VA opened my eyes to just how poorly the “poor” are treated. The purpose of this project is to visually expose the significant differences between public school systems by gaining support and permission from the individual schools to photograph the facilities, staff and children in several schools in all types of socio-economic communities. I will spend time in both elementary, middle and high schools across the United States from the east coast to the west coast and several states in-between. Accompanied by a documentary videographer I want to interview staff and students, parents and community advocates. I want to put cameras in the hands of several students as well to get a true sense of what they see, of how they feel. I understand that this project is a big undertaking however I think that it is relevant, necessary. This is a story that needs to be told and I am fully committed to telling it.

Rank: 68



What a wonderful, educational story. I read it twice. You have such a detailed dream - few put this much work into his/her dream - I didn't write anywhere near what you did. Good for you! Here is a vote to get you going.


Great story, and I can relate very well. Thanks for sharing. Voted for you. Feel free to vote back if you like my idea. Also related to education.


Knowing how passionate you are about this subject of education, I wish you the best of luck with this endeavor. Whether you win this prize or not, your desire to make this situation known will provide the guidance and determination to see it to fruition. Best of luck!


I am so proud of all you do, which in return makes me proud to be your friend. Good luck! I know you will do well!!!


Such a great story and you are a great writer also. This shares some similarities with my idea. Let me know what you think of my project.


Hi Kristen! I think your story needs to be told, and I'll do whatever I can to help. Thanks for being a great citizen and advocate!
love, Sara


i remember my first pawn shop dog...oh the memories


Really wonderful initial essay! Voted.

Check out my project on innovation and technology as change for the developing world and my portfolio here: http://maclellanimages.com/blog1/galleries/


The educational system is really in a terrible state. I'm voting for you. Feel free to return the favor and vote for my project to document political upheaval, land seizures and rights abuses in Zimbabwe.


Good luck with this incredible project Kirsten!


A unique vision. If you would, please vote for mine too. Maybe one of us may win! Good luck. and vote for yourself!


You have my vote, If you get the chance, check out my dream "From Australia With Love" and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE vote for it!




Kirsten, I think you have a wonderful vision for this project. Watching movies such as "Lean on Me" and "Coach Carter" (which actually took place in Richmond, VA as well) really opened my eyes to this issue. I know with your talent and drive you will do the same thing. You got my vote, good luck!


Great idea Kirsten. Heres my vote!


all verified now.


When the news at night is bleak, I give thanks that there are the likes of you out their following their passion and striving to make a difference. Good luck and Godspeed, Kirsten.


You got my vote


Amazing story.... and an amazing person to tell it.


Thanks Kirsten, two of my best friends teach in inner city schools, one down in pittsburgh, and the other in youngstown ohio, good luck.


I hope this counts as a vote, I am not sure I have done any of this right.


vote cast


With two children of my own, I'm for anything that may help our educational system. Good Luck to you Kirsten.



As a teacher in Richmond, I see this story everyday!! What a wonderful project. Good Luck!


this is a wonderful idea, and definitely needs to be told. am returning the favor- here's my vote for you!


Alright sister!!!! Love it! Tell the world how it really is... please. Good luck Kirkie!


Nice cause! Good luck from Mexico!


Well said, relevant, and brilliant. You'll reveal so clearly how bare opportunity becomes when a child wrestles with awful stresses. You'll sound an alarm and the emotion evoked in your audience will give rise to the recognition of a moral obligation to make changes and properly allocate resources.


So you picked mine and I picked yours. I feel that I didn't think of a good enough idea after reading your page. Funny part was, I told myself I'd read the first paragraph and then go to bed. I read it all. I hope your votes go up fast. This would be an amazing project and I'd like to helpinsomeway.


Your ambition to improve lives around you never ceases to amaze me. I just voted. Good luck.


Every child born unto this world deserves the best that we can give them! I give you my vote!


I completely support your project, and dreaming big. It's the only way. Stay focused on your passion and persistence and the resources will become available. Dedication is contagious. You've got my vote!


Good Luck Kirsten


Vote Casted! Good Luck!


GUUUUUUURL! I am pulling for you. .I have forwarded this to three of my counties faculties. . .I am hoping!!


Good luck Kirsten!


good luck. you have my vote.


I support you all the way.


Good luck Kirsten, you have my vote.


Good luck, i hope that you win! A hug from Italy


Love your ideas! Good luck! - betsy


Worlds of good wishes from Poland!


Good luck ! HOW AWSOME ! -Nora


Good idea, check out mine and vote for me if you like it. Its about poverty and society in 3rd world countries and how they are controlled, devastated by their governments and western industrialized nations.


Jenny here...a friend of Lauren Slusher. I wish you much luck with your project! The children you taught were lucky to have you! Write to Obama as well...couldn't hurt!

Good luck with the contest...you got my vote!



as an inner city teacher myself, i get it! way to go Kirsten!


Great Project ! I wish you luck


Amazing work! Thank you for your time and inspiration. I will take this with me through my days. No matter what happens here with this contest you have a real vision and you are going places with it. Thanks for sharing.


This story needs to be told and brought to life. It adresses the root cause of many of the world's problems today: unequal opportunities in education.



Great project idea. Thanks for your vote on mine, to support hte Heifer Project. Let's both be finalists!


Thank you for your vote. What do you say of gathering together a network after voting? I'd like to keep in touch and be of any assistance of future projects down the road. You can find me at


Thank you everyone, for all of your support. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I stand a chance of being reviewed by the judges but I promise you I will complete this project. Much love,kirsten


I voted! I hope you accomplish this no matter if you win or not! This is something that NEEDS to be photographed - I would love to see it when its completed! And btw...thanks for your vote for me. :D
- Sarah

Submitted by

Please install Flash to see the mini-map.