One of the most important aspects of the book is a theme that I call the Dichotomy of Cause. Paslay references this numerous times, especially when he emphasizes the debate on the reasons why children fail.
On the one hand there are people who acknowledge issues of poverty and racism and truly believe that the school and teacher are the entities responsible for fixing everything. This side of the issue supports free and reduced-price meals for students, social supports for families and children, and often acquiesces to the demands of parents because "it isn't their fault."
On the other hand there are people who see the same situation and believe that the child needs to take some responsibility for his or her own actions; if a teacher has called home numerous times, pulled the student aside for conversations, differentiated assignments and instruction, and that child still fails, then it is not the school's fault.
In general, this debate is summarized as such: does a school affect the community or does the community affect the school?
I am not totally certain where I lie on this spectrum. I do think there are myriad problems affecting children in poverty that need to be dealt with in order for them to even take school seriously; if my students do not live in a stable enough home to have supplies every day, what are they going to get from my class? But, at the same time, if I can influence them in a particular way, perhaps they can begin to advocate for themselves and figure out how to get resources for themselves.
If out-of-school factors are playing a larger role in student achievement, then we may need to change our policy to match.