Lincoln Addresses Barriers to Quality Education


Oakland, CA – Lincoln Child Center leaders highlight the negative impact disproportionate discipline, trauma, and truancy have on low-income students and communities of color. 

The barriers to a quality education that are often tied to trauma, poverty, and race can be dismantled for families living in the Bay Area and throughout the country, according to Christine Stoner-Mertz, President & CEO, Lincoln Child Center, one of the featured speakers at the Commonwealth Club’s April 14 meeting. Joining her to discuss new and innovative approaches for dismantling those barriers will be Macheo Payne, EdD, Lincoln’s Senior Director of Equity and Educational Initiatives. The Commonwealth Club, located at 555 Post Street in San Francisco, begins the evening with a networking reception at 4:45 p.m. followed by the Lincoln presentation at 5:15 p.m. To reserve tickets for the event, visit

The Lincoln presentation – “Where Trauma, Poverty, and Education Intersect” – looks at how early investments and interventions at the community level can help dismantle education barriers. The presentation also addresses long-standing issues impacting education and offers new insights which can improve attendance, restore students' mental health, and create school communities that thrive. Also highlighted will be Lincoln's social impact model for reducing chronic absenteeism and their partnerships with school districts, parents and funders to achieve healthy school environments.

“One of our primary school engagement goals is to make sure that students attend school,” said Stoner-Mertz. “For many students, that’s not as easy as it sounds when their families have to constantly think about taking care of basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Unfortunately, education often becomes a secondary consideration.

“Truancy not only impacts the student’s ability to learn, it also represents $1 billion in lost revenues for California schools since funding is tied to school attendance,” she added.  “We also know that the truancy crisis has a disproportionate impact on low-income students and communities of color that need the state’s education revenues the most.”

Stoner-Mertz added that Lincoln’s model for effective and innovative truancy prevention programs involves engaging the entire family, friends, teachers, and the whole community so that students are attracted to schools. Lincoln’s ability to collaborate and to form partnerships with those entities is one of the main reasons their school engagement model has been successful with 70 percent of their clients demonstrating improvements in school attendance.

According to Payne, keeping students in school once they get there is another challenge. “There are a disproportionate number of African-American male students from middle school through high school who are disciplined more than other students, and receive more out-of-school suspensions. Because of the racial bias that many teachers bring with them to the classroom, black boys get suspended more often than other students for minor infractions such as tardiness, a dress code violation, or “acting out” rather than for serious or criminal behavior,” Payne added. When you couple that with the zero tolerance policies many schools have, it gives teachers and administrators the opportunity to apply excessive punishment, which often relate to racial bias.”

Payne added that teachers who have what he calls a “courageous commitment “to teaching and are willing to change their teaching methods so they become  student-focused, are more effective in the classroom. He added that successful teachers also understand their personal biases and emotions and learn how to manage them, especially in the classroom, and also appreciate the need to approach their students with a multi-cultural mindset which takes into consideration the cultural differences students have.

“We can dismantle the barriers that get in the way of a quality education by focusing on the students capacity to learn and not on their ethnicity, and avoiding being sidetracked by discipline issues,” he added.

About Lincoln Child Center
Lincoln Child Center promotes the resiliency and success of children, youth and families impacted by trauma, poverty and other challenging socioeconomic circumstances. Founded in 1883 as the first integrated orphanage in Northern California, Lincoln now serves approximately 4,000 children and youth through school, home, and community-based services. In 2014, the organization moved its main office to West Oakland to be closer to families needing its services. Lincoln also has offices in Pittsburg and Hayward.

Click here to learn more about Lincoln's programs and services.