"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Presidential Candidates' Question # 1: Poverty and Performance

Now that it is clear that the campaign moves on, I have a few questions that might spice up the remaining debates beyond the dead boilerplate and the he said, did not, repartee.

Thank you for taking my question. And this question is for all candidates:

Our poorest children in the public schools face insurmountable challenges that threaten their future, as well as the future of their schools. It is an indisputable fact, for instance, that family income is positively correlated with student achievement, with state and district level test scores showing the correlation without exception, as do SAT and ACT scores: the lower the family income, the lower the test scores, and the higher the family income, the higher the test scores.

At a time when public school households across the nation are, indeed, getting poorer, NCLB demands test scores go higher and higher. While experts agree, without exception, agree that these demands can't be met, and that most public schools will fail by 2014, and while most urban and poor rural schools are being turned into abusive test prep chain gangs, politicians refuse to confront the truth for fear of being accused of the "bigotry of low expectations."

My question is this (and thank you for your patience): Do you see poverty as the problem that has to be addressed in order to raise student achievement? And if you do see poverty as a problem related to the achievement gaps, what will you do to reduce poverty in urban and rural neighborhoods and to help raise family incomes, which would constitute the grandest kind of education reform--one that does more good than harm?

Respectfully submitted,
Jim Horn

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