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

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reduce poverty to raise math, science achievement

Reduce poverty in order to improve science and math achievement
Sent to the Washington Post, January 6, 2010
The recent push for more emphasis on science, technology and math education is based on American children's performance on international tests in math and science ("$250 million initiative for science, math teachers planned," Jan. 6). But studies have shown that American children in low-poverty schools outscore nearly all other countries on these tests.
U.S. children only fall below the international average when 75 percent or more of the students in a school live in poverty. Studies also confirm that hunger, poor diet, and a lack of reading material seriously affect academic performance. We have so many children who live in poverty that it profoundly affects the average test score: The United States has the highest level of childhood poverty of industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's, 2%).
Stephen Krashen
The problem is poverty, not a lack of high-powered science and math instruction.


  1. Jennifer Pak11:27 PM

    “The problem is poverty, not a lack of high-powered science and math instruction.”

    I respectfully disagree with this statement. Poverty is part of the child’s background outside of school. Saying that the problem is poverty and has nothing to do with instruction almost sounds like the education is powerless, moreover, doing nothing to help under-privilege students. Also, blaming it on the household of students prevents our education system from coming up with solutions.

    I do understand that the statistic that you provided could easily be interpreted to your conclusion. However, we must not ignore the chain effects that schools with high poverty rates have. Most likely, high poverty rate schools have less funding, which results in less teaching materials in the school. Also, many teachers avoid these schools, which may result in less credited teachers (Please excuse my ignorance to the teachers who are passionate in what they do.) This may result in lack of motivations for the students.

    I believe that the problem is not the poverty itself but the government’s lack of support in high poverty rate schools.

  2. In response to the previous comment denying that poverty is the problem, I respectively disagree. You're correct that a lack of support to high poverty schools is also a problem. However, schools by themselves can't compensate for the effects of poverty. The danger of initiatives that focus on math and science teachers (such as the one mentioned in the blog) is that it doesn't focus on the root of the problem and potentially takes money away from initiatives that do.

  3. (This is Jennifer Pak)

    Changa, I am not saying poverty is not the issue at all. However, I do feel that it doesn't help and also very dangerous to blame a situation that can not be changed. Instead, I was trying the shift the focus on what we can do to solve the low grades on high poverty rate schools; which was to support them more.