My comment on "Duncan Outlines 'Equity' Agenda," Ed Week blog by Mark Walsh (School Law).
The Duncan formula is this: Improve education with rigorous standards and testing, and this will take care of poverty.
But high levels of poverty make educational achievement impossible: The impact of hunger, toxic environments, lack of health care and lack of reading material on school achievement is devastating.
When studies control for poverty, American children do very well on international tests, indicating that there is nothing seriously wrong with our educational system. Our scores are low only because we have so many children living in poverty, and the highest of all industrialized countries (22.5%, compared to Sweden's 2.5%).
Improving education is not the path to eliminating poverty. Eliminating poverty is the path to better school achievement. All the money going to new standards, new tests, and of course new textbooks, should be spent on protecting children from the effects of poverty: Proper nutrition (no child left unfed), health care, and access to books.
Original blog item:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today said his department would push for policies promoting equity in the schools for poor and minority students, in particular announcing plans for an Equity and Excellence Commission to promote fiscal equity among schools.
"In so many ways, our reform agenda is all about equity," Duncan said in an address to a conference marking the 100th anniversary of the National Urban League, according to an Education Department release. "Competition isn't about winners and losers. It's about getting better."
The 15-member equity commission, authorized by Congress in the fiscal year 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act, will obtain broad public input about inequities in K-12 education and examine how those inequities contribute to the achievement gap. The panel will submit recommendations to Duncan, the department said.
Next week, the department will publish a notice in the Federal Register asking for nominations for the panel.
Earlier this week, several civil rights groups, including the Urban League and the NAACP, called on Duncan to dismantle core pieces of his agenda. As Education Week's Politics K-12 blog reported, the groups canceled or postponed a press event, possibly in light of the fact that Duncan was speaking to the Urban League conference on Wednesday and President Obama is to address it on Thursday.