November 27, 2010
Letter in the NY Times
Raising Performance in Our Schools
Response to Friedman, Teaching for America, Nov. 21: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/opinion/21friedman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
• To the Editor:
Thomas L. Friedman notes that in countries like Denmark and Finland that outperform the United States in education, teachers graduate in the top one-third of their classes.
But there is another explanation for why the United States lags behind: poverty. The percentage of children living in poverty in Denmark and Finland is under 3 percent. In the United States the percentage is 21.
Poverty means poor nutrition, substandard health care, environmental toxins and little access to books, all of which have a strong negative effect on school success.
Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly all other countries. But our overall scores are unspectacular because we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty.
Increasing pressure on teachers and parents will not significantly improve achievement, but if we can protect children from the effects of poverty, American tests scores will be at the top of the world.
Los Angeles, Nov. 22, 2010
The writer is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.