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

Monday, October 03, 2011

Should educators just focus on teaching?

This is the third of three posts written in response to a post on the NCTE connected community listserv in reaction to Krashen and Ohanian, "Arne Duncan's position on education and poverty." I will not post the original comment and will refer to it only minimally, because, although I have given my permission to quote and share my posts, others posting on the NCTE listserv have not.

Should educators just focus on teaching?

Educators include those who are with children everyday, as well as researchers who have investigated the factors leading to school success. These are the ones who understand what children need, not distant politicians who have not spent months alone in a room with children, or who have not bothered to read what experienced teachers and educational researchers have written. Educators need to speak out.

I am not suggesting that schools do everything for children. I am not suggesting that it is up to the schools to end poverty. I am suggesting that there are some simple things we can support to protect children from some of the effects of poverty, simple things that are well-supported by research and agree with the conclusions of many, many teachers.

For example, we can urge:

(1) continuing to improve school breakfast and lunch programs

(2) increasing the number of school nurses in high poverty schools

(3) improving libraries and supporting school librarians, especially in high-poverty schools

Improvements in these areas will not only improve students' lives in general, but also make it far more likely that students will be able to learn.

There is zero evidence that the common core standards will help provide a better education for anybody, yet we are cheerfully willing to go along with spending billions on standards and tests that have no track-record of success, are promoted by those with no real expertise in education, and that are opposed by many master educators. Meanwhile, we are unwilling to support spending even a fraction of the money budgeted for standards and tests on some modest steps that will make our lives and our students' lives much better, and much easier.

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