Sent to the Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2011
Re: (“Backsliding on school reform, “ November 5).
The Times faults the Harkens-Enzi proposal for a new education law because it lacks national standards. Without national standards, the Times insists, schools will have “no incentive to improve.”
In reality, American teachers have been successful without national standards: Middle-class American students attending well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests. Our overall scores are mediocre because the US has a very high level of child poverty, with 22% of children living in poverty, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5%. High poverty means inferior health care, inadequate diet, and little access to books, all of which have devastating effects of school performance. Our problem is poverty, not a lack of standards.
Rather than spend on standards and tests, let’s invest in protecting our children from the effects of poverty. This would raise test scores, and, more important, it is the right thing to do.
University of Southern California
Data on child poverty: NY Times, Oct. 29: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/10/29/opinion/29blow-ch.html?ref=opinion