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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scientific American takes an unscientific approach to science education

Science Education: The Problem is Poverty, not Lack of High Standards

Sent to Scientific American, July 31, 2012

Scientific American thinks that high science standards are the reason some states do better than others on science tests (Can the US get an ‘A’ in Science? August 2012). There is no evidence this is so. The two top states, in science, as mentioned by Scientific American, are Massachusetts and Minnesota. They also rank near the bottom of the country in percentage of children living in poverty.

Study after study has shown that children who come from high-poverty families do poorly on standardized tests, and the factors related to poverty, insufficient food quality and quantity, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, have been shown to be strongly related to student achievement.

American children from middle class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on standardized tests, including math and science. Our mediocre overall scores are because of our unacceptably high level of poverty: 23% of our children live in poverty, which ranks us 34th out of 35 economically advanced countries.

The problem is poverty, not lack of high standards.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Notes and sources:

Massachusetts has only 14% child poverty, Minnesota, 15%.

Child poverty in the US, individual states: National Kids Count Program: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?ind=43

Children from high poverty families:

Berliner, D.C. (2006). Our impoverished view of educational reform. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 949–995.

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics
achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.

Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1)? 26-36.

American children from well-funded schools: Berliner, op cit.

23% in poverty: UNICEF. Innocenti Report Card 10


  1. Tell it on every mountain top Steven. Poverty matters America, and any American leader who can't understand that is failing the American people.

  2. It's true actually.