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

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The "real hurdle" in educational reform: Poverty

Protecting children from the impact of poverty

Sent to the Chicago Sun Times, January 1, 2013

Yes, poverty is the “real hurdle to education reform” (Dec. 29).

We can protect children from some of the impact of poverty immediately and inexpensively. Poverty means inadequate diet, inferior health care, and lack of access to books at home, in school and in the community, among other things, and each of these has a devastating effect on school performance.

We are investing billions in new standards and tests, and there is no research indicating that this will help children. Instead, we should be investing in improved nutrition programs, improved health care, and a greater investment in libraries and librarians, a move that is well-supported by research.

We need to invest in feeding the animal, not just weighing it.

Stephen Krashen


Sources:
Poverty and diet: Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2). http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/23_02/hung232.shtml
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

Poverty and health care: 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
Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in “failing schools.” http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.

Poverty and access to books: Neuman, S.B. & Celano, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8- 26.
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.
Lance, K. C. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php

Lack of impact of standards and tests:
Loveless, T. 2011. How well are American students learning? The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education. The Brown Foundation: Houston.
Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/.

OECD 2011. Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264096660-en


Editorial: Real hurdle to education reform is poverty
Editorials December 31, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
There is nothing easy about trying to boost academic outcomes for poor kids.
That is why we’ve supported a range of aggressive interventions for the Chicago Public Schools over the years, including school closures, charter openings, turnarounds, improved teacher evaluations, a longer school day and changes to teaching tenure, hiring and firing rules.
We remain convinced those interventions can make the difference at individual schools, for individual kids and, across all schools, can move the needle slightly.
But until society and our schools figures out a way to deal, in a comprehensive and systemic way, with child poverty — a parent’s income and educational level is the biggest predictor of school success — the odds of major improvement are low.
The Chicago Teachers Union has been pressing this point with greater urgency in recent days — and we applaud it. It released a report this month laying out the undeniable link between a parent’s wage and school achievement.
Data from the Nation’s Report Card, a rigorous national exam, show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores across the states is associated with variation in child poverty rates. The vast majority, some 87 percent, of all Chicago public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
In its report, the CTU called on CPS to support efforts to lift wages for low-income workers to a $15-per-hour living wage, arguing that moving families out of poverty will improve academic outcomes. The report was commissioned by Stand Up Chicago, a labor and community group, and produced in partisanship with the CTU.
The teachers union is right to broaden the school reform lens and, we hope, help parents and policy makers see (or remember) what really drives the crisis in the Chicago schools.
We disagree with the CTU, though, that other efforts. including charters and turnarounds, should be abandoned. The CTU fails to note that deeply embedded in many of those strategies are efforts to counteract the effects of child poverty. Countless children across Chicago are benefitting from those efforts right now, today.
Still, we support the CTU’s effort to push back against a national chorus, started in the era of President George W. Bush, that accuses anyone of mentioning poverty as giving up on poor kids. Nationally, a similar effort is being led by New York University education professor Diane Ravitch, who is pushing for a direct and honest conversation about poverty as the only starting point for lasting improvement.
Ravitch and CTU President Karen Lewis aren’t caving to what Bush called “soft bigotry of low expectations.” They’re about setting high expectations but giving poor kids the support to reach them.
Lewis said it best herself when she spoke to the City Club of Chicago last month:
“We cannot fix what’s wrong with our schools until we are prepared to have honest conversations about poverty and race,” Lewis said. “Until we do, we will be mired in the no-excuses mentality [that] poverty doesn’t matter. Poverty matters a lot when you are teaching children who are distracted by their lives. Poverty matters a lot when you are teaching children who have seen trauma like none of us in this room can imagine.”
There is nothing easy about trying to boost academic outcomes for poor kids.
But there is little else that is more important.

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