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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Compelling evidence

Sent to the Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2014

In "Test scores may move, learning doesn't" (July 12), Jo Craven McGinty says that there is "compelling evidence"  that the US education system is inadequate, because American students "score below average in math and average in reading and science" when compared to other countries on international tests. 

Not mentioned is the finding that when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world. 

Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our high rate of child poverty: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%). In some big city public school districts, the poverty rate is over 80%.

Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these profoundly impact school performance.

This is "compelling evidence" that the problem is poverty, not teachers, teacher unions, or schools of education. This is also "compelling evidence" that we should be protecting students from the effects of poverty, not investing the common core, accurately described by Susan Ohanian as “a radical untried curriculum overhaul and … nonstop national testing.”  

Stephen Krashen


Levels of poverty:
UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Over 80%:
http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2011/02/17/more-illinois-children-living-in-poverty-risk-school-failure; http://home.lausd.net/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=344072&id=0
Control for poverty:
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance.
Impact of poverty: 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;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.
Ohanian quote: http://www.dailycensored.com/woo-hoo/

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