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

Friday, October 24, 2014

The concrete facts about school performance

Sent to Time Magazine, Oct. 23, 2014.
Re: Taking on Teacher Tenure, Time, November 3, 2014

   "Unassuming" tycoon David Welch is also unformed. He claims he prefers a world of "concrete facts" but still maintains that the American education system is "failing" because of bad teachers who can't be fired. 
   The concrete facts are these: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our unspectacular (but not horrible) performance on tests is because of our high child poverty rate, about 23%, second highest among 34 economically advanced countries, according to UNICEF. High-scoring countries such as Finland have a child poverty rate of about 5%.
   Poverty means, among other things,  poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little access to books. All of these have powerful negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
   Our main problem is not teaching quality, unions, or the rules for due process. The main problem is poverty.

Stephen Krashen


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. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).

Child 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.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:42 PM

    When you look at the corporations that are now in the business of creating charter schools for profit. It seems very strange that now they want to blame ineffective teachers and unions for the problems in our school system. Within my school over 95% of the students are low-income, many of my students come to school because it is a place where they can eat hot meals and feel safe from the environment of which they are forced to live. It seems that because these rich individuals who have never been poor a day in their lives voice their concerns about our educational system people listen as if they really have any factual evidence to back their claims. As an educator, I have watched our school system not give our children and teachers the resources they need to educate the "whole" student. The powers that be are too concerned about test results and corporate agendas. Enough is enough, as educators we must be willing to stand up and call out these so called individuals "that want best for our children". They are only pushing their personal agendas of making money off of our children and replacing seasoned teachers for less money.