Monday, September 06, 2010

Accept it: Poverty hurts learning: Schools matter, but they're not all that matters

NYU Ed Prof. Pedro Noguera with an op ed in the NY Daily News that (believe it or not) I mostly agree with – of course poverty and other disadvantages have a MASSIVE impact on how well prepared students are to do well in school. 


But this mustn't be used as an excuse for many schools' utter failure to set high standards and properly educate students; rather, it means that schools serving the most disadvantaged students, in order to help students overcome these disadvantages, need to be the very BEST schools, filled with the very BEST teachers. 


Alas, our educational system SYSTEMATICALLY does the exact opposite; so much so, in fact, that two factors, skin color and zip code, largely determine the quality of public school a child is likely to get.  This is deeply, profoundly wrong and contrary to everything this nation stands for.

There has been a fierce, ongoing debate among educational leaders about how to teach poor children: One side has argued that we must address the wide variety of social issues (like poor health and nutrition, mobility, inadequate preparation for school, etc.) that tend to be associated with poverty. The other side has argued that schools serving poor children must focus on education alone and stop making excuses.

For more than 20 years, I've been associated with the first camp - and I remain baffled about why we are still debating such an obvious point. We've long known that family income combined with parental education is the strongest predictor of how well a student will do on most standardized tests. There is abundant evidence that in schools in the poorest communities, achievement is considerably lower than in schools with more socioeconomic diversity.

Studies on literacy development in small children show that middle-class children arrive in kindergarten literally knowing hundreds more words than poor children.

And schools alone - not even the very best schools - cannot erase the effects of poverty.


Accept it: Poverty hurts learning: Schools matter, but they're not all that matters

Thursday, September 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM

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