Class Matters. Why Won’t We Admit It?
Speaking of dopey NYT op eds, this one, Class Matters. Why Won't We Admit It?, perpetuates the worst and most widely held myth about reformers: that we don't think that poverty and family circumstances matter. This is complete and total rubbish, yet defenders of the status quo keep saying it.
But in the United States over the past decade, it became fashionable among supporters of the "no excuses" approach to school improvement to accuse anyone raising the poverty issue of letting schools off the hook — or what Mr. Bush famously called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Such accusations may afford the illusion of a moral high ground, but they stand in the way of serious efforts to improve education and, for that matter, go a long way toward explaining why No Child Left Behind has not worked.
Yes, we need to make sure that all children, and particularly disadvantaged children, have access to good schools, as defined by the quality of teachers and principals and of internal policies and practices.
But let's not pretend that family background does not matter and can be overlooked. Let's agree that we know a lot about how to address the ways in which poverty undermines student learning. Whether we choose to face up to that reality is ultimately a moral question.
In response, one friend commented:
Of course, poverty matters but this is a very slippery piece. Her analysis of beat the odds stuff is purely anecdotal, she shows no evidence that programs like the one in NC (based on HCZ) work and the conclusion that somehow we shouldn't "discredit" failing schools because of the kids they serve is a prescription for catastrophe.
And another responded:
Yes, and there is a third possible explanation they ignore when they ask "So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement?"
Perhaps it's because that data are clear that all else equal we can do better so that even though poverty of course matters, we should also be dramatically raising our expectations.
December 11, 2011