The problem is poverty: Evidence from Gerald Bracey

The entire basis for the national standards/testing movement is our low scores on international tests when compared to other countries. Our scores, however, are only low because we have such a high percentage of children in poverty, compared to other countries that participate in international tests. When we consider only middle-class children who attend well-funded schools, our math scores are near the top of the world (Payne and Biddle, 1999).

More a faith-based tout than willing to debate realities based on evidence? U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (above, at a June 19, 2009 breakfast in Chicago) has praised charter schools and denigrated true public schools while ignoring the fact that poverty and vicious racial segregation are at the root of most problems leading to invidious comparisons between U.S. and other countries on international tests such as the PIRLS. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Here is another analysis, using reading test scores, that comes to the same conclusion. The PIRLS test was given to ten year olds in 35 countries in their own language. Bracey (2009) presented this data, along with relevant socio-economic data on the poverty level of the schools American children attended (defined as participating in free or reduced price lunch programs):

American students attending schools with

- less than 10 percent in poverty averaged 589 (14% of students).

- 10-24.9% in poverty averaged 567 (20% of students)

- 25 to 49.9% in poverty averaged 551 (30% of students)

- 50 to 74.5% in poverty averaged 519 (21% of students)

- 75% or more in poverty averaged 485 (15% of students)

Clearly, students in schools with lower levels of poverty did better. Of great interest to us is the fact that American children attending low poverty schools (25% or less) outscored the top scoring country, Sweden (561). Bracey also points out that "if the students in schools with 24-49.9% poverty constituted a nation, it would rank fourth among the 35 participating nations" (p. 155).

The problem is poverty, not our teachers, our unions, the parents, or the children. The solution is to protect our children from the disadvantages of poverty, through health care, nutrition, and access to books. Geoffrey Canada claims that his approach is to attempt to do just that in the Harlem Children's Zone schools (NY Times, October 12, 2010; but see Krashen, 2010a,b).

Thus far, the Arne Duncan department of education has chosen to ignore this route (while praising the Harlem Children's Zone), and spend billions on useless national standards and national tests, focusing on measuring rather than helping.

Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Versus Reality. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service. Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13. Krashen, S. 2010a. A suggestion for Geoffrey Canada. October 12, 2010.

Krashen, S. 2010b. Shocking revelations from Goeffrey Canada's autobiography. www.schools October 13, 2010.


October 16, 2010 at 9:59 PM

By: John Whitfield

Poor, but smart

A colleague of mine in who has taught in LA Public schools for decades, and I, have come to the conclusion that poorer children on the other hand, are even smarter than those from

the families of the well to do. We both taught at an American School in Central America, that was basically for the children of the elite.

When second language comes into the equation, is when they can even surpass the monolingual English only speaking peers on these instruments that are shoved down their throats, as Krashen knows. That is, if students can get into a dual language program, or some other good form of Bilingual Education, where the home language is given equal emphasis, for 5 to 7 or more years, then the poor child upon reaching High School, is capable of not only doing as well as the English only speaking peer from the well to do family, but may even surpass them in achievement. Though granted, the test score "mania" must end, and the resistance needs to keep growing until it does.

Also to quote A. Kohn, we need to go from "degrading" to de-grading, and start putting less emphasis on grades, from 1rst gr. through 12th, and return to examining just what does a good education consist of.

Those schools that don't even give grades during the first years of school are doing the right thing, needless too say.

Who are the tests designed for, and who is meant to succeed?

Why don't we give the "Chicano Achievement Test", to the students of the elite, and see how they do. No, we wouldn't do that.

Or the "Soul Folk Aptitude test", have you taken that one? I have, and as a "WASP", I failed it, as well as the "Chicano Achievement test, as did the rest of the graduate students in my Advanced Ed. Psychology class.

What are some ways that we can reduce bias in

assessment? Well, resistance, let us here from you.

October 17, 2010 at 11:19 PM

By: Hope

Common Goals

Poverty is an important factor in the Education System in the United States, but I think there are so many other factors to take into consideration.

Currently, one of the biggest factor is that the main people that could make a big difference in our students' lives (parents,teachers,principals,CEO or educational leaders,politicians,and unions)don't get along. I believe there must be unity towards improving the education system where there is a common goal and everyone is involve. Otherwise one party will be angry and everyone will lose, especially the students.

Poverty must be taken into consideration because studies demonstrate that there is a link to poverty,crime, and drop out rates.

However, there have been many cases of students who were very poor and succeeded mainly because of good parenting, good schools they attended with good facilities, good teachers, and good educational leaders.

I do feel positive that the education system in the United States will improve, but all parties (teachers,parents,students, principals,unions, CEOS, and others) must work towards a common goal or plan and with respect for one another. I do feel recently the Chicago Board of Education did illegally fired teachers who should obtain their positions back. Hopefully, the Board will agree to fixed this problem and right this wrong,so there could be a team effort to improve all schools. I hope all the fighting would end and people can learn to work prosperously and effectively with each other, so the children can truly benefit.

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