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“It’s no cop-out to acknowledge the effects of socioeconomic disparities on student learning. Rather, it’s a vital step to closing the achievement gap.”

 So begins the article on the ASCD web site:Whose Problem Is Poverty? by Richard Rothstein  This might be a “must read” for teachers in Title 1 schools. Mr. Rothstein explains why students from low socio-economic groups have lower average acheivement:  

“Because low-income children often have no health insurance and therefore no routine preventive medical and dental care, leading to more school absences as a result of illness. Children in low-income families are more prone to asthma, resulting in more sleeplessness, irritability, and lack of exercise. They experience lower birth weight as well as more lead poisoning and iron-deficiency anemia, each of which leads to diminished cognitive ability and more behavior problems. Their families frequently fall behind in rent and move, so children switch schools more often, losing continuity of instruction.   

Poor children are, in general, not read to aloud as often or exposed to complex language and large vocabularies. Their parents have low-wage jobs and are more frequently laid off, causing family stress and more arbitrary discipline. The neighborhoods through which these children walk to school and in which they play have more crime and drugs and fewer adult role models with professional careers. Such children are more often in single-parent families and so get less adult attention. They have fewer cross-country trips, visits to museums and zoos, music or dance lessons, and organized sports leagues to develop their ambition, cultural awareness, and self-confidence.

Each of these disadvantages makes only a small contribution to the achievement gap, but cumulatively, they explain a lot.” 

One quote I especially liked was this one:

“Some critics cite schools that enroll disadvantaged students but still get high standardized test scores as proof that greater socioeconomic equality is not essential for closing achievement gaps—because good schools have shown they can do it on their own. And some critics are so single-mindedly committed to a schools-only approach that they can’t believe anyone could seriously advocate pursuing both school and socioeconomic improvement simultaneously.”  

And this one:

 ”And yes, we should also call on housing, health, and antipoverty advocates to take a broader view that integrates school improvement into their advocacy of greater economic and social equality. Instead, however, critical voices for reform have been silenced, told they should stick to their knitting, fearing an accusation that denouncing inequality is tantamount to “making excuses.”"  

There is much more … follow the link.

5 Responses to “Whose Problem Is Poverty?”

  1. Dina says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes– how many times can I say yes without sounding like Meg Ryan in a diner?

    I’m planning on a Ph.D. one of these days. I’m wondering if a dissertation would be illuminating that studies the degree to which “high flyer schools” actually offset societal ills, completely independent of instruction. How many of them insulate their kids from crime and drugs via hugely extended days? How many of them have what amounts to an underground supplemental health care system– lead screening, in-school physicals? How far do they go above and beyond the classroom to expose kids to more reading, more adult “utterances”? How many of them *feed* the kids at least two of their three meals, for crying out loud?

    I’d to put something on the table that actually presents systematic hard data on how a representative sample of these schools are, in fact, creating an *alternate society* for these children. (And it seems to me, without having studied the topic in detail, that the degree to which this is happening is a new and extremely significant development in public education). Thoughts?

  2. [...] to Brian at In Practice for the link. Posted by janevangalen Filed in k-12, social class Tags: Richard [...]

  3. MathChique says:

    Four words: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…

    In Rothstein’s article, I liked the following quote: “Mythology also prevents educators from properly diagnosing educational failure where it exists. If we expect all disadvantaged students to succeed at levels typical of affluent students, then even the best inner-city teachers seem like failures. If we pretend that achievement gaps are entirely within teachers’ control, with claims to the contrary only “excuses,” how can we distinguish better from worse classroom practice?”

    My questions are:
    California public schools are required by law to have all 9th grade students take Algebra (as the minimum level course). What if the student in a newcomer to the U.S. and has only had education to a third grade level in her/his country of origin? How helpful can that be to the student and to the other kids in the class?
    How helpful is it to a student, who is or isn’t disadvantaged, to be passed to the next level of math education when he/she has only a tentative grasp on the subject?
    How is it that schools continue to track kids by age instead of by ability?
    The result of these policies is that we have dumbed-down the mathematics curriculum to the point where the U.S. ranks 24th of 29 developed nations in math education.

  4. alicemercer says:

    More on what MathChique talks about can be found here: http://mizmercer.edublogs.org/2008/04/20/education-policy-cannot-be-your-sole-form-of-anti-poverty-policy/ where I discuss this and some other recent articles.

  5. [...] now, my pick for the number one article about education in 2008 is… Whose Problem is Poverty? by Richard Rothstein, the former education writer for The New York Times. He gives a good summary [...]

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