The biggest distraction in education policy is the poverty meme (or, more accurately – the low socio-economic status meme). It goes something like this: Being poor prevents poor kids from succeeding in school; therefore reforming schools is largely a waste of time.
Here’s the queen of the poverty meme:
Then, there it was, the moment when Lauer raised the issue of poverty and the new Census Bureau figures showing that one in seven Americans live at or below the poverty line, defined as an annual income for a family of four of $22,000. That’s one in seven -- and that figure doesn’t include families of four with a $23,000 annual income.
I thought Lauer would make the obvious connection between poverty and student achievement. After all, the most consistent link in education and social science research is between family income and standardized test scores.
Today’s breed of school reformers, however, have ignored this link and adopted a “no excuses” policy, which essentially claims that good teachers can overcome anything, including medical, sociological and psychological problems that children who live in poverty bring into the classroom.
There is an oft-stated claim that three (or four, or five, depending on the source) “effective” teachers in a row can wipe out the effects of poverty. In fact, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made this claim today in an interview with Tom Brokaw as part of the network's Education Nation Summit.
There is no valid research to show this…
So the most important issue in school reform was ignored again…
That their discussion ignored the elephant in the room tells you everything you need to know about what is missing from today’s school “reform” efforts and why they are doomed to fail.
She even cites the King, David Berliner, who has teased out the most important poverty-induced physical, sociological and psychological problems that poor children bring to school and which doom all education reform to failure.
These are six out-of-school factors Berliner has identified that are common among the poor and that affect how children learn, but that reformers effectively say can be overcome without attacking them directly: (1) low birth weight and nongenetic prenatal influences; (2) inadequate medical, dental and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.
The conclusion. Fix poverty and you’ll fix education. Or will you?
Let’s test the hypothesis by looking at how family income and parental education (the main components of socioeconomic status) are “linked” to student educational performance.
Let’s compare how the children of over-educated plutocrats
compared to the children of poverty-stricken, oppressed wage-slaves.
But, before we look at the data, let’s test your knowledge of poverty’s pernicious effects on children.
- Which kids do you think had better prenatal care?
- Which kids do you think had better medical, dental and vision care?
- Which kids do you think were more likely to have medical insurance?
- Which kids do you think had more food insecurity?
- Which kids do you think grew up around more environmental pollutants?
- Which kids do you think had more family stress and worse family relations?
- Which kids do you think grew up in better neighborhoods?
Now see if you can predict which kids did better on the SATs.
First, let’s look at how rich black families compare to poor Asian families
Poor Asian children from families making between $10k and $20k performed better than rich privileged black children from families making at least $70k.
Now, let’s look at parental education.
Asian children with parents having only a high school diploma performed better than black children with parents having graduate degrees.
If poverty is such a brutal predictor of academic success, why do the children of educated,privileged blacks and Hispanics perform worse than poor, uneducated whites and Asians?
Can’t be white racism, Asians disprove that hypothesis.
And bear in mind, this data (which holds for almost all measures of student achievement) is no worse than the data the poverty elephants rely on for their poverty hypothesis.
Run this by your favorite poverty edu-pundit. You’ll hear lots of excuses. None will be coherent.
And, that’s why its pointless to debate these people on matters of education policy.