1) Scores on standardized tests don’t actually show that kids are really learning anything. A rise in scores could mean better test prep.
2) The suggestion in the results of this study is that the school makes all the difference, and there is substantial research that shows that things are more complicated.
It tracked the performance of 858 elementary students in public housing scattered across Montgomery from 2001 to 2007. About half the students ended up in schools where less than 20 percent of students qualified for subsidized meals, and most of the others went to schools where up to 60 percent of the students were poor and where the county had directed extra resources.
After seven years, the children in the lower-poverty schools performed 8 percentage points higher on standardized math tests than peers at higher-poverty schools. Students in these schools scored modestly higher on reading tests, but those results were not statistically significant.
The authors take the 2009 reading test results released in March from the National Assessment of Educational Progress
— considered to be the gold standard in K-12 standardized assessment — and break down the numbers to show how well different groups of disadvantaged students are doing:
- 90 percent of low-income black students in high-poverty schools were not reading at grade level by fourth grade.
- 83 percent of poor black students in schools with moderate to low levels of poverty did not reach the goal.
- 88 percent of Hispanic students in high-poverty schools missed the mark.
- 82 percent of Hispanic students in schools with low or moderate rates of families living in poverty did not read at grade level.
It’s not JUST the school. That’s not to say that schools don’t matter. Of course they do. Kids who attend schools that are well-resourced, well-managed and well-staffed are bound to perform better than kids who attend schools that aren’t, and, the more troubled schools in our country are almost always found in high-poverty areas.
And, of course, integration of neighborhoods and schools should be seen as rooted in the country’s core values
But the stubborn fact remains that without attacking the roots of poverty, we will never close the stubborn achievement gap. Putting poor kids in middle-class schools will help some of them, and that’s a good thing, but the real answer is alleviating poverty.
, regent’s professor emeritus at Arizona State University, a prominent researcher and educational psychologist, has studied
how achievement is affected by poverty-induced physical, sociological and psychological problems that children bring to school.
These are six out-of-school factors
Berliner has identified that are common among the poor and that affect how children learn: (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.
A change in school Zip Code can address some of these issues, but not all of them.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and other like-minded schools chiefs like to say that it is just an “excuse.” They ignore the education and social science research showing the strong link between family income and standardized test scores.
Meanwhile, new Census Bureau figures
show 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.
We can build zillions of charter schools and give standardized tests to kids every day of the week and fire tons of teachers and close a lot of traditional public schools.
Our problems won’t go away in education because we still will be ignoring the obvious.