Whose Problem Is Poverty?

NOTE: Cross posted over at “In Practice”

“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?
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.

Learning is messy!

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One thought on “Whose Problem Is Poverty?

  1. Thanks for pointing out this article. I (like most teachers) do not have time to read all of the stuff that comes before me. I keep my membership with ASCD mainly because of the quality of Educational Leadership, but often I don’t have (or take) time to read it much before I need to recycle it. The brain is limited…. Anyway, I will read this one thoroughly.