Believe it or not, USA Today published a powerful article by Oliver Thomas, a member of its Board of Contributors, acknowledging that the latest PISA rankings reflect the crisis of poverty in the United States. Our Students in low-poverty schools are doing fine; some analyses place them at the very top. But the more poverty, the lower the test scores.
"As researchers Michael Rebell and Jessica Wolff of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, have noted, there is no general education crisis in the United States. There is a child poverty crisis that is impacting education.
"Here's one data point worth remembering. When you measure the test scores of American schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20%, our kids not only outperform the Finns, they outperform every nation in the world.
"But here's the really bad news. Two new studies on education and poverty were reported in Education Week in October. The first from the Southern Education Foundation reveals that nearly half of all U.S. public school students live in poverty. Poverty has risen in every state since President Clinton left office.
"The second study, conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, reveals that poverty - not race, ethnicity, national origin or where you attend school - is the best predictor of college attendance and completion.
"Chew on that. The causes of poverty are complex and varied: excessive immigration, tax policy, and the exportation and automation of manufacturing jobs. Yet the list of solutions is strikingly short. Other than picking a kid's parents, it amounts to giving all children access to a high-quality education.
"Here's the catch-22. While the only long-term solution to poverty might be a good education, a good education is seldom available to children living in poverty.
"One reason is that spending on education has not kept pace with the rise in child poverty. While poverty grew by 40% in the Midwest and 33% in the South from 2001 to 2011, educational spending per pupil grew by only 12% in these regions over the same 10-year period."
Unfortunately, the article goes on to praise the Gates Foundation for providing college scholarships to low-income students but fails to recognize that Bill Gates has done more than any single individual (other than Arne Duncan) to promote the idea that we can't "fix" poverty until we "fix" schools. He has promoted Teach for America, charter schools, and teacher evaluation as the way to "fix" schools. Better to do something about poverty. It is a scandal that the world's richest nation has nearly one-quarter of its children living in poverty, and the best we can do is to privatize school management and test students with greater frequency. ***************************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org