"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 9, 2009

The elephant in the classroom - poverty

"When people have said 'poverty is no excuse,' my response has been, 'Yes, you're right. Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'" - Gerald Bracey

Another cheer to Yvonne Siu-Runyan for her tireless campaign on behalf of American Children. In the unpublished letter below she reminds readers that schools in the US do not operate in a vacuum.

The following is from Susan Ohanian's web site.

To the editor

From Yvonne Siu-Runyan

Submitted to USA Today but not published (01/15/2009).

A few words for Obama on closing the "achievement gap"

Those interviewed in "A few words for Obama" (Jan. 15) claim that our schools are bad because of bad teaching and poverty. Their cure is "teachers who demand rigor, improved standards and accountability, monitoring homes to make sure children get enough sleep, food and fresh air, and moving children to "good" schools, charter schools, and school vouchers." This kind of thinking only perpetuates problems that need to be addressed by the new congress-issues of long standing.

There is plenty of evidence that some our schools are bad, but poverty is the issue that must be addressed. Children who live in high-income areas score as well as those in the highest scoring countries on international tests. Study after study shows that levels of poverty are strongly related to school achievement.

The obvious solution, not considered by any of the experts, is to reduce poverty. When adults in a family can earn a living wage for honest work, in nearly all cases, their children will have good diets and get enough sleep and they will live in areas with fresh air. Their children will be surrounded by books and other advantages that middle and upper class children have, and they will achieve the same high levels that middle and upper class children do.

There is no small measure of hypocrisy bemoaning the poor academic performance of children from poverty and blaming the schools.

The author is Professor Emerita at University of Northern Colorado.

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