"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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Poisoned Children and "Reform"

Poverty and Potential

In yesterday's post about the achievement gap and the failure of "reforms" in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. to increase achievement I mentioned David Berliner's study of Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Berliner writes...
(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (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. These [out-of-school-factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
There are some things we can do to counteract those factors...
Also discussed is a seventh OSF, extended learning opportunities, such as pre- school, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.
Environmental Pollutants

One of the more serious environmental issues affecting children's learning is lead poisoning. We've stopped using lead in gasoline and paint, and the incidence of lead poisoning has dropped significantly because of that, however, there are still millions of children affected by lead...

Detroit - February 25, 2013
High lead poisoning linked to lower test scores in DPS
The greater the lead poisoning in a Detroit Public Schools student's blood, the higher the likelihood he or she will do poorly on achievement tests -- even after accounting for contributing factors such as poverty. That's the finding of a collaborative study that provides one of the most detailed assessments yet of the impact of lead poisoning on students' learning ability.
Milwaukee - January 8, 2013
UW-Madison study links lead exposure to lower test scores
The study included students in Milwaukee Public Schools, and was coordinated by researchers at UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The study found that environmental lead exposure poses a significant challenge to schools striving to meet WKCE standards.
Connecticut - May 18, 2011
Study Links Lead Exposure To Low Student Test Scores
A new [Duke University] study says many Connecticut students who have been exposed to lead in paint, soil and elsewhere are performing poorly on standardized tests compared to their peers.
Chicago - January 21, 2013
Chicago Study Links Lead Poisoning to Lower Test Scores
A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago by Anne Evens examined the blood lead levels of third-graders between 2003 and 2006. Evens uncovered that at 75 percent of Chicago’s 464 elementary schools; the students’ average blood level was high enough to be considered poisoned, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Reforms"

The so-called "reforms" which are being carried out across the country focus on firing teachers and administrators, closing public schools, increasing testing, providing vouchers, increasing charter schools, and evaluating and paying teachers based on test scores.

For the most part, the "reforms" don't work. One reason for that might be that the children who are struggling are most often children who are affected by poverty, but there are things we can do to alleviate poverty's impact on children's lives. Take a look at this study from Massachusetts...

Massachusetts - October 8, 2013
Study: Getting rid of lead does wonders for school performance
Reyes took a look at what happened in Massachusetts during the 1990s, when the state took aggressive steps to strip old paint from homes with children under the age of six — and closely monitored students for lead levels. By scrutinizing state standardized test scores before and after the policies were enacted, Reyes found suggestive evidence that lead abatement had a major impact on school performance
Instead of wasting time, money and children's educational opportunities on unproven "reforms," states should concentrate on reducing the effects of poverty on their citizens. Lead poisoning is still a real and serious issue affecting students' health and achievement.

You might also be interested in...

Lead Poisoning: The Ignored Scandal
Issue Brief: Childhood Lead Exposure and Educational Outcomes
No Excuses

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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1 comment:

Ellen said...

Lead can have devastating effects on school performance. . . A child who is lead poisoned as a toddler can continue to have problems in school all the way through adolescence, even if the lead hazard was found and removed.
Indiana is fortunate that our Maternal and Child Health Division at the State Department of Health was able to take over the funding for Lead and Healthy Homes when the funding at the national level dried up. I don't know if other states were as lucky. Any legislator that claims to care about education must acknowledge the importance of a healthy home and school environment.