A former professor of education says we should invest in fighting poverty, not more tests. Readers are invited to respond.
“[S]tudents from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools rank among the best in the world on these tests, which means that teaching is not the problem. The problem is poverty. Our overall scores are unspectacular because so many American children live in poverty (23 percent, ranking us 34th out of 35 “economically advanced countries”).”
This brief letter provides proof that in American education, the problem is not teachers. Our schools are not broken. In fact, the opposite is true. When controlling for poverty, the United States has one of the best education systems in the world.
When examining American schools, one has to look at poverty. “Poverty means inadequate nutrition and health care, and little access to books, all associated with lower school achievement.” That so many of our children live in poverty astounds me, yet it is no surprise that it cripples their ability to succeed in school.
When poor children have social services like health care and early education—an assumption increasingly under threat in states like Texas—they do well. When they grow up without access to services wealthier families can afford, it is an uphill battle from day one.
Yet some states continue to pour millions of dollars into tests with the hope that students will grow taller simply by being measured. As Stephen Krashen writes, New York City will spend more than $500 million on technology primarily designed to deliver electronic tests. Clearly, we have the financial resources to help students who come from less financially stable homes. It is a matter of priorities.
Hello. I'm Tim Stauffer, a MA candidate in English Education at NYU. I am passionate about multimodal pedagogy, social justice, and education policy. I work for equity, creativity, and democracy in our schools.