Comment on two excellent essays:
Sirota, David. New Data Shows School ‘Reformers’ Are Getting it Wrong
Strauss, Valerie. The biggest scandal in America. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/11/the-biggest-scandal-in-america/
Comment posted on both websites.
Dr. King Was Right about Poverty and Education
The US Dept of Education claims that they are concerned about poverty, but think that the solution is to improve teaching: With better teaching, we will have more learning (that is, higher test scores), and this will improve the economy. Graduates will step into high paying technical jobs and start new companies.
But more education will only lead to a job if jobs are available. Studies show that the STEM crisis is really a surplus of STEM-trained workers, not a shortage.
Poverty means inadquate diet and health care and little access to books, among other things. All of these have a powerful negative impact on school performance.
We are always interested in improving teaching, but the best teaching in the world will have little effect when students are hungry, are in poor health, and have low literacy development because of a lack of access to books.
Studies have failed to find a correlation between improved test scores and subsequent economic progress and have also shown that job loss results in depressed school performance. In one study, job losses affecting 3.4% of state's population predict a decline of 10 points on standardized math tests.. Their results also indicated that "downturns affect all students, not just students who experience parental job loss."
This data strongly suggests that reducing poverty helps raise educational levels, not the other way around. It means that Martin Luther King was right:
"We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).
Footnote: There is, in addition, no evidence that the "rigorous" standards/nonstop testing formula has ever improved student achievement.
Surplus of STEM workers: Salzman, H. & Lowell, B. L. 2007. Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence of Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1034801; Salzman, H. and Lowell, L. 2008. Making the grade. Nature 453 (1): 28-30; Salzman, H. 2012. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12) http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads; Teitelbaum, M. 2007. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, November 6, 2007
Negative effect of povery on school achievement: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential; Krashen, S., Lee, SY, and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is The Library Important? Multivariate Studies at the National and International Level Journal of Language and Literacy Education: 8(1). http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/
Test scores and economic progress? Baker, K. 2007. Are international tests worth anything? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2), 101-104.
Job loss and school performance: Ananat, E., Gassman-Pines, A., Francis, D., and Gibson-Davis, C. 2011. Children left behind: The effects of statewide job less on student achievement. NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Working Paper No. 17104, JEL No. 12,16. http://www.nber.org/papers/w17104
No evidence supproting rigoous standards/tests: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/.