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Posted at 2:41 PM ET, 09/27/2010

The elephant that Obama and Lauer ignored: Poverty and student achievement

By Valerie Strauss

About two-thirds of the way through President Obama’s interview Monday with NBC’s Matt Lauer on school reform, I thought the two were about to really dive into the biggest issue plaguing the country’s most troubled schools.

Already discussed were the usual subjects raised by the Obama administration when it addresses school reform: charter schools, standards, how to get terrific teachers in every classroom, the length of the school year, Race to the Top and did I mention charter schools?

Then, there it was, the moment when Lauer raised the issue of poverty and the new Census Bureau figures showing that one in seven Americans live at or below the poverty line, defined as an annual income for a family of four of $22,000. That’s one in seven -- and that figure doesn’t include families of four with a $23,000 annual income.

I thought Lauer would make the obvious connection between poverty and student achievement. After all, the most consistent link in education and social science research is between family income and standardized test scores.

Today’s breed of school reformers, however, have ignored this link and adopted a “no excuses” policy, which essentially claims that good teachers can overcome anything, including medical, sociological and psychological problems that children who live in poverty bring into the classroom.

There is an oft-stated claim that three (or four, or five, depending on the source) “effective” teachers in a row can wipe out the effects of poverty. In fact, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made this claim today in an interview with Tom Brokaw as part of the network's Education Nation Summit.

There is no valid research to show this -- historian Diane Ravitch explains how this bogus notion gained credibility in Chapter 9 of her best-selling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” -- but that hasn’t stopped people from wrapping policy around it.

David Berliner, regent’s professor emeritus at Arizona State University, a prominent researcher and educational psychologist, has studied how achievement is affected by poverty-induced physical, sociological and psychological problems that children bring to school.

These are six out-of-school factors Berliner has identified that are common among the poor and that affect how children learn, but that reformers effectively say can be overcome without attacking them directly: (1) low birth weight and nongenetic prenatal influences; (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.

Statistics tell this tale. Here are some from “Early Warning!: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” the latest in a series of “Kids Count” analyses by the Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization that advocates for policies to help poor children and families.

The authors take the 2009 reading test results released in March from the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- considered to be the gold standard in K-12 standardized assessment -- and break down the numbers to show how well different groups of disadvantaged students are doing:

  • 90 percent of low-income black students in high-poverty schools were not reading at grade level by fourth grade.
  • 83 percent of poor black students in schools with moderate to low levels of poverty did not reach the goal.
  • 88 percent of Hispanic students in high-poverty schools missed the mark.
  • 82 percent of Hispanic students in schools with low or moderate rates of families living in poverty did not read at grade level.

So there Lauer was, on the verge of making the most important point in any discussion about student achievement, and ... he moved on. Without making it.

Obama and Lauer started talking about the poverty statistics in regard to the economy, tax cuts and the economic recovery, and the moment was lost.

So the most important issue in school reform was ignored again.

Those who raise this issue are often attacked for resisting change and wanting to maintain the lousy status quo. It’s a silly, false argument; critics of the Obama administration’s reform agenda want to get rid of bad teachers just as much as anybody else, but they are pushing for workable, fair reforms, not turning back the clock. But the agenda has powerful backers. Obama, for example.

This is why so many people who voted for Obama hoping that he would reverse this school reform view promoted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in his No Child Left Behind law are terribly disappointed and increasingly angry.

Obama should know better as president. Lauer should have pushed him on this as a journalist.

That their discussion ignored the elephant in the room tells you everything you need to know about what is missing from today’s school “reform” efforts and why they are doomed to fail.

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By Valerie Strauss  | September 27, 2010; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, Race to the Top, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  arne duncan, education nation, obama, obama nbc, obama school reform, obama schools, president obama, president obama; obama interview; obama lauer interview; obama education interview; student achievement poverty; poverty and schools, race to the top  
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Comments

Thanks for writing this. I will stop emailing you now!

Posted by: tfteacher | September 27, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

This is always the most important point and its almost always ignored. I rarely even hear the statistics brought up. Race, gender and other factors are talked about to death, but no one wants to tackle the issue of children who are from homes with no money. In this area many families make far more than the "poverty" level and yet they are poor and their children face a tougher road. Instead of acting like it doesnt exist people should be talking about it. I think the most important statistic for understanding test scores is economic class, not race or gender as is usually the focus.

Posted by: rc95959 | September 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Strauss, Title 1, 2, 3 level schools receive the highest level of resources. Most if not all are FEDERALLY funded.

Do you seriously think what you've "blogged" President Obama doesn't already know? That he doesn't have "all sides of the education spectrum" discussion all issues impacting public education?

Really?

How about this, why don't you call President Obama's press secretary and establish an interview session with him. It seems only your Q&A guidelines are efficient enough for public consumption.

Heck even Jay Mathews spends time WITH students, teachers and diverse levels of schools, i.e., research.

Maybe you should to.

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Poverty is a factor, but even so, sometimes schools are the places that help kids in poverty get out of it.

There are poor kids world wide, but not all countries have the same level of discipline problems in their lower income serving schools. Why not? I don't think the acting out is tolerated.

I also think we tend to over use lawsuits to solve problems. Schools are afraid to enforce consequences because they can get sued. Anything can be portrayed as a civil rights violation.

Once I had a policy of having students who did not complete homework eat their lunches in my classroom and complete the homework. I gave them credit for the homework as well. A parent called me up and yelled at me for 20 minutes because I kept her son for "lunch detention". (He had called her on his cell phone to let her know he was being discriminated against.) Of course this policy was for children who didn't complete their work, not for any particular group of kids.

We stress individual rights here. Sometimes the kids get the wrong message about what that really means.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

There are several layers to the reality. No doubt one layer is the direct effects of poverty. Class is certainly another. Part of succeeding in school has to do with social competition. Most children are going to have a large difficulty competing with children of higher class parents than their own. But, there is also the reality that nobody wants to admit. Academic talent makes a difference that no school can make up for. I know of several cases where middle class parents put children in private school because their academic performance was not up to their parents desires. I don't know of any case where that choice made a significant difference.

Posted by: dnjake | September 27, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Well, it sounds like we need a huge government spending program to cure this problem. We could call it a "War on Poverty."

Progressives are not too much in love with that whole "war" concept, so perhaps it should be "Campaign to Eliminate Man-Caused Poverty."

Here's another thought that not only will Matt Lauer and the Presdient avoid, but most social scientists avoid like the plague: why are people poor? Part of it is due to the fact that they don't have the brain power or the desire to compete in society. We can't do much about either of those traits.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 27, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Great policy celestun100.

Please note that there are parents that would appreciate your extra effort and allowing their children to make up missing homework, especially HS students.

But I do not think a formal policy such as "lunch detention" could be implemented. It would impact union regulations and employee rights.

I also agree, and surely our President knows and understands, that education is the only pathway from poverty.

Obama didn't come from a silver spoon family and raised by a single mother. His background includes working within the poorest communities in Chicago.

He has admitted, given speeches, participated in many interviews, and written novels that include the importance (impact) of home environments and the need parental support.

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you that academic talent makes a difference that no one can make up for.

But, I have noticed that every school no matter where it is has some really intelligent kids, some average and some way below average. I know this is an obvious statement.

The differences seem to come in to play with what the parents do (homework help, etc.) and the perception the kids have about what is "cool". Is studying and getting an "A" a good thing, or do you have to hide your score so nobody thinks you're a nerd?

Do parents generally back up teachers or do they put them down in front of their kids, thus giving the kids a reason not to pay attention in class?

In my experience, the very high poverty schools have a high percentage of families in crisis. These families have a dad who gave mom AIDS, before abandoning the family and she has a year to live, a father in jail and a sibling dead from street vilolence, families out of work and no food or hot water, etc., etc.

These are the kids that may or may not have
academic talent. We cannot tell because they are in a traumatic situation. Possibly, they could be in shock. At any rate, beyond the individual tragedy, when there are 4 or 5 of kids with these kinds of problems in a classroom of 25, then the teacher will have to use a lot of time to get them to calm down or to participate.

They are not going to score well on tests when they are feeling this trauma. Schools with a higher percentage of kids with these sorts of problems that are not being treated need more social workers and counselors and help for these kids. If not for the kids with the problems, then at least so the other students can learn.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

@Two sons
I didn't mean to imply that the "Lunch Detention Policy" should be a national one. It was just an example of why it is difficult to have consequences in schools these days.
I think the parent realized I was trying to help her son by the end of the phone call and I assumed she had told him to tell her if he was being treated unfairly. From his 8th grade point of view, he was , he wanted to eat lunch with his friends.
I think he led her to believe that other kids were allowed to go to lunch w/o the homework and he wasn't.

But, there is a serious side to this sort of thing. Sometimes, the parents can object so strongly to any sort of consequence that they complain to the principal about the teacher. Then the teacher is allowed to explain if the principal is a good one, if the principal is not so sharp, they will take the parents' side without getting the full story.

Full disclosure:
I found after a few years that Lunch Detention didn't work as well as a "Lunchtime Peer Tutoring" which, even though it was essentially the same thing, the positive spin was way more effective than the "detainee" idea.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

This was at the middle school level. In high school the kids are more grown up, I don't know if forcing them to come in to do homework works well these days. But, I have heard that many high schoolers work and that they are the ones who have trouble keeping up with assignments.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

For me, the most powerful research of the past several years is that of Betty Hart and Todd Risley on the amount and types of language used by parents of different socio-economic classes in talking to their young children (10 months- 3 years). Their study showed (extrapolated) a gap of 20 million words heard between children in welfare families and children of professors' families by the time they entered school. It also showed far more conversational language used by the latter group of parents. Later testing in third grade showed that schooling had not helped the children raised in poverty to catch up with their more advantaged peers.

Posted by: joney | September 27, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem is political correctness. I suspect many of the other posters know this. Political correctness dictates that we look for problems and solutions only in directions where liberals allow us to look.

I grew up in India, in a single parent family and during the years I was growing up my mother earned roughly $50 a month. We had no car, no radio, not even a fridge. And yet I ended up at an Ivy league school in the US. Many of the students in my class at school, not much more prosperous, ended up leading successful lives.

So what went right? We ask too often about the causes of failure but we pay far too little attention to the causes of success.

American education will not improve as long as liberal dogmas have a stranglehold on it. We see that children in Vietnam know more Math than American children do. We also know that practially everyone in Vietnam is below the US poverty line and we also know that Vietnam spends a fraction per pupil what the US spends.

And yet we keep repeating our mantras of "not enough money."

Posted by: rjpal | September 27, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The editors must have deleted the paragraphs where you suggest possible ways to address the challenges of students from disadvantaged households. All I saw were the excuses. And, after reading the analysis and comments after the recent primary in DC, I don't think you can say that critics want to get rid of bad teachers as much as anyone does. To many voters, the employment of those bad teachers seems to be a higher priority than their impact on childrens' education.

Posted by: horacemann | September 27, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Understood celestun100. You've gone beyond the call of duty for your students. The time you volunteered (presuming that it was your break period as well), your students (maybe not all) did benefit.

You'd be suprised how many students are currently desirous of becoming an honor roll or B average student. It is cool to be an A student (I have teenage son).

But truth be told, students also absorb a the extra care/concern that teachers demonstrate. Some of these kids do enter school buildings without anyone in the world caring about them. That cannot be disputed nor is a teachers fault or responsibility to take the place of what's missing in a child's life.

But these children DID not choose who their parents are. They did not pray for a mother/father alcholic or drug addict.

They did not wish for parents that are incarcerated, abusive or neglectful.

But they are the ones who pay the price, commit crimes, and yes, maybe disruptive in class. Some of these kids are so angry...so sad and depressed that their only hope is school. Some of these kids meals per day are provided BY schools.

It's not their fault. They did not cause the situations they are in and if given a choice, would choice a different set of parents, home or community to live within.

Education is these kids only glimmer of hope. Maybe their only chance to survive.

A decent foundation (education) would also decrease the broken family cycle.

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

This is why so many people who voted for Obama hoping that he would reverse this school reform view promoted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, in his No Child Left Behind law are terribly disappointed and increasingly angry.
.......................
Valerie Strauss comparing President Obama to George W. Bush.

I am surprised that she has not received a call from the White House press secretary.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

I guess Valerie Strauss is also going on the White House list of members of the professional left.

I wish the Democrats would finally wake up and select a new candidate for President in 2012.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

So you gave the stats on poor black and hispanic kids living in poverty, what about the poor white kids living in Appalachia? Poor is poor.

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | September 27, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I would love to see some real debate between the Arne Duncan and anybody else (they've got to have more walking around sense about real reform than his ignorant positions).

Posted by: zebra22 | September 27, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

But I do not think a formal policy such as "lunch detention" could be implemented. It would impact union regulations and employee rights.

My union could not care less what I choose to do at lunch. It will be hard to get where we need to go unless folks get over this anti teachers union thing. Teachers unions just are not that powerful.

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 27, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Political correctness dictates that we look for problems and solutions only in directions where liberals allow us to look.

And yet we keep repeating our mantras of "not enough money."
Posted by: rjpal
.................
I am a liberal and I do not believe in spending more public money.

Let us follow India and revert back to Refoirm schools for the disruptive and/prone to violence. Let us follow India where there is no obligation to educate all.

As far as our problems with Americans that will no longer enroll in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, let us follow India which does not allow foreign workers on visas.

Get rid of visas for foreign workers in the United States and then there would 2 million jobs for Americans and they would enroll in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics as they did in 2000 before all the American jobs in these fields were simply given to cheap foreign labor. Get rid of offshoring American jobs and there will again be plenty of Americans enrolling in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics.

It is so great to understand that those from India do not expect us to be politically correct.
............................
The House Committee on Science and Technology
June 12, 2007

As Dr. Alan Blinder, one of today’s witnesses testified, these examples seem to be only the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Blinder has estimated that more than one in four American jobs are vulnerable to offshoring. More striking is his finding that most American technical jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are amongst the most vulnerable to offshoring.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

So you gave the stats on poor black and hispanic kids living in poverty, what about the poor white kids living in Appalachia? Poor is poor.

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW
......................
They should bring back the movie Black Board Jungle when many of the disruptive and/or prone to violence in large urban areas were whites living in poverty.

Poverty is not color blind but it is certainly more powerful in the large urban areas.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

We stress individual rights here. Sometimes the kids get the wrong message about what that really means.

Posted by: celestun100
..............
Not in many middle class and affluent public schools paid by property taxes.

The principals deal quickly with the problem students since they do not want to hear from parents paying large property taxes.

The reality is that the large problems of the disruptive and/or prone to violence are simply tolerated and accepted in the poverty public schools in large urbane areas.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

@Two sons
I agree. The kids' we describe do not choose to be in those situations. No one would choose that. I also agree that the schools are often the only glimmer of hope.

If a child is so angry or depressed that he or she is acting out in school, some intervention needs to be done. A classroom teacher has only so much time divided up by the number of students.

The kids in crisis situations need extra help. Most classroom teachers will do a little extra here and there to help these kids, but they are also chiefly responsible for the "decent foundation" that you mention.

I just think that reform has to include some extra help for kids in crisis and it should be a part of the system. I agree that the kids need a decent foundation.

Thanks for the compliment and I am glad to hear that your kids think it is cool to get an A. I think that is probably due to your parenting and who their friends are. Maybe President Obama's speeches to school students during the school day are also having a positive effect. The impact of a President doing that is lost on his critics.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

@bsmallack

About the upper middle class schools. I have seen that the kids who don't follow rules,etc. get into a second tier system and continue acting out. Their parents seem to support them. They are usually not in the "gifted" programs, however.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 27, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Hon. Scott D. Shellenberger
State's Attorney
Baltimore County, Maryland

Dear Scott D. Shellenberger:

The statute of limitations may well have expired in this matter but I feel it is a matter of conscience that this be reported to your office even now.

Sometime between the years 1992 and 1995, a teacher at Baltimore's Harlem Park Elementary named Michelle A. Rhee, placed masking tape over the mouths of 8-year-old students in her charge in order to quiet them. She herself reported that several of the children cried and were bloodied when the tape was removed.

Recently Ms. Rhee, who now serves as the Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. Public Schools, made a stunning public confession of her abuse of the children, albeit nearly two decades after the fact. This is conjecture on my part but possibly Ms. Rhee is aware of the statute of limitations in a crime of this nature. Or that because these were Black children living in poverty, Ms. Rhee feels they could be abused with impunity and the whole thing could be made into the opening joke of an after dinner speech.

Ms. Rhee testified to this before an audience of hundreds of people who will serve as teachers in the District's public schools. Just as a matter of curiosity have you been contacted by any of them? Unlikely it would seem, many of the new teachers inexplicably laughed at Ms. Rhee's cruelty. Maybe just eager to please the boss, you think?

The following link to a Washington Post audio recording of Ms. Rhee's full confession is offered as potential evidence if you should seek an indictment.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2010/08/13/VI2010081305444.html

Posted by: natturner | September 27, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

"Today’s breed of school reformers, however, have ignored this link and adopted a “no excuses” policy, which essentially claims that good teachers can overcome anything, including medical, sociological and psychological problems that children who live in poverty bring into the classroom."

For many teachers and the unions who represent them, there is a very real fear of using student performance as one component in evaluating teachers. Anything other than the status quo where pay is tied exclusively to seniority and tenure is the unbreakable law of the land, is attacked by the Unions using false arguments such as the one above. Yes, some children are harder to teach than others. Yes, children in poverty have the deck stacked against them. Should a teacher be fired when a majority of their latch-key kids don't pass the state reading test? Absolutely not. But if year-over-year, that teacher's students are not improving and additional training for the teacher doesn't have an impact, what should happen to him or her? Should they continue to dole out a 2nd rate education, failing our youth? Would you volunteer your child to be in this teacher's classroom?

There are better ways to assess performance. The Value-Added Analysis below is a step in the right direction:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/teachers-investigation/

Posted by: alexandrian78 | September 27, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

This elephant-in-the-room argument is fine as far as it goes, but it ignores the related elephant-in-the-room problem: Single-parent households.

Substitute "single-parent households" for "poverty" in this article and you have all the same deleterious outcomes, as noted in every single study ever made.

Posted by: breth | September 27, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I am not sure what this article is trying to claim. Those that are poor remain poor for their lives. There is little mobility in our society. Bill Gates had one year of college but did have a father that was a partner in a law firm. He didn't need a college degree which is claimed to open doors to working in a corporation. In fact he owned the corporation.

A good teacher is important but does not mean you are going to be rich. As a matter of fact you may endup retired living on social security. But if you do that means you lived long enough to collect social security. This is better than being dead and not collecting. And has nothing to do with your teacher in school.

Posted by: artg | September 27, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

President Obama does not have a clue about education; in fact he doesn’t even know there are clues. In his latest appearance of national TV he revealed this---he is concerned about high-level student dropouts from schools and links it to poor teachers.

This is ridiculous when the kid never ended up in the teacher’s classroom in the first place.

For economic reasons, he wants schools to machine-tool kids into interchangeable parts for corporate America, yet the foreign goods being sold in box stores is produced by people who cannot even read.

Obama should concentrate on creating jobs that move the nation forward and give average kids an opportunity to work their way into a middle class---that is fast disappearing.

The president should also concentrate on doing his own job with leadership that he has not yet shown.
These words come from a person that supported Obama,though expecting little, but could no envision that the president was going to waste his time reaching out to reactionary conservatives that did not want anything to get done and were bent on seeing that he would fail.

Posted by: Islewood | September 27, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

President Obama does not have a clue about education; in fact he doesn’t even know there are clues. In his latest appearance of national TV he revealed this---he is concerned about high-level student dropouts from schools and links it to poor teachers.

This is ridiculous when the kid never ended up in the teacher’s classroom in the first place.

For economic reasons, he wants schools to machine-tool kids into interchangeable parts for corporate America, yet the foreign goods being sold in box stores is produced by people who cannot even read.

Obama should concentrate on creating jobs that move the nation forward and give average kids an opportunity to work their way into a middle class---that is fast disappearing.

The president should also concentrate on doing his own job with leadership that he has not yet shown.

These words come from a person that supported Obama,though expecting little, but could no envision that the president was going to waste his time reaching out to reactionary conservatives that did not want anything to get done and were bent on seeing that he would fail.

Posted by: Islewood | September 27, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

What's really interesting is that, based on the interview transcript, people where allowed to call in and present their questions to Obama. A couple were teachers that actually did. Good for them!

So, Ms. Strauss, if this was such the "Elephant" in the room, why didn't ANYONE call in pose question in relation to the "Elephant" (what can be done about the impact of poverty and student achievement?)

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Lauer and Obama missed a learning moment? Oh my!

It's easier to point fingers at teachers as a group than to admit and to accept any responsibility for and attempt to change the real "dirty little secrets."

It's the 3 r's of a dysfunctional family....hide the problems, and hope no one will notice....and blame someone else.

Posted by: gabby2 | September 27, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"So the most important issue in school reform was ignored again.

Those who raise this issue are often attacked for resisting change and wanting to maintain the lousy status quo. It’s a silly, false argument; critics of the Obama administration’s reform agenda want to get rid of bad teachers just as much as anybody else, but they are pushing for workable, fair reforms, not turning back the clock."

The reason that people that make this argument are attacked is because the argument implies that until the issue of poverty is solved there is no point in attempting to reform schools. Once again, victimology is the end all excuse.

The folks out there with high expectations are not looking for excuses, we are looking for massive, extraordinary change, in short order. We do not try to lump in a "related" social issue (poverty) with the systemic failure of the DCPS. These systemic failure of the school system is not due to poverty. Taxpayers are paying into a DCPS system that currently wastes hard earned money.

Sure, poverty has a direct impact on student performance on a student by student basis. However, we are not going to delay firing bad teachers or delay the implementation of systems that track student and teacher performance because of poverty. It just does not logically make any sense at all.

Which brings up a good point. The folks that are against hard core reform in DCPS are typically making arguments that do not have logic as their backbone. Instead they rely on anecdotal racial fear-mongering.

In summary, I disagree 100% that "the most important issue in school reform" is poverty. I believe that "the most important issue in school reform" is the extirpation of a culture of complacency, low expectations, and flat out incompetency of our teachers and principles in the DCPS.

And maybe you will disagreen but I consider it "fair reforms" to fire any and all teachers who are not up to task. At this stage of the game, if you are on the fence - GOODBYE! Our children are much too important to sacrifice their futures for the status quo of many teachers and principles that are just flat out bad at their jobs.

Posted by: IgnorantPeopleofDC | September 27, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

@bsmallack

About the upper middle class schools. I have seen that the kids who don't follow rules,etc. get into a second tier system and continue acting out. Their parents seem to support them. They are usually not in the "gifted" programs, however.

Posted by: celestun100
............................
I know of one middle class school system where the second tier system is run by an individual with experience as a correctional officer. This is definitely not a gifted program.

In fact many of these schools do not have any real gifted program. The attitude is that there is no real need for these programs in middle class public schools where the disruptive and/prone to violence students are not in normal classes. There may be watered down gifted programs in the middle school while in the high schools there are honor classes.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, You are correct that economics is the critical component that needs to be addressed in closing the student achievement gap. You are wrong however, in asserting that teachers cannot overcome this in the classroom. In fact, the real elephant in the room is not whether or not economic status is linked to student achievement--the elephant is whether or not great teachers can overcome it. The answer is YES! And there is substantial research to support it--I suggest you review 90-90-90 schools....these are schools that have 90% minority populations, 90% free and reduced lunch student populations, and 90% of students reaching proficiency on standardized tests! These pockets of effective schools are focusing on teaching and professional development and they are producing powerful results. They are not using factors beyond their control as limitations--every great coach or teacher has demonstrated that students who are economically deprived can achieve at the highest levels when they are placed in schools where teachers are effectively differentiating instruction and engaging their students in meaningful learning. Unfortunately, too many educators (and reporters) believe that economic factors prevent students from learning--they justify this for the very reason that to admit that great teaching can overcome poverty is to admit that teachers can be held accountable to results- God forbid!

Research to support:
http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/online/leadershipacademy/high%20performance%2090%2090%2090%20and%20beyond.pdf

Posted by: teacher6402 | September 27, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Which brings up a good point. The folks that are against hard core reform in DCPS are typically making arguments that do not have logic as their backbone. Instead they rely on anecdotal racial fear-mongering.
Posted by: IgnorantPeopleofDC
..........................
Hey there were white thugs in the poverty public schools when so many whites were poor.

You had the deranged that were beaten by parents. Beat them too early and they become psychotic. Beat them later and they become sadistic. Then there are the differences whether you beat them while being angry or without anger.

Have parents that have no patience and you get problem kids.

Spend little if any time with them and they are problem kids.

Simply sit them in front of a tv with cartoons and/or adult shows and they start to act out at what they see.

Before you had the kids with alcoholics as parents. Now you have also the kids with parents that take drugs.

Parents of these problem kids should not expect a teacher to undo the damage that these parents caused.

And if you are a good parent get your kids out of these schools if at all possible.

The poverty public schools are even worse today. The teachers were not expected to handle the disruptive and/or prone to violence. They went to the reform schools and even in some cases to state mental hospitals.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

@celestun100,

What we've done, as parents, was to make sure our kids understood the importance of education. Worked with them with homework, emphasized the importance of reading (for pleasure). As they matured, made it their responsibility in getting homework done. We're not rich. There is no dowry. Their path is one they create for themselves.

It’s very challenging to raise kids within this fast paced technological age. Information is shared with lightening speed. Social chatrooms, violent video games, nonsense on TV, garbage on the radio influence kids as well. Parents cannot be with their kids 24/7 but we must educate them about the dangers of these outside influences.

None of which has anything to do with teachers (good or bad).

Nobody should expect a teacher to take place of a parent. But kids without ideal parents, can be heavily positively influenced by a single adult albeit teacher, coach, guidance counselor, or principal.

Surely you are well aware of alternative schools. They exist throughout Maryland and I believe, within larger public school systems. The problem with these alternative education programs, are the kids aren't learning ANYTHING. Adequate written instruction, math skills improvement, vocational training option, mental, physical or emotional assistance is provided. These "disruptive" students are parked there until time to graduate. Some enter as early as the age of 9-10 and remain 17-18 years of age. Most are currently in/out or part of the penal system or on their way. This type of "education" has morphed to levels that are now affecting our economy, communities and global education status.

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

every great coach or teacher has demonstrated that students who are economically deprived can achieve at the highest levels
Posted by: teacher6402
.............................
More absurd claims that mean nothing.

There are some children in the poverty public schools that will score at the 90 percentile level no matter the environment. This has nothing to do with their teachers.

The reality is that the poverty public schools have the worse environment for learning. Every day the majority of children in these schools learn from the total acceptance and tolerance of the disruptive and/prone to violence.

Big surprise when there is an epidemic in the middle schools of even more disruptive and/or prone to violence students.

Time for reality and that teachers alone can not overcome the problems of the poverty public schools. This is a joke where glaring problems are simply ignored.

The only way is to do whatever it takes to create an environment conducive to learning instead of one conducive to mayhem and violence.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

"...The problem with these alternative education programs, the kids aren't learning ANYTHING. Adequate written, instruction, math skills improvement, vocational training option, mental, physical or emotional assistance IS NOT provided."

Posted by: TwoSons | September 27, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

You quoted 6 problems that are outside the educational realm for low income students:

(1) low birth weight and nongenetic prenatal influences

(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

(6) neighborhood characteristics.

Providing/requiring medical insurance for both children and their parents (so mothers get prenatal care) is being addressed by Obama's health care reform. This effectively counters item 2, and to a lesser degree item 1.

Item 3 has been long recognized as a problem and is addressed by school lunch programs. These could be better.

Item 4 can be addressed as a health care issue in many respects (wide-spread screening and treatment for lead and mercury exposure etc.)

Item 5 is really difficult to systematically address. Some attempts have been made to provide family counseling, intervention etc., but they are either too expensive to apply on a wide scale, or ineffective.

Item 6 is almost intractable without spending a great deal of money, and time. I am dubious that any real attempts will be made in my lifetime to address it, because the most important ones, like decriminalizing drugs, and deep investment into poverty stricken communities are too difficult to take (politically) right now.

So exactly how is Obama and his administration ignoring these issues? And if they are outside the educational arena, why would the education secretary need to address them?

Posted by: reussere | September 27, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Of course poverty is factor, but it's not excuse for school administrators to do a shoddy job. Look at what KIPP schools are doing for poor and immigrant children.

Posted by: alarico | September 27, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

The problem with these alternative education programs, are the kids aren't learning ANYTHING. Adequate written instruction, math skills improvement, vocational training option, mental, physical or emotional assistance is provided. These "disruptive" students are parked there until time to graduate. Some enter as early as the age of 9-10 and remain 17-18 years of age. Most are currently in/out or part of the penal system or on their way. This type of "education" has morphed to levels that are now affecting our economy, communities and global education status.

Posted by: TwoSons
........................
The reality is to get them out of the normal classrooms as early as possible since they spread the plague even more when they are fully tolerated and accepted in normal classrooms.

Yes more has to be done but the answer is not to ignore the problem and simply dump them back into normal classes.

Time to recognize that for most children the first five years of life are critical.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: TwoSons
........................
Spend the billions that will be spent on worthless local standardized tests and computer systems to analyze test scores on the alternative schools.

Public education has gone down since NCLB since we set policy based on absurd ideas.

For almost ten years we have been fixing problems that did not exist in middle class and affluent public schools.

We do not need the idiocy of forcing policies for children that have a great deal of difficult in learning on children that do not have difficulty in learning.

Race To The Top was sheer stupidity with cases of states that were forced to accept lower standards than they already had in place.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

So exactly how is Obama and his administration ignoring these issues? And if they are outside the educational arena, why would the education secretary need to address them?

Posted by: reussere
.......................
The administration is ignoring the major problem of disruptive and/or prone to violence children in class rooms with the idiotic idea that this simply a matter of class room management.

Even supporters of Obama can not claim that the problem of unsafe schools with mayhem in classrooms that characterizes the poverty public schools in urban areas is outside the educational arena.

The policies of this President are as pathetic as the policies of the previous President.

The Democrats need to select a new candidate for President in 2012. We do not need another case of 8 years of incompetence.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: reussere
.................
Since the supporters of Obama are here, I have provided a list of items for the President.

Pull large numbers of Americans out of Afghanistan. Leave enough troops there to fight terrorists as was recommended bu Vice President Biden.

Stop wasting American funds on nation building in Afghanistan.

Issue an Executive order canceling all visas for foreign workers in the United States.

Rescind Race To The Top and share out the funds to states for public education to pay for teachers.

Enact tax legislation to tax heavily dividends while lessening the tax of capital gains. This will spur investment.

Ask for legislation to remove the loopholes in bank reform so there is no more gambling with the deposits of banks on Wall Street paper. This will increase lending.

Ask for legislation so that hedge fund managers pay income taxes.

Ask for legislation to stop the offshoring of American jobs and return these jobs to this country. American companies that offshore will not be allowed to bid on government contracts and banks that offshore will not be eligible for federal insurance of deposit or other Fed services.

Do all this and I see no need for Democrats to select a new candidate for President in 2012.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course poverty is factor, but it's not excuse for school administrators to do a shoddy job. Look at what KIPP schools are doing for poor and immigrant children.

Posted by: alarico
.................
Yes the public schools should do the same thing and get rid of the disruptive and/or prone to violence out of normal class rooms. They can send them to reform charter schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

For better or worse, the elephant in the room is not poverty, but race. Has anyone noticed the disproportionate number of black and brown children in the so-called "Education Nation"? Suddenly, America's future prosperity is tied to the children of adults who have yet to benefit from it. Poverty and race are linked. Failure to address that inequity will only feed the elephant. For one teacher's take on education in action, please see my blog at teachermandc.com.

Posted by: dcproud1 | September 27, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Poverty is a direct result of lack of education. Want OUT of poverty? GET educated. The poor can't get a library card? The poor can't get a free school lunch, and, breakfast, and all kinds of entitlements? Maybe the unmotivated "seek" lack of education, therefore they are poor. Just as, magically, the MOTIVATED poor seek out, and, GET, education. By the way, this is a poorly reasoned/written article. Night school, maybe? What have you to lose?

Posted by: craigslsst | September 27, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Obama should be fired. He is not willing to take responsibility for improving education. He wants no personal accountability.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

craigslsst,

So many educated people have lost their jobs in this economy. Even nurses have lost jobs.

Education is a wonderful thing, but I know some young people are getting discouraged about it when they see educated people out of work.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

HHS has clear guidelines to reduce poverty

Graduate HS, get married, defer children

The poverty rate would be cut in half.

Oh, sorry, this puts some responsibility on the citizens.....

Posted by: SilverSpringSteve | September 27, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

My friends' daughter will enter Kindergarten next year. At four years old, she knows her letters and many of their sounds, her numbers up to 20, can orient a book correctly, knows colors, shapes, speaks in complete sentences and can tell a story. Kids enter Kindergarten able to do none of those things. It's not that my friends' daughter is exceptionally gifted, but that her parents and all of the adults around her spend time interacting with her, talking to her, listening to her, and channeling her energy into various forms of independent play. Schools have no control for the first five years. Children do not start the race on the same starting line. Some children never make up the distance. I believe there's no way to make up for neglect in the first five years when the brain is most plastic and is forming networks of synapses. The best we can hope to do is to meet each child where he or she begins and take them as far as their abilities and motivation will allow them to go.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | September 27, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Not one word in this article, or in the comments, on Obama's key role in eliminating any new vouchers for poor families (yes, that's poverty-stricken families), in Washington, DC. Today, he admits that DC public schools "don't measure up" to the private school to which he sends his kids. But apparently those same DC public schools are good enough for the po folk. This president and his entire value system is a disgrace.

Posted by: RossOdom | September 27, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

The only way is to do whatever it takes to create an environment conducive to learning instead of one conducive to mayhem and violence.

Posted by: bsallamack |

Amen!
Would you like to be the next chancellor?
We could surely use you!

Posted by: cosnowflake | September 27, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

gnorantPeopleofDCm

The point of poverty is that children growing up in poor neighborhoods don't often get healthy food, clean air, and necessary medical and dental treatment. Often they are living in dangerous neighborhoods, and are living in a higher level of anxiety. That anxiety affects their school performance. My education experience (not as a classroom teacher, but often in classes with teachers) is that in the lower income neighborhoods the children out behaviorally more than in calmer neighborhoods.

I know people claim teachers can make up for this, but they can usually only do it with the support of the children's parent and strong from the administration, as well from social workers.

When people say that teachers says teachers can make up for everything I know that is not possible from my own experience. I have done a lot classroom obversation and I know that is simply not the truth.

It time for the people who are pertuating this myth to starte telling the truth.

These kids in the poorer neighborhoods need more behavioral interventions in order for them to calm down enough to learn. The teacher can't do that alone. And anyone who says it can has not been inside classroom in a poor neighborhood.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course poverty is factor, but it's not excuse for school administrators to do a shoddy job. Look at what KIPP schools are doing for poor and immigrant children.

Posted by: alarico

Alarico - Kipp counsels students out of the school who aren't meeting their requirements. Basically that means they get rid of all the disruptive kids and send them back to the public schools. With the disruptive kids out, they are able to teach the kids more.

But who teaches the disruptive kids - the public schools. And they do disrupt class a lot in the lower income neighborhoods. Thus less learning goes on.

You should check it out yourself and you will see what I mean.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, the problem is that the "free-market" education reform industry feeds on child poverty.

Look at the coy phrasing in this website for one the shadowy bottom-feeder, Kaplan K12 Virtual Charter Schools (which is owned by the Washington Post Corporation). It is offering a for-profit vertual charter plan o enroll the most damaged of education reform's victims, "keeping them in-district and capturing per-pupil funding. Plus, a dedicated Account Manager will work as a district partner to deliver results."

http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

They mention "Previously withdrawn students" and "Homeschooled students" and "students who are currently difficult or expensive to serve" as specific targets for their phantom charter student hoax.

"IMAGINE REACHING EVERY CHILD, EVEN IF SHE NEVER WALKS THROUGH THE DOOR." Means that, once a district pushes children out of their public schools with lotteries and closures, Kaplan will give corrupt public administrators like Rhee a kickback of the public per-diem funds in exchange for the student's name on their for-profit charter roster.

None of the willfully ignorant commenters posting above will ever have to see the child. Poor children can lie at home sick with asthma or a contagious disease, without any expensive face-to-face services that require proof of vaccination. The "dedicated account manager" can assure that they still swell the Post Corporation's profits.

People who refuse to open the link I have posted often ask, "How could this be happening without anyone speaking up about it?"

Kaplan offers concealment through their "Program Solution", the "DISTRICT-LABEL VIRTUAL SCHOOL" Here is another direct quote from the Kaplan K12 website:

"Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan."

Posted by: mport84 | September 27, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Poverty and race are linked. Failure to address that inequity will only feed the elephant.

I came to the same conclusion when I began to realize that often minority schools are no way as nice as the middle class and wealthier districts. I can say this because I've in inside several wealthy, middle class and poor schools.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so KIPP separates the disruptive kids from the ones who behave. What is wrong with that, and why can't public schools do the same? Why do public schools have to cater to the lowest common denominator? We could set up some public schools designed for problem students-- give them counseling, teach them social skills, etc-- they could even be boarding schools to remove the kids from bad homes. They way things are set up right now everybody loses.

Posted by: alarico | September 27, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

rjpal,

There is much more respect for education in Asia than in America. And Asian parents are much more involved in their children's education. That is something the US can learn from.

I think also that India has a strong extended family support such as you don't see the United States. I really believe that helps keep kids out of trouble. With the extended Indian family all interested in the kids, and pressuring them to do well in school - that's a big plus for the kids.

What I am wondering is whether poverty in India is the same as poverty in America. In American poverty there is usually a fractured family system. A child raised in a poor gang ridden neighborhood in Chicago doesn't have the family structure in place to keep him or her out of the gangs. Or to keep him or her in school.

India might succeed better at educating its poor students because of the extended and involved family.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of the commenters here are vastly more perceptive and intelligent than Ms. Strauss.

Poverty does not *cause* poor school performance. Having parents that don't care about your education, living in a subculture that doesn't value educational attainment, and being lazy do.

Nothing happens for most kids if they don't study. Poor kids can study- they do it all over the world, even in the USA. What Obama could have said is that his mother cared enough about his education to get him up at 4AM before school to study. Even if the parents don't know the topic, they can make the kids study, they can make the sacrifice.

Posted by: staticvars | September 27, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

alarico

What you are saying is good. The problem is that if the public schools send the misbehaving students to a private school (which is often beneficial for the student) they could pay up to 70,000 a year. There are schools that cost only 30,000 a year but the students don't get counseling or the services of a social worker.

The whole issue of sending students from the public schools to the private ones is the money it costs, otherwise more schools would do it.

So when Kipp counsels students out of their school, the kids go to the public school. But the public schools cannot counsel kids out, they can only send them on to private therapeutic schools. I've only had experience with one such school, and it was a better place for misbehaving students to be than a public school. Everything in the school was set up with the understanding that the kids had behavioral problems, and it made it a good environment for the kids. But because of the price tag (70,000 for the school with therapy and social workers) schools find it too expensive.

Obama praises charter schools but ignores the theraputic (mostly day) schools that handle the most out of control students.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

I forgot, I've been in 2 therapeutic days schools, not one. Since the whole setting is dedicated to handling behaviorally disturbed students, they usually do better there. If it weren't for the money issue, more students would be sent.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 27, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

My friends' daughter will enter Kindergarten next year.
Posted by: buckbuck11
..................
Tell your friend to try and get her to learn to read and love reading before she enters school.

Children that can do this will usually obtain the benefits of education.

This can usually be accomplished in a year. Read a half an hour a day to a child. It is actually fun if you pick the books first and make sure there are none that you will be bored stiff reading over and over. Have your friend take his daughter to Barnes and Noble or Border if possible. Buy nothing but simply read the book there. A good public library is a great place to read to a child.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

The point of poverty is that children growing up in poor neighborhoods don't often get healthy food, clean air, and necessary medical and dental treatment.
Posted by: educationlover54
......................
The reality is that the poverty children that not totally damaged should love school.

It should be an environment where they are safe and do not have to deal with the disruptive and/or prone to violence.

Provide this environment and these children will find schools as sanctuaries from the mayhem that surrounds them outside these schools.

But this means that these schools can not accept the disruptive and/or prone to violence who would simply bring with them the mayhem of outside the schools.

If we saved early on the ones that can be saved this would decrease poverty and create less of the disruptive and/or prone to violence in the next generation.

One tires of the idiocy of allowing the disruptive and/or prone to violence to remain with the ones that can be saved.

I believe that many of the disruptive and/or prone to violence might change if they were removed as early as possible from normal classes in order to modify their behavior. The reality is that if you can not modify the behavior of these children early on the probability gets close to zero of modifying their behavior when they are older.

Allowing the disruptive and/or prone to violence to remain in normal classes is idiotic.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

I forgot, I've been in 2 therapeutic days schools, not one. Since the whole setting is dedicated to handling behaviorally disturbed students, they usually do better there. If it weren't for the money issue, more students would be sent.

Posted by: educationlover54
................
And of course the answer is to put these children in normal classes so that most of the money spent for educating these normal classes is now wasted.

Why are adults so stupid in believing that conditions can be imposed upon them that would never be contemplated for adults?

What manager with normal adult employees would simply place among them a new adult employee that was disruptive and/or prone to violence and not expect the work of his employees to suffer.

Hey the kid is disruptive and/or prone to violence and almost impossible to deal with. Throw him into a class of normal children.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 27, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

@bsallamack- I pray that you are not teaching anyone's children-- honestly, if there was ever a reason that Chancellor Rhee is needed your comments accentuate it. You do not believe in kids, teachers or proven educational methods.

You are making me believe that blogs are not legitimate places for dialogue and educated conversation, but a haven for the mentally disturbed. Your arguments are weak, vague and incoherent.

UGH! If this person is a teacher we are in serious, god forsaken trouble!

Posted by: teacher6402 | September 27, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Why is he mentally disturbed? He has a right to his opinions as much as anyone else does. He is saying that he thinks chronically disruptive children should be removed from the classroom. Why is that so unreasonable?

I agree with TwoSons that alternative ed., is not exactly what we want for the kids who are chronically disruptive, we do need a place where they can get counseling and therapy. But at some point they cannot be disrupting other students. It isn't ok to have a whole class disrupted by a few kids.

Of course, teachers should try everything in their power to have a well managed class. I am talking about people who are really out of control, consistently.

I disagree with bsamallack about the visa cut off, but he is interested and has a right to his opinions.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 28, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

President Obama and Michelle actually interviewed Key Elementary School (DCPS) when they came to DC last winter.

The Secret Service has a lot to do with the selection of the school, as security is much easier to achieve when the school campus is large, has a well defined perimeter, and a student population that is easy to assess and control. Sidwell Friends is a great school, but there are some elementary schools in Northwest that compare very well.

The President and his Secretary of Education continue to expose their very sophomoric and political approach towards school reform, which is most disturbing to many who were very motivated in the 2008 election. This issue is a sleeping giant that the President needs to understand, and quickly; Washington's local election may be a harbinger of things to come.

The majority of pundits who live in DC live in Ward 3, Capitol Hill and the Pennsylvania Avenue downtown revitalization district. They have little understanding of public schools and they have the means to send their children to any school that will take them.

Public schools are not private institutions, but wealthy communities still have depended on "neighborhood boundaries" to protect their children from the affects of poverty and crime that are part of this system. When the Supreme Court stated that "separate is not equal" (Brown vs. Bd. of Ed., Topeka, KS in 1954) it established that these practices should not be maintained. Yet, here in Washington, we have a public school system that leads the nation in achievement gaps based on race and income.

There has been a very disturbing disconnect among people who have supported education reform, but refuse to confront the clear and convincing evidence accumulated over decades that show that public school systems must directly address concentrations of high and low SES (socioeconomic status) environments to fairly provide opportunities of all its children.

Posted by: AGAAIA | September 28, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

I haven't seen the entire NBC coverage of education, but I will say that teacher's unions, and older teacher's in general, sure seem to be taking it tough. The country wants a villain, and NBC is responding. At the end of The Nightly News, Brian Williams and the Ellis woman showed a clip of a young New York teacher bemoaning the fact that the teacher's contract specified how many hours a teacher can be at school during the day; she hates tenure and seniority and she ended by saying that she could teach effectively if the teacher's unions would just get out of the way. Williams, and especially Ellis, were like two cheerleaders, glowing about how motivated and effective the young would be once they were able to rid themselves of the evils of tenure and teacher's unions. I sure hope this little darling is as good as she thinks she is, because one of these days when layoffs come, when merit rules, and when she doesn't have a union to protect her, she might have to invest in some kneepads to save her job.

Posted by: rtinindiana | September 28, 2010 3:07 AM | Report abuse

You know what You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price by calling 877-882-4740 or check http://bit.ly/9fDY7U If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: kerisable28 | September 28, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse

OHREALLYNOW,

You are right. There are poor white kids in America that need to be helped. I'm glad you mentioned that. To be honest, I hadn't thought about them. We need people like you to remind us of things we have forgotten.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

"What manager with normal adult employees would simply place among them a new adult employee that was disruptive and/or prone to violence and not expect the work of his employees to suffer."

That is correct Bsallamack. You are always so insightful. I wish you had been in Rhee's place as chancellor. You are a true advocate for children (like many others here also) and I respect you deeply.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I discovered the link between poverty and achievement on standardized tests many years ago when working at a state education agency. As part of my job I did an analysis each year of the results of the SAT scores. I found an exact--perfect, unwavering--connection between scores and family income. There was an equally strong and related link between the scores and the education level of the mother.

I also discovered the strong resistance to elevating this connection to anything more than a statistical quirk. This was at a time of the paradigm shift to the idea that all children can learn--no excuses for schools and teachers with students who did not learn. I think it is important that every child be taught with the conviction that he or she can learn and learn at a high level. At the same time, however, we cannot ignore the poverty connection. It gives us new motivation to attack this problem. The rise in poverty is all the more alarming because of its long-term implications for the nation's educational achievement and economic well-being.

Posted by: larycham | September 28, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The real "elephant in the room" is the fact that there are substantial differences in average IQ between students from different socioeconomic groups (higher SES children tend to be substantially smarter than lower SES children) and from different ethnoracial groups (Asians and Whites tend to be substantially smarter than Blacks and Hispanics).

It is important to realize that the mostly White and Asian students from Northwest DC have average IQs in the range of 105 to 115, whereas the mostly Black and Hispanic students from the rest of DC have average IQs in the range of 80 to 90. IQ-type intelligence is a highly heritable trait (i.e. variation in intelligence is mostly due to genetic differences and environmental differences play a much smaller role).

Research scholars who study human intelligence have found that academic achievement tests actually measure the same type of intelligence that is measured by IQ tests. They have found evidence that the same group of genes that modulate IQ test performance, also modulate performance on tests of reading and mathematics skills. This work has been done by several leading intelligence researchers such as Douglas Detterman (Case Western U), J.C. DeFries (U of Colorado), Matt McGue (U of Minnesota), Robert Plomin (London), Ian Deary (Edinburgh), Dorret Boomsma (Amsterdam), and Nick Martin (Australia).

It is impossible for Michelle Rhee, or anyone else for that matter, to eliminate the achievement gap because it is completely impossible to make DC's lower class students (mostly Blacks and Hispanics) with IQs predominantly in the 75 to 105 range perform as well as DC's middle and upper class students (mostly Whites and Asians) with IQs predominantly in the 105 to 135 range.

Posted by: rifraf | September 28, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Heck even Jay Mathews spends time WITH students, teachers and diverse levels of schools, i.e., research.

Maybe you should to.

Posted by: TwoSons

You are confusing anecdotes with research. Strauss quotes research regularly Matthews and most of the "reform" movement prefer anecdotes, most of which are made-up or irrelevant.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 28, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

For many teachers and the unions who represent them, there is a very real fear of using student performance as one component in evaluating teachers. Anything other than the status quo where pay is tied exclusively to seniority and tenure is the unbreakable law of the land, is attacked by the Unions using false arguments such as the one above. Yes, some children are harder to teach than others. Yes, children in poverty have the deck stacked against them. Should a teacher be fired when a majority of their latch-key kids don't pass the state reading test? Absolutely not. But if year-over-year, that teacher's students are not improving and additional training for the teacher doesn't have an impact, what should happen to him or her? Should they continue to dole out a 2nd rate education, failing our youth? Would you volunteer your child to be in this teacher's classroom?

There are better ways to assess performance. The Value-Added Analysis below is a step in the right direction:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/teachers-investigation/


Posted by: alexandrian78

You really need to read some education research. The LA Times article was debunked by peer-reviewed research by the Economic Policy Institute even before it was published. Also, those pointing out the folly of the phony "reformers" like Klein, Rhee, Duncan and Kopp, are not in favor of the "status quo" they just prefer reforms that actually work and have been test to the current faith-based fads. Richmond public schools (90% minority and (90% poor) now outperform wealthy Fairfax county on the state SOL's. Brockton HS in MA (4100 students, mostly poor and minority as well) now outperforms 90% of the schools in MA. How? They adopted improvements to the school curriculum based on educational and cognitive research, driven by faculty (teachers) input and experienced leadership (not 2-3 years teaching 3rd grade), not fads. Also: NO TFA, No Charters, No mass teacher firings, no "superman" cult leaders, No misuse of student tests to evaluate teachers, No union-scapegoating. Of course, success was achieved slowly over 10 years; way beyond the attention span of most of the "reformers" who are just doing this until they move on to their real careers.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 28, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

The blog's cherry picking of stats for poor black and hispanic students undermines the argument that economics is the key factor. Surely there are pockets of white poverty where student achievement and economic status can be compared. What about moderate income, integrated schools? No doubt kids from poor homes who go to poor schools (poor in the broadest sense) will often fail to learn. Maybe the president, and others, have made the pragmatic judgment that changing schools may be achievable sooner and cheaper than banishing poverty - particularly since the Republicans seem to have convinced a majority of Americans that wide income inequality is desirable and just.

Posted by: webfreddes | September 28, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

@bsallamack- I pray that you are not teaching anyone's children-- honestly, if there was ever a reason that Chancellor Rhee is needed your comments accentuate it. You do not believe in kids, teachers or proven educational methods.

You are making me believe that blogs are not legitimate places for dialogue and educated conversation, but a haven for the mentally disturbed. Your arguments are weak, vague and incoherent.

Posted by: teacher6402
.................
I am not a public school teacher. The last time I taught was in a college over 30 years ago.

Interesting that you comment about this blog not be for dialogue but for the "mentally disturbed" with arguments that are "weak, vague and incoherent".

Since your post attacking me is "weak, vague and incoherent" are we to also assume that you are mentally disturbed.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Call me uninformed but don't studies show the only real nexus between success in school is attendance. Kids who show up tend to do OK. Those who fail buy and large don't show up.

Posted by: JNiebs | September 28, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

It is important to realize that the mostly White and Asian students from Northwest DC have average IQs in the range of 105 to 115, whereas the mostly Black and Hispanic students from the rest of DC have average IQs in the range of 80 to 90. IQ-type intelligence is a highly heritable trait (i.e. variation in intelligence is mostly due to genetic differences and environmental differences play a much smaller role).

Posted by: rifraf
...................................
"variation in intelligence is mostly due to genetic differences and environmental differences play a much smaller role"

Pure nonsense with out any scientific proof.

IQ ia almost always simply obtained from a written test.

The only real way to measure intelligence would be a method using brain scans to measure brain activity and this would have to done with babies at birth. One would then need to make sure that the groups for race contained only normal babies so that environmental differences of the pregnancy did not play a factor.

So far no one has come up with the method to accurately predict intelligence based upon brain scans of babies.

IQ simply measures the ability to learn what schools are teaching. Take a certified "intelligent" child and have that child only read comic books and nothing else and that child would probably do poorly on a written IQ test since his/her comprehension level of written material has been stunted.

You can develop comprehensive not written test to measure intelligence but unfortunately the tests have to be administered when the children are older and you have the problem of environmental factors.

Time to recognize claims of differences in the genes of races that supposedly indicate differences in intelligences are not science.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The simplest and most obvious way to shrink the so-called "wealth gap" and otherwise reduce the aggregate number of poor people in America is for poor people to reduce dramatically their self-destructively high birthrate.

There's no surer way for an uneducated, unemployed and unmarried woman to trap herself (and her offspring) in a lifetime of poverty than to start having babies.

Posted by: NorplantNow | September 28, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I'd be more persuaded about the role of poverty in America's worsening educational performance if the countries who were beginning to beat us didn't have a sizable percentage of their populations earning much less than $20,050USD for a family of four.

Posted by: umyeah3 | September 28, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

umyeah3,

Why don't you go teach in an inner city neighbhood filled with violence and family fragmentation? Then come back and say the same thing.

I think those who attack teachers need to become teachers.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

It is misleading and irresponsible for Valerie Strauss to suggest that there is no "valid" research about the impact of having an effective teacher three (or 4 or 5) years in a row. Readers should know that there is, in fact, a body of evidence that many researchers would consider "valid" on this topic. As a sampling, those interested can see:

- Data from Tennessee shows the average difference between having highly effective teachers three years in a row versus having ineffective teachers three years in a row is 52 to 54 percentile points. http://www.mccsc.edu/~curriculum/cumulative%20and%20residual%20effects%20of%20teachers.pdf

- Data from Los Angeles shows having a top-quartile teacher instead of a bottom-quartile teacher for four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white achievement gap (roughly 34 percentile points) http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200604hamilton_1.pdf

- Data from the Gary Income Maintenance Experiment shoes that, in a single year, students with the weakest 5% of teachers made a half-year’s worth of reading gains on standardized tests, while those with the top 5% of teachers gained a year and a half. http://edpro.stanford.edu/Hanushek/admin/pages/files/uploads/child%20quality.JPE.pdf

Furthermore, in the chapter Strauss suggests clearly de-bunks this research, Diane Ravitch's main argument lies on a conversation she had with an assistant professor she ran into at a conference, who questioned the methodology of one study on teacher effectiveness. This hardly presents enough information for Valerie Strauss, or any reader, to make such a leap in logic by saying there is no "valid" research about how high quality teachers can overcome the effects of poverty.

Posted by: DCdatanerd | September 29, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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