I’m only six years old, but even I know that poverty is a terrible thing. I see the other kids at school whose clothes have holes in them, or who can’t afford new toys like the ones I have, or who are having serious family issues unlike anything I’ve experienced. And yes, I’ve noticed that they tend to do worse in school than my friends from higher-income families.
Out in the big wide world of education policy, you won’t find anyone credible who will argue that poverty does not have a significant impact on academic achievement. For proof, all you need to do is take a look at the familiar income-related achievement gaps seen in last year’s PARCC scores, or the data illustrating these gaps on the most recent NAEP exam.
But why? Do we have an education problem, or a poverty problem? Are we talking about the chicken, or the egg?
Most of you know that I absolutely loathe the common argument that we have to fix poverty before we can fix achievement gaps. I fully reject the argument that low-income kids are liabilities who should be simply shuffled through a school system that callously shrugs its shoulders and says, in essence, “there’s nothing we can do with these kids.” And I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that effective schools—private, charter, and traditional—can help low-income kids defy the odds and build successful lives that break the malicious cycle of poverty rather than perpetuate it.
With the release of a new Education Next study on poverty and education in America, we have yet another piece of evidence contradicting the idea that the United States is experiencing a poverty crisis rather than an education crisis. Continue Reading »