Posted in poverty

Deal With It

A lot has been written about Jon Stewart’s interview with Michelle Rhee on the Daily Show. Stewart has been taken to task for being too easy on her…missing important questions…and in general just giving her a softball interview. I, too, wish he had hit her over the head with 1) her talking points which both compliment and disparage teachers at the same time, 2) the unresolved (hidden?) cheating scandal in Washington D.C. which happened under her watch, and 3) the fact that she isn’t anywhere near qualified to teach, let along lead one of the nation’s largest and poorest school systems.

Tim Slekar at @ the chalk face was also hard on Stewart writing that

Just on one single distortion blurted out by [Rhee] and you could have ended her miserable career. And I know you know this! The “radical” claimed:

“Teachers are biggest IN SCHOOL predictor of student success.”

…How about you call any one of the thousands of us—real radicals—and let us to give you the FACTS about school reform in this country. Sorry Jon but that was horrible!

This morning Slekar posted a continuation, Teachers Rock in School: But what about out of School?

I want to go back to one of the statements that she made in the interview. However, if you have the stomach to do so and follow Ms. Rhee, you know she makes this statement regularly:

The research is very clear. That of all the in school factors that exist, it’s the quality of the teacher in the front of the classroom everyday that has the most impact…

And what about OUT OF SCHOOL FACTORS?

Slekar followed this with pictures of poverty and violence…two of the most important out of school factors (and here’s my umpteenth reference to David Berliner’s research on the out of school factors related to achievement…see Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success).

Rhee and the so-called “reformers” — the politicians, pundits and policy makers — constantly harp on how teachers are the most important in-school factor affecting student achievement. That’s true, of course, but the in-school factors account for a much smaller effect on achievement than do the out of school factors. They claim that improving education will improve poverty which is backwards. This is just the excuse they give for their failure to deal with poverty in America.

The results of international tests, which I noted in the last Medley (2013 Medley #3: Poverty and the “achievement gap”: Some new data) clearly show that poverty affects achievement worldwide. The report says,

Socioeconomic inequality among U.S. students skews international comparisons of test scores, finds a new report released today by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Economic Policy Institute. When differences in countries’ social class compositions are adequately taken into account, the performance of U.S. students in relation to students in other countries improves markedly.

This is, of course, just what Diane Ravitch, Stephen Krashen and others have been saying for years. The problem is poverty. Apparently, the whole world knows it except for the US Department of Education, the so-called “reformers” and the legislatures of the various states.

Just one example…Walt Gardner, in Avoiding the Obvious in Education Reform,

The always provocative Chester Finn Jr. outdid himself in arguing that education has the potential to “make the United States a better place to live for a long time to come” (“The Issue Left Behind,” The Weekly Standard, Feb. 11). He maintains that how the Republican party addresses education reform will determine not only its future but that of the nation itself.

Finn lists five ways to achieve that goal. But what he surprisingly omits is the importance of the role that poverty plays in educational outcomes. He says that it’s time “for the party of Lincoln to craft a new platform for itself.” I can’t think of a better place to begin than with strategies to eliminate America’s notoriety for being No. 1 in the industrialized world in the rate of childhood poverty.

Everyone knows that It’s the Poverty, Stupid!. It’s time to stop blaming the victims and shuffling poor children from school to school as piece by piece we dismantle our public education system. We need to stop closing schools with struggling students instead of helping them. It’s time to stop targeting teachers and public schools for the failure of our leaders to deal with the economic realities of our nation.

One fourth of our children live in poverty. Have we become so selfish that we can no longer feel shame at that?

We need to deal with it.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Retired after 35 years in public education.

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