Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cody: Poverty is Bane of Education, Not Bad Teachers; Links EPI Study on Privatizers' Success vs. Facts in Chicago, NYC, & DC

Recently at this blog I've posted on how the U.S. is lagging internationally on early childhood education, how education gaps mirror social class within and outside of the U.S. As I noted in "Class inequality playing ever greater factor in educational disparity" the NY Times has recognized inequality's effect as the class gap in education is growing.

Veteran educator Anthony Cody addresses poverty's wrenching impact on education and links to "Market-oriented education reforms’ rhetoric trumps reality: The impacts of test-based teacher evaluations, school closures, and increased charter school access on student outcomes in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C" by the Economic Policy Institute, which, in brief, fights for living wage jobs.
Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers, by Anthony Cody, July 19, 2013
Cody opened with Stanford professor Eric Hanushek and privatizers' dubious refrain that a string of great teachers can erase the effects of socio-economic damage, and Cody effectively counters:
But the real world is proving to be a difficult place for Hanushek’s theories to be verified. No school has ever replicated the results predicted by his “four great teachers in a row” theory. In fact, there is no real research to support the idea that we can improve student achievement this way—it is all based on extrapolations.
And in fact, new data shows that in the three large urban school districts where these reforms have been given full rein, the results are actually worse (pdf) than in comparable districts that have not gone this route.
Some of the key findings from the Economic Policy Institute’s April report:
*Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts. *Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
*School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.
Most importantly:
*The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance.

This last point is crucial. This attention to the supposedly pivotal role teachers play in student success comes at a time when the number of children in poverty has been on the rise. According to a study in 2011 (pdf), one school in five was considered high poverty, up from one in eight in the year 2000. Another study ["More Than 40% of Low-Income Schools Don't Get a Fair Share of State and Local Funds, Department of Education Research Finds"] showed that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding… leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”
While conservative economists such as Hanushek wish to focus our attention on “bad teachers,” in actuality by far the largest factor affecting school performance is family income. In fact, the achievement gap between rich and poor has grown to be twice as large ["'Income Achievement Gap' Almost Double Black-White Performance Gap, Report Shows"] as the black/white performance gap in America.
Read Cody's full "Poverty is what’s crippling public education in the US—not bad teachers" post at Quartz.com.