Letter sent to the Jewish Daily Forward: Poverty and Education

Poverty and educational attainment

Sent to the Jewish Daily Forward, August 26, 2012

The Forward editorial “The debate we need” (August 24) notes that the US now has the highest poverty rate among developed nations. According to UNESCO, 23% of American children live in poverty, which ranks us 34th out of 35 economically advanced countries. The editorial then says that along with an “educational system that is loosing its advantage,” this “bodes ill for the future.”

The reason the American education system appears to be in decline is poverty.  American children from middle class families who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on standardized tests, including math and science.  Our mediocre overall scores on these tests are not because of teaching quality, teachers’ unions, schools of education, or lack of rigorous standards. The problem is poverty.

Study after study has shown that poverty has devastating effects on school performance: The best teaching in the world will have little effect when students are hungry, ill from lack of basic health care, and have little access to books.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://forward.com/articles/161252/the-debate-we-need/


  1. THE MEASUREMENTS are low-stakes tests, not high-stakes.
    And yes, there are other factors, and yes even children not in poverty have barriers to achievement. But poverty remains the big problem, and the one that can be dealt with quickly – for a fraction of the $ we are planning to spend on testing, we can protect many children from much of the impact of poverty.


  2. Please examine the caveats which may apply to children not in poverty: well funded schools….; “qualified teachers without biases….; and how many of our urban children fit into the categories without these assets who are not necessarily in poverty. Standardized tests measure how well our children are doing and the argument citing poverty as the reason for poor performance is poverty. What about the measurements.


Comments are closed.