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