When people have said "poverty is no excuse," my response has been, "Yes, you're right. Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty." - Gerald Bracey
As former voucher champion Paul E. Peterson of Harvard notes, all our favorite silver bullets have failed to change scoring patterns over the past half-century: the end of legal segregation, extra federal dollars for students in poverty, high-stakes tests, schools of choice—via charters or vouchers, teachers with more degrees, teachers' unions, improved wages for teachers, and even smaller schools. Of course, we've never done any of these wholeheartedly, but would we want to? We've in reality increased the separations across race and class. And no legal victory has produced equal school resources for the rich and poor. At one short moment in the 1980s we contemplated rethinking the nature of the "evidence" for improved schooling—shifting from "credit hours" and standardized tests to an older form of assessment:"Show me." It didn't last even a decade. Peterson's latest hope is technology and distance learning. Actually, I lived through that once before. Remember? But, I wouldn't dismiss it entirely—as I wouldn't any of the fads. We will not be a nation in the forefront of invention, however, if we stop inventing different answers to the $64-million-dollar questions: What do we want? And, how much do we all have to agree? -- Deborah Meier, Bridging Differences Blog
"...Education Department data show that disadvantaged children enter kindergarten already three months behind the national average in reading and math skills, and never catch up. That's because their advantaged contemporaries are not standing still. They continue to benefit from travel, summer camp and other enriching experiences. Even the best schools have no control over these factors. It's little wonder then that there will always be a gap in academic achievement.
"California is a reminder of why it's so important not to draw conclusions based on incomplete information. Its public schools were once the envy of the nation. But since the 1960s, their performance has declined dramatically. Is this the result of a new generation of ineffective teachers in the classrooms, or the growth of teachers unions that protect them?
"Some say yes. But there's another more likely explanation. During the period in question, California's immigrant population soared because of the 1965 federal legislation that opened the gates to citizenship. (This does not begin to take into consideration the countless number of the undocumented.) One in four students in California is an English language learner, compared with fewer than one in ten on average in other states.
"Almost 60 percent of the state's total public school population consists of Hispanics, many of them low-income. This demographic is reflected in the fact that half of California's students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches.
"Why are these numbers relevant to the achievement gap? The Public Policy Institute of California reported that only 50 percent of elementary schools with the highest share of poor students made adequate yearly progress in 2007, while 98 percent of elementary schools with the lowest share of poor students did so.
"If any doubt remains, California released its Academic Performance Index rankings on May 13, showing continued vast disparities in achievement between schools serving poor Hispanic and African-American students and schools serving middle-class white students.
"Let's not give up on trying to change this discouraging picture, but at the same time let's not delude ourselves into thinking that schools alone are the answer, whether in California or in any state. Extraordinary teachers can be powerful agents in helping students make progress in learning, but they are not miracle workers who can make the achievement gap disappear.
"Believing otherwise creates anger in taxpayers who have been led to believe that if only schools were like they used to be in the past there would be no gaps. It's a myth." -- Walt Gardner's Reality Check
The Disparity Gap
America talks about closing the Achievement Gap, which makes it easy for us to ignore the other gaps between black and white children; The homeowner gap...the health care gap...the income gap...the poverty gap...the unemployment gap...the incarceration gap...the murder gap. Close these gaps and there won't be an achievement gap.
~~~Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the OSFs [out-of-school factors] that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them. -- David C. Berliner, Poverty and Potention: Out-Of-School Factors and School Success