Thursday, March 04, 2010

Krashen on math and poverty

Raise standards or deal with the problems?

Sent to the LA Times, 2/22/10

**Does the US lag a full year behind on math compared to other "top-performing countries," as claimed by an "administration official"? ("Obama to announce new effort to improve No Child Left Behind," Feb. 22). **

**Yes and no. If we consider only students from higher-income families who attend well-funded schools, our students do very well, scoring at or near the top. **

This suggests that the problem is not bad teaching, nor is the solution "raising standards." The problem is poverty and the solution is dealing with the factors associated with poverty. These include hunger, nutrition, environmental toxins, and the availability of books, all of which have been shown to powerfully impact academic performance.

Stephen Krashen


Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics

achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.,0,954399.story

**Obama to announce new effort to improve No Child Left Behind**

Los Angeles Times

**The president is expected to encourage states to adopt a common set of college and career-ready standards. A main goal is to improve U.S. students' global competitiveness.**

By Christi Parsons Feb. 22, 2010

President Obama will announce an effort to raise public school standards Monday as part of a plan to upgrade goals of the No Child Left Behind law, an administration official said Sunday.

In a speech to the annual meeting of the National Governors Assn., Obama is expected to unveil a new requirement for states to develop standards to win a significant portion of No Child Left Behind funds.

A key feature of the 2002 law was the use of yearly standardized tests to gauge school progress. Though the law got credit for improving accountability for educators and raising the standards for schoolchildren, it was widely criticized for setting unrealistic goals but not giving schools the money to meet them.

The law was also criticized for letting the 50 states set 50 different standards. The president's move Monday will encourage states to adopt a common set of college and career-ready standards -- most of them higher than what most states currently have.

Obama was one of the chief critics during the presidential campaign, often noting that the problem with No Child Left Behind was that it "left the money behind."

Shortly after taking office, Obama challenged states to come up with standards and measurements that would better prepare public school children for college and careers.

On Monday, officials said, the president will applaud the governors for joining in a consortium to come up with new reading and math standards that better prepare students for life after graduation.

A 1994 federal law required that each state set standards for what students should know and be able to do in critical subjects, but the law did not require states to consider whether the standards might help prepare students for college and the workplace. Many complain that the standards are too low.

"Over time, this race to the bottom threatens to place American students on a decline in relation to international peers," an administration official said Sunday. "Results on international assessments reveal that, in math, American students lag almost a full year behind students from the top-performing countries. In response to their international comparison results, other countries have raised their standards while we have lowered ours."


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