Information Age Education Blog

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6 minutes reading time (1261 words)

In the United States, One in Seven (and Well Over 20% of Children) Live in Poverty

Poverty is perhaps the best single predictor of future lack of success in our school system. A good introduction to this topic is available at:

Berliner, D.C. (March, 2009). Poverty and potential: Out-of-school factors and school success. Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice. Retrieved 9/19/2010 from http://greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Berliner_NonSchool.pdf.

Couple this fact with our country’s continuing efforts to improve our educational system and with the recent report discussed in:

Morello, C. (9/16/2010). About 44 million [in U.S.] lived below poverty line in 2009, census data show. The Washington Post. Retrieved 9/19/2010 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/16/AR2010091602698.html?wpisrc=nl_natlalert.

The data that one in seven (a little over 14%) of our population live in poverty do not fully capture the total poverty-related educational problem. In 2008, 20.7% of children under 18 lived in poverty, with the percentages being 35.4% for Blacks and 33.1% for Hispanics (see http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/#5). Moreover, the recent recession and substantial increase in unemployment have added to these percentages.

Just think about living in a family of four on an annual income of less than $22,050. My state of Oregon has a minimum wage of $8.40 per hour, which is quite a bit above the Federal minimum wage. A person working a full 52 weeks, 40 hours a week, at $8.40 per hour earns $17,472 per year. And, perhaps you are aware that the minimum wage set by the Federal Government is even less, at $7.25 per hour!

It is ridiculous to think that more testing and threatening of teachers and their school systems will solve the educational problems that this level of poverty creates!

Some Updated Information 10/24/2013

Layton, Lyndsey (10/16/2013). Study: Poor children are now the majority in American public schools in South, West. The Washington Post. Retrieved 10/24/2013 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/study-poor-children-are-now-the-majority-in-american-public-schools-in-south-west/2013/10/16/34eb4984-35bb-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008.

Quoting from the article:

A majority of students in public schools throughout the American South and West are low-income for the first time in at least four decades, according to a new study that details a demographic shift with broad implications for the country.

The analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, is based on the number of students from preschool through 12th grade who were eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program in the 2010-11 school year. …

In a large swath of the country, classrooms are filling with children who begin kindergarten already behind their more privileged peers, who lack the support at home to succeed and who are more than likely to drop out of school or never attend college.

 

Final Remarks

Spend a bit of time reflecting on what you have just read. How does the information fit in with your current knowledge, beliefs, and activities? How can you make use of the information to help improve our informal and formal educational systems? Who do you know that might benefit from reading this IAE Blog entry?

If the IAE Blog entries are useful to you, then consider signing up for a Free Subscription. (See the menu on the left side of the page.) You will automatically receive email about new postings to the IAE Blog. Typically, there are about three new postings per week.

What You Can Do

The media continue to pick on teachers as being the major reason why our schools are not doing better. Poverty is a much stronger reason. Don't just get hot under the collar when people attack our overall teaching force. Present them with some facts, such as the role of poverty in student learning, disrespectful students, students who have been raised in a home environment of instant gratification, students who routinely skip school, and so on.

The IAE Blog entries tend to have a relatively long "shelf life." However, over time, the references tend to get out of date. You can help your fellow readers and IAE by adding a Comment that includes an up-to-date reference and its URL. Your Comment should include a couple of sentences summarizing the up-to date-information and ideas.

Addendum 7/18/2013

Thompson, Dennis (7/12/2013). Poverty rate still high among U.S. children: Report. HealthDay. Retrieved 7/18/2013 from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/07/12/poverty-rate-still-high-among-us-children-report.

Quoting from the article:

FRIDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Poverty rates remain high among children in the United States and continue to affect their health, education and safety, a new federal report shows.

"Nearly a quarter of children in the United States are living in poverty. That's unacceptably high," said Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We know that children who live in poverty have poorer nutritional status and poorer health status. They are not well set up to enter kindergarten, they are behind in their learning skills and so forth."

Unfortunately, the report shows that more children than ever are living in poverty: Twenty-two percent of those younger than 18 were living in low-income circumstances in 2011, up from 16 percent a decade earlier.

To read the full report, visit the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

 

 

 

The poverty problem is getting worse.

 

Addendum 10/16/2012

The poverty problem remains. The following article by David Berliner provides some up-to-date information:

Berliner, D.C. (2012). Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth. TC Record. Retrieved 10/16/2012 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=16889

Quoting from the document:

Background/Context: This paper arises out of frustration with the results of school reforms carried out over the past few decades. These efforts have failed. They need to be abandoned. In their place must come recognition that income inequality causes many social problems, including problems associated with education. Sadly, compared to all other wealthy nations, the USA has the largest income gap between its wealthy and its poor citizens. Correlates associated with the size of the income gap in various nations are well described in Wilkinson & Pickett (2010), whose work is cited throughout this article. They make it clear that the bigger the income gap in a nation or a state, the greater the social problems a nation or a state will encounter. Thus it is argued that the design of better economic and social policies can do more to improve our schools than continued work on educational policy independent of such concerns.…

Conclusions/Recommendations: It is concluded that the best way to improve America’s schools is through jobs that provide families living wages. Other programs are noted that offer some help for students from poor families. But in the end, it is inequality in income and the poverty that accompanies such inequality, that matters most for education.…

What does it take to get politicians and the general public to abandon misleading ideas, such as, “Anyone who tries can pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” or that “Teachers are the most important factor in determining the achievement of our youth”? Many ordinary citizens and politicians believe these statements to be true, even though life and research informs us that such statements are usually not true.

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.

A New Kind of Learner. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-new-kind-of-learner.html.

Deep Insights into Problems with Our Educational System. See  http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/deep-insights-into-problems-with-our-educational-system.html.

Federal Approaches to Improving Education. See http://iae-pedia.org/Federal_Approaches_to_Improving_Education.

Learned Helplessness. See http://iae-pedia.org/Learned_Helplessness.

National Academic Standards Versus Inequities in Funding Schools. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/national-academic-standards-versus-inequities-in-funding-schools.html.

Substantially Improving Education. See  http://iae-pedia.org/Substantially_Improving_Education.

Talented and Gifted Education. See http://iae-pedia.org/Talented_and_Gifted_Education.

 

IAE

 

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Comments

David Moursund (website) on Monday, 10 June 2013 23:34
Berliner's article

Written by Dave Moursund, September 19, 2010.

In his article, Berliner argues that:

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 outside-of-school factors that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.

Written by Dave Moursund, September 19, 2010. In his article, Berliner argues that: [quote]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 outside-of-school factors that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.[/quote]
David Moursund (website) on Monday, 10 June 2013 23:35
Value-added evaluation of teachers

Written by Dave Moursund, September 19, 2010.

The following email message was distributed by Jerry Becker on 9/19/2010. It is information provided by Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California School of Education.

Value-added evaluations of teachers assume that higher test scores are always the result of teaching. Not so. Test scores are influenced by other factors.

We can generate higher scores by teaching "test preparation" strategies for getting higher scores without students learning anything. We can generate higher scores by testing selectively, making sure that low scorers are not in school the day of the test. And of course we can generate higher scores by direct cheating, sharing information about specific test questions with students.

Teachers who prepare students for higher scores on tests of specific procedures and facts are not teaching; they are simply drilling students with information that is often soon forgotten. Moreover, research shows that value-added evaluations are not stable year to year for individual teachers, and that different reading tests will give you different value-added scores for the same teacher.

If The Los Angeles Times is serious about helping children, don't bash teachers, address poverty. American children from high-income families do very well on international tests, but our children of poverty do much worse, and nearly 75% of LAUSD students are poor enough to qualify for free lunches. Our overall scores are mediocre because the U.S. has such a high percentage of children living in poverty (25%, compared with Denmark's 2%). We need to protect children against the negative effects of poverty with better nutrition, better health care and more access to books. They do not need more standardized testing.

Written by Dave Moursund, September 19, 2010. The following email message was distributed by Jerry Becker on 9/19/2010. It is information provided by Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California School of Education. Value-added evaluations of teachers assume that higher test scores are always the result of teaching. Not so. Test scores are influenced by other factors. We can generate higher scores by teaching "test preparation" strategies for getting higher scores without students learning anything. We can generate higher scores by testing selectively, making sure that low scorers are not in school the day of the test. And of course we can generate higher scores by direct cheating, sharing information about specific test questions with students. Teachers who prepare students for higher scores on tests of specific procedures and facts are not teaching; they are simply drilling students with information that is often soon forgotten. Moreover, research shows that value-added evaluations are not stable year to year for individual teachers, and that different reading tests will give you different value-added scores for the same teacher. If The Los Angeles Times is serious about helping children, don't bash teachers, address poverty. American children from high-income families do very well on international tests, but our children of poverty do much worse, and nearly 75% of LAUSD students are poor enough to qualify for free lunches. Our overall scores are mediocre because the U.S. has such a high percentage of children living in poverty (25%, compared with Denmark's 2%). We need to protect children against the negative effects of poverty with better nutrition, better health care and more access to books. They do not need more standardized testing.
David Moursund (website) on Monday, 10 June 2013 23:37
Dramatic differences in wealth

Written by davem, November 10, 2012.

Quoting from:

Poyo, Noel A. (6/23/2012). Financially Educated Citizenry Protects Democracy. Retrieved 11/10/2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...37510.html.

The gap between rich and poor in the US is widening and it is particularly dramatic between races and ethnicities. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data from 2009. Based on these measures, we are not living up to our potential as a country.

Written by davem, November 10, 2012. Quoting from: Poyo, Noel A. (6/23/2012). Financially Educated Citizenry Protects Democracy. Retrieved 11/10/2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...37510.html. [quote]The gap between rich and poor in the US is widening and it is particularly dramatic between races and ethnicities. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data from 2009. Based on these measures, we are not living up to our potential as a country. [/quote]
Guest - David Moursund on Monday, 30 June 2014 17:34
Poverty and getting a college education

“In the bottom quartile of family incomes, only 9 percent of kids attain a college education,” Crow said about five minutes after I met him on Monday afternoon. “And, in the top quartile, 80 percent get a college education, regardless of academic ability.” That statistic is what he is trying to change.

The above 6/16/2014 quote is from Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University. See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/opinion/joe-nocera-starbucks-and-arizona-state-add-an-education-to-benefit-package.html?emc=edit_th_20140617&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=23764612&_r=0

“In the bottom quartile of family incomes, only 9 percent of kids attain a college education,” Crow said about five minutes after I met him on Monday afternoon. “And, in the top quartile, 80 percent get a college education, regardless of academic ability.” That statistic is what he is trying to change. The above 6/16/2014 quote is from Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University. See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/opinion/joe-nocera-starbucks-and-arizona-state-add-an-education-to-benefit-package.html?emc=edit_th_20140617&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=23764612&_r=0
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