Monday, November 14, 2016

To improve school performance, protect children from the effects of poverty

Sent to the New York Post, November 14, 2016

F. H. Buckley says he knows "How Trump can make American schools great again." (Nov. 13): Vouchers and competition.  But American schools are quite good: A number of serious scientific studies have shown that our unspectacular international test scores are due to our very high rate of child poverty, now 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In New York City, it is 31%.
When researchers statistically control for the effect of poverty, American test scores are near the top of the world. This suggests that there is no serious problem with our teachers, our schools of education, or our teachers' unions. The problem is poverty.
Children living in poverty suffer from food deprivation, lack of adequate medical care, and have little access to books. Each of these has a strong negative effect on school performance.
Until we manage to make substantial progress in reducing poverty, we can easily protect children against some of its effects by improving school food programs, investing more in school nurses, and investing more in school libraries and librarians. 
We can pay for a great deal of this by eliminating unnecessary testing. Instead of weighing the animal more frequently and more precisely, let’s feed it.

Stephen Krashen


Child poverty: Levels of child poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2012), ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
New York City:

Control for the effect of poverty: Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.;

Impact of poverty of school performance: 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.;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.


  1. I strongly believe in the fact that if you feed a child healthyly, you are reassuring a mental, spiritual and emotional optimun development of that child.