How Many of Our Students Live in Poverty?
In films like "Waiting for Superman," student achievement in the US is compared
unfavorably to outcomes in countries such as Finland. However, Finland has less
than 5% of its children being raised in poverty. And the country has a strong
social safety net, so that children are not in danger of eviction and
As Stephen Krashen has pointed out, poverty is closely correlated to school
achievement. Those of us who have worked in these schools know firsthand why
this is so. Poverty is associated with poor health, poor nutrition, lousy
day-care and pre-schools, dangerous and violent neighborhoods, family
instability and even violence, poor access to dental and vision care, and so on.
Our education secretary styles himself a civil rights leader. But Arne Duncan
last week gave a speech that called on us to accept that the "new normal" in
education will be budget cuts and "doing more with less." This speech before the
American Enterprise Institute, was lauded by National Review columnists
Frederick Hess and Michael Petrilli, who wrote:
Our schools ought to be places of refuge for children in poverty. Often the free
or reduced price lunch is their only solid meal of the day. Smaller class sizes
allow teachers the chance to give more attention to individual students, who
need it all the more when their families are financially stressed. Sadly,
Secretary Duncan appears to be doing his best to clear the way for cuts to the
schools and attacks on teachers and students. It looks like we are going to need
to start handling this ourselves. The group I started just over a year ago,
Teachers' Letters to Obama, has decided to join others in organizing a
non-partisan conference and march in Washington, DC, next July 28 to 31.
What do you think? How many of your students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches? Does this equate with poverty? Are you ready to get active yourself around these issues?
Yvonne Siu-Runyan comment:
Thank you, Anthony. Yes, this country has a lot of children living in poverty.
In a UNICEF Report (2005), child poverty in the U.S. is 21.7%. It is a lot
Because of the economic downturn (recession/depression) in this country, we also
have an increase in domestic violence and homeless children.
Unfortunately, schools are no longer places of refuge, but places where they are
tested ad nauseam and racing to nowhere.
If we want children to have a positive educational experience, then we must
admit that in this country we do not do enough for schools in neighborhoods of
poverty. We would rather bail out Wall Street and keep feeding the military
Let's be honest. We MUST invest more in schools that have a high percent of
children living in poverty. The academic gap is a RESOURCE gap.
Some links re: Domestic Violence:
Anthony Cody, with resources by Yvonne Siu-Runyan
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