"In schools where less than 10 percent of students get free or reduced lunch, the reading score is 551. That would place those U.S. students at No. 2 on the international ranking for reading, just behind Shanghai, China which topped the ranking with a score of 556.
In schools where 75 percent or more of the students get free or reduced lunch, the reading score was 446. That’s off the bottom of the charts, below last-place Greece’s 483.
Money matters and countless studies have demonstrated a link between parents’ income and students’ test scores.
“These data remind us that U.S. schools do rather well by students who come to school ready to learn, but it’s impossible to ignore the persistent correlation between poverty and performance." [Source]
Yes, I suppose it's hard to learn when you are hungry. Or, when you see your parent (or parents) struggling every day to make ends meet. But I think that most of us already knew this. Most of us.
I have friends who are lifelong residence of this city. They love Philadelphia and everything it has to offer, but after the birth of their first child that all changes, because the one thing that they do not love about Philadelphia is the public school system. With the birth of a child come tough choices down the road. Now you must consider paying for private school if your child can't get into one of the elite public schools. Now you must consider moving to the burbs (in some cases this means giving up your job) and pay higher property taxes to have the privilege of putting your child in one of the suburban public schools.
Those of us who support public education understand this problem. We realize that it's not the teachers or their unions, or the lack of funds that's allocated to individual students; it's bigger than that. We understand that a foundation for a good student starts at home. Most of the children in the public school system are from poor dysfunctional homes, and teaching them is a challenge. It's why we will never truly address the problem with public education in this country until we start being honest with ourselves about the root causes of most of these problems.
The homes are broken, there is a lack of parental involvement, and there is a generational disconnect about the value of a good education which is passed on from parent to child. I don't care how many great teachers you put in a class room or how much money you spend, the situation will not get fixed until those more complex and nuanced issues are addressed.
A friend of mine grew up in the projects of North Philadelphia to a single mother. He grew up poor with the same handicaps and disadvantages I mentioned earlier. But that did not stop him from getting Ivy League degrees and becoming a very successful attorney in South Jersey. His story is the one that we would like to celebrate as the norm, but sadly, he is an outlier, and one great story does not a trend make.
For what it's worth he said that he was never one to give in to peer pressure and outside influences. He always wanted more for himself, and he took it upon himself to spend his days reading and preparing himself for school even when his mother could not. He was self motivated, and something made the light come on.
For most of the young men in inner city Philadelphia and other cities across the country, that light will never come on. They will do poorly in poor schools, and they will be handed degrees that they do not deserve. They will spend their lives doing menial jobs, and, if they are lucky, they will avoid the criminal justice system. (Statistics tell us that most of these young men will not.)
For the women the prospects are not much better. They, too, will be doomed to a life of failure and underachievement. Statistics tell us that they will have a child out of wedlock, and more than likely it will be with someone who cannot care for that child.
Their life will be made that much harder of having the burden of raising a family without emotional and financial support, and unfortunately they will start the cycle of hopelessness all over again.
"As National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel explained:
The PISA test can still tell us many things, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, but the results are certainly not proof that we need to accelerate voucher programs, continue ineffective high-stakes testing, and scapegoat teachers. U.S. students won't rank higher on PISA, Van Roekel explains, until the nation properly addresses poverty and its effect on students.
"Our students from well-to-do families have consistently done well on the PISA assessments. For students who live in poverty, however, it's a different story. Socioeconomic factors influence students' performance in the United States more than they do in all but few of the other PISA countries," says Van Roekel."
Yes we have to address poverty and "socioeconomic factors", but we are also going to need some real talk along the way.