Published in Print: October 21, 2009
The Problem Is Poverty, Not a Lack of Standards
To the Editor:
"Standards Aren't Enough," the recent Commentary by Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard (Oct. 14, 2009), implies that the United States’ lack of clear and uniform standards is the reason other countries do better on international tests of math and science. It also implies that in the absence of externally imposed and detailed standards, American teachers do not know how to help students make progress.
Gerald W. Bracey, in his book Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality, points out that U.S. schools with less than 25 percent of their enrollments made up of children in poverty outscore all other countries in math and science. U.S. children only fall below the international average when 75 percent or more of the students in a school live in poverty. Studies also confirm that hunger, poor diet, and a lack of reading material seriously affect academic performance. The United States has the highest level of childhood poverty of industrialized countries.
The fact that American students not in poverty do so well strongly suggests that, in general, American educators know what they are doing. The problem is not lack of standards, the problem is poverty.
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.