A reader responds to an earlier post about a school in the Bronx that uses data to help students, not to punish teachers and students, and notes in passing the spurious claim of “reformers” that poverty is “just an excuse” or that great teachers alone can overcome poverty:
This is a great story. We try to do similar things at our school. I know we are not alone, but it is probably not the norm. Sometimes we are successful and sometimes not so much. When you work with students in poverty it becomes a necessity. Its the part that happens behind the scenes, outside of the classroom walls. That’s the part that the Ed deformers don’t discuss. Incarcerated parents, high transiency rates, truancy, students with mental health issues, just to name a few. We collaborate with health care, law enforcement, truancy officers, social services, etc. In this environment of budget cuts, those support systems are becoming more scarce. I rarely have come across parents who don’t care, but many have extremely limited resources. As long as the effects of poverty are excluded from the education reform conversation, the achievement gap will continue to widen along SES lines. We have many students in poverty who are successful, but those who struggle with the family issues mentioned earlier are a huge drain on school resources. Thanks for showing the broader picture that is not told by test scores and value added measures. Teachers in classrooms can be highly effective, but without a broader support system these students often take the path of the twin brother in the video. These students will continue to show up in our public school classrooms. It is our ethical duty to do our best to keep them in school. We cant just throw them out because they are difficult to teach. Kids are not disposable.