Archives for category: Poverty

The Chicago Teachers Union reacts to the Vergara decision in California. Here is the key quote:

“If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.”

CTU Statement on California Tenure Decision

It must be nice to be a wealthy tech mogul like David Welch. When you want to “prove” a theory, you just go get someone else’s kids to be the guinea pigs. When you want to “prove” a theory, you conveniently omit the most relevant and direct causes of harm. Such was the case in this week’s California lawsuit decision against tenure for teachers. Fortunately, our Constitution and legal system have clear protections for speech and structured processes for appeal so that we non-billionaires have an opportunity to air the facts.

Teacher laws vary from state to state, and so the ruling in California is not automatically a blueprint for changes in states like Illinois. Despite a recent law that makes tenure much more difficult to acquire in Illinois, the myth that tenure equals a permanent job persists. In fact, teacher tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure provides protection from capricious dismissal and a process for improving unsatisfactory practice, but as in any job, teachers can be dismissed for serious misconduct. Further, as we have seen in California and Illinois, persistent budget “crises” stemming from insufficient revenue generation have decimated the teaching profession.

Contrary to popular belief, the school boards routinely dismiss teachers. Deep budget cuts have savaged the teaching corps, either through probationary teacher non-renewals or tenured teacher lay-offs. Fully half of all teachers leave the profession within their first five years, either because of the difficulty of the work or job insecurity. And for those who do stay, lay-offs are a constant threat, even to the most highly decorated, talented, and dedicated teachers. One Chicago Public School teacher was laid-off three times in a little more than a year. A holder of National Board Certification, the highest certification a teacher can have, he left the profession because of the tumult, and his students at multiple South Side high schools lost out on the opportunity to work with a highly qualified and dedicated public servant. Far from “obtaining and retaining permanent employment”, in the words of Judge Rolf Treu, tenure provided my colleague with no long-term job protection.

Judge Treu also misinterpreted the real causes of discrimination against low-income students of color. Teacher tenure does not cause low student achievement. Rather, the root causes of differences in student performance have to do with structural differences in schools. Omitted from his decision are the impacts of concentrated poverty, intense segregation, skeletal budgets, and so-called “disruptive innovation” that have been at the heart of urban school districts for decades. Scripted curricula, overuse and misuse of standardized testing, school closures and school turnarounds, and the calculated deprivation of resources are the real reasons low-income students of color face discrimination. So-called reformers like David Welch and Arne Duncan push those policies. In other words, the new “reform” status quo has made worse the problem it purports to fix.

If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.

Peter Dreier of Occidental College explains how the Occupy Wall Street movement started a momentum that changed Seattle:

Friends,

An idea that only a year ago appeared both radical and impractical has become a reality. On Monday, Seattle struck a blow against rising inequality when its City Council unanimously adopted a city wide minimum wage of $15 an hour — the highest in the nation.

In my new article in The American Prospect, “How Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Victory Began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park,” I explain that this dramatic change in public policy is partly the result of changes brought about by last November’s Seattle municipal elections. But it is also the consequence of changing social conditions beyond Seattle, shifts in public opinion about business, government, and the poor, and years of effective grassroots activism around the country.

We can trace Seattle’s remarkable victory to the wave of local “living wage” campaigns in the 1990s, growing public outrage about corporate abuse and widening inequality, the explosion of anger that became Occupy Wall Street, and the rising protest movement of low-wage workers in the past two years.

Seattle’s union and community organizers, and their allies in government, did not wait for the time to be “ripe.” They helped ripen the time — seizing new opportunities and building on past successes.

Now that Seattle has established a new standard, the pace of change is likely to accelerate quickly as activists and politicians elsewhere seek to capture the new mood. Many other cities and states are now looking to follow in Seattle’s footsteps. The momentum for raising the minimum wage will not only improve living conditions for millions of Americans. It will also spark a new wave of organizing, by revealing how the combination of inside politics and outside protest can bring about progressive change.

Five years from now, Americans may look back at this remarkable victory in Seattle and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Feel free to circulate and repost.

Peter

——————————————————————
Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Chair, Urban & Environmental Policy Department
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734
Website: http://employees.oxy.edu/dreier
New book: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) — published July 2012

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality” – Dante

Ira Shor describes our complex sustem, based on race, class, income:

“Teachers count only if their students count. To count in this society, kids have to come from affluent families; the teachers of those affluent kids are paid more and generally treated better. The vast majority of students in k-12 pub schls don’t count b/c they are poor, working-class, or lower middle-class, many not white, many first-generation immigrants. They need small classes and veteran teachers and lots of good food and warm clothes in winter and eye exams; we know what they get instead. The kids that count go to private schls and to pub schls in affluent suburbs. The teachers there are paid more b/c the families of the kids are richer. For the most part, these teachers are also treated with more regard. The private k-12 schls do NOT require their teachers to come out of teacher ed programs or to meet state certification requirements; they can pick and choose among many applicants. Some teacher ed programs are truly excellent despite this class-based hierarchy, despite being under-funded and over-regulated. Other teacher ed programs function as mediocre pipelines to mediocre school systems. The situation is fragmented b/c there are really 6-8 school systems in America–private independents, private religious, private special ed, public affluent, public working class, public poor, privatized charters, etc. Then, there is internal tracking in all schools which further separate elite segments from the general student group. It’s useful to clarify which sector of “American education” we are talking back b/c class and race differences affect schools so much.(Ted Sizer said 30 years ago, “Tell me the income of your students’ parents and I will describe to you your school.”) As long as poverty and inequality rule, schools for the bottom 80% will treat their kids and teachers largely with disregard and disinvestment.”

Arthur H. Camins, the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, sharply critiques current education and social policy. He writes in this post that we have given up efforts to reduce poverty and segregation, policies that would produce the greatest number of young people.

Instead, our nation’s leaders are prepared to divert billions into more testing and Common Core, which is unlikely to reduce inequality.

Camins writes:

“If answers on Common Core assessment questions require supporting evidence, it is only fair that evidence-based reasoning should be an expected feature of public education policy. Apparently such consistency is not required when it comes to political decisions. Sadly, too many policy makers seem more committed to enabling profiteering from the results of poverty than ending it. The testing industry is an excellent example. Education policies sanction and encourage multi-billion dollar testing and test preparation corporations that enable destructive punishment and rewards for educators, gaming the system and sorting of students for competitive access to an increasingly unaffordable post secondary system that perpetuates inequity. State and federal education policies support costly, overly stressful and time consuming high-stakes testing in order to verify and detect small differences within the very large socio-economic disparities we already know exist.”

“Well-designed large-scale assessments can contribute evidence for institutional and program level judgments about quality. However, we do not need to test every student every year for this purpose. Less costly sampling can accomplish this goal. I am not opposed to qualifying exams- if they validly and reliably measure qualities that are directly applicable to their purpose without bias. However, imagine if we shifted the balance of our assessment attention from the summative to the formative. Then we could focus more on becoming better at interpreting daily data from regular class work and use that evidence to help students move their own learning forward. Imagine what else we could accomplish if we spent a significant percentage of our current K-12 and college admission testing expenditures on actually mediating poverty instead of measuring its inevitable effect. Imagine the educational and economic benefit if we invested in putting people to work rebuilding our cities, roads, bridges, schools and parks. Imagine if we put people to work building affordable housing instead of luxury high rises. Imagine the boost to personal spending and the related savings in social service spending if a living wage and full employment prevailed. Imagine the learning benefit to children if their families did not have to worry about health, food and shelter. Imagine if our tax policies favored the common good over wealth accumulation for the 1%ers.

“Such investments are far more logical than the current over-investment in testing and compliance regimes. Education, race and poverty are inextricably intertwined. Let’s do everything we can to improve teaching and learning. More students learning to use evidence to support arguments would be terrific. But, if we want to do something about poverty we need to ensure good jobs at fair wages for the parents of our students. That is where evidence and logical thinking lead.”

Almost sixty years to the day of the U.S. Supreme court’s historic Brown decision, the Rhode Island Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit against the stste’s inequitable funding system. The court said it was “deeply concerned” and acknowledged that the funding disparities hurt poor urban children most, but passed the buck. “Not our problem,” the court said.

Here is a summary from the Education Law Center.

RI SUPREME COURT IS “DEEPLY CONCERNED” BUT DENIES RELIEF TO SCHOOL CHILDREN

May 15, 2014

On May 3, 2014, the Rhode Island Supreme Court dismissed the fair school funding case, Woonsocket v. State. The Court concluded that conditions in the plaintiffs’ schools “make a strong case” against the current funding system. Nonetheless, the justices denied plaintiffs the chance to present their evidence in a trial on the merits of the case.

The Court wrote, “We emphasize that we are deeply concerned by the conditions of the schools in Pawtucket and Woonsocket as alleged by plaintiffs, as well as by the alleged predicaments of those municipalities regarding their inabilities to allocate the funding required to meet state mandates. Installing a means of providing adequate educational opportunities to every child in the state is not only an admirable goal; it is ‘perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.'” (quoting the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education)

In its written opinion, the Court summarized plaintiffs’ allegations, which detail the state’s adoption of higher and higher standards while failing to align funding to those standards. Insufficient resources mean students do not have the opportunity to reach the standards, plaintiffs assert. More recently, the state went so far as to cap local taxing authority so that municipalities attempting to make up for state shortfalls were not allowed to do so, plaintiffs add.

The Court also quoted plaintiffs’ complaint with regard to the most recent funding formula adopted by the state in 2010, noting that the formula “fails to provide adequate resources to allow children, especially in poor, urban communities, to obtain a quality education [and] a reasonable opportunity to meet the [state's] academic standards.” The Court summarized plaintiffs’ description of the dire state of school facilities, books, and supplies, and the low test scores that flow from the state’s allegedly inadequate funding.

The state defendants filed a motion to dismiss this case, and the Court explained that its decision on the motion depended on interpretation of the Rhode Island Constitution’s Education Clause, which states that:

“The diffusion of knowledge, as well as of virtue among the people, being essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools, and to adopt all means which they may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.”

Although earlier precedent held that the Rhode Island General Assembly has exclusive authority over school funding, plaintiffs argued that repeal of a particular clause in the state constitution rendered that precedent irrelevant for the Woonsocket case. Plaintiffs also claimed that changes since the earlier precedent meant the state had replaced local control with state mandates. However, after an analysis of the impact of that repeal and other changes, the Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly’s broad discretion in how it complies with the Education Clause was not impaired.

The Court indicates that the political branches could solve the problem of school funding without a court order by improving the states’ system. But the justices appear to ignore the General Assembly’s history of allocating inadequate funding for schools in low-wealth communities.

Based on that history and the current ruling, it appears that meaningful relief and educational opportunity will come to the students in under-resourced Rhode Island communities only if and when voters amend and strengthen the state constitution’s education clause. Only then will future plaintiffs with similar claims finally be granted their day in court. Some education advocates are proposing such an amendment.

Education Justice Press Contact:
Molly A. Hunter, Esq.
Director, Education Justice
email: mhunter@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x19
http://www.edlawcenter.org
http://www.educationjustice.org

Peter Schrag has written sensibly about education issues for many years.

In this article, he analyzes the complexities of the Vergara trial, in which a rich and powerful coalition of corporate reformers are trying to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

In the end, he argues, the outcome of the trial won’t change much for poor kids.

If the plaintiffs win, some very good veteran teachers may be fired to save money.

The legislature will enact some new laws, perhaps basing layoffs on “effectiveness” (i.e. test scores) rather than due process, but as we know from the recent report of the American Statistical Association, test-based accountability (VAM) is fraught with problems and will end up stigmatizing those who teach in high-poverty schools.

He quotes Russlyn Ali, who was Secretary Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for civil rights and is now supporting the Vergara plaintiffs:

 

Laws that make it hard to dismiss or replace teachers were originally designed to protect them against the nepotism and the racial, social and cultural biases that were all too common in education until well after World War II. If those protections are curtailed, and if a new system relying heavily on “effectiveness” — itself an uncertain standard — is put in place, what’s to say it won’t make teachers competitors and undermine morale and collaboration?
It’s possible that if the courts find that the tenure laws in this case offend constitutional equal protection guarantees, many of the system’s other inequities might be open to legal challenge as well. Ali, among others, has that hope, and she sees Vergara as a first step in that larger battle.
But if the Vergara plaintiffs win a resounding victory in this case, don’t look for any quick change in the schools or some great improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged kids. There are just too many other uncertainties, too many inequities, too many other unmet needs.

 

My view: the trial continues the blame game favored by the Obama administration and the billionaire boys’ club, in which they blame “bad” teachers as the main culprit in low academic performance. Their refusal to recognize that standardized tests accurately measure family income and family education is their blind spot. It is easier to blame teachers than to take strong action to reduce poverty and racial segregation. It is sad and ironic that the most segregated schools in the United States today are charter schools, yet the Obama administration wants more of them. If the Vergara plaintiffs win, there will be fewer teachers eager to risk their reputation teaching the kids who have the greatest needs. If the plaintiffs win, this case will then be a setback for the rights of the kids, no victory at all.

 

If the corporate reformers refuse to attack the root causes of low test scores, then Peter Schrag is quite right to say that nothing much will change.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schrag-vergara-teacher-union-20140403,0,3459594.story#ixzz2ygmthcp2

 

Since there is always a lot of chatter about what international tests scores mean, I invited David Berliner to share his views. Berliner is one of our nation’s pre-eminent scholars of education.

 

 

Dear Diane,

 

A few weeks ago you asked me a question about recent PISA test results and the role that is played by poverty in the scores of the USA and other countries. As I understand it PISA doesn’t compute the poverty-test score relationships in quite the same way we might in the USA, but the results they get are similar to what we get.

 

Investigations of the poverty-test score relationships in PISA 2012 (OECD, 2013) relied on two variables, each of which was a composite. First, they used a family social class measure that was supposed to capture the income and cultural resources of a family. They combined three factors to get one composite index of family social standing: the highest occupational level of either parent; the highest educational level of the parents; and home possessions (particularly, books in the home). This family index of social class standing is not income, and it is also not always a good measure of social class standing (for example, think of highly educated immigrants who hold low wage jobs). Nevertheless, it is this composite indicator of social standing that was used to examine the scores each nation attained in tests of mathematics, science, or reading. The relationships between social standing and achievement were quite similar on all three tests of subject matter.

 

When we ask what percent of the variance in US students’ PISA scores was accounted for by this composite of family social class variables, the answer is around 20% (OECD, 2013, Fig ll.2.3). Twenty percent explained variation in PISA scores that arise from differences in socioeconomic factors related to families is low enough to suggest that “poverty is no excuse,” or that, “demography is not destiny.” Such maximssound reasonable because it appears at first that about 80% of the variation in student test scores is still to be accounted for. Thus, if we just had great teachers and great school leaders every child would be successful. But this interpretation is completely misleading.

 

For example, PISA also informs us that the test score difference attributable to moving up or down one place on the social class measure is 39 points. That works out to nearly one year of schooling on the PISA scale. So, if in the recent great recession your family was hurt and you move down the social class scale one unit, the prediction from PISA data is that children of such families are likely, eventually, to be scoring one full year lower than they might have had their family just stayed at their more advantaged social level. So the “20% variance accounted for” estimate is not a trivial figure when we look at the score points that are involved in having only slightly different social class standing. The data convincingly suggests that social status variables are quite powerful and not quite as easily overcome as the maxims we hear that suggest otherwise.

 

This becomes even more apparent with some additional information collected by the PISA designers. The 2012 study used information obtained from school principals about the school attended by each child in the sample. Thus, schools were categorized on the basis of the wealth and the poverty of the student body, along with the housing patterns and values in the school catchment areas, the qualities of the teachers assigned to the schools the children attend, the funding of the schools, and a number of other school level variables that are correlated strongly with the incomes of students’ families. This is the second large composite variable used in understanding the relationship of poverty to PISA test scores.

 

The relevant data is given as the percent of the test score variance that is attributable to differences between schools because of the population they draw. Together the family and the school level variables related to social class account for 58% of the variance we see between schools. This is quite close to the data we usually cite in the USA, namely, that about 60% of the variance we see among schools is the result of outside-of-school factors, not inside-of-school factors. (It is generally agreed that in the USA we often have 20% of the variance in test scores accounted for by school variables, maybe half of which is a teacher effect. So, in the USA, the outside-of-school variables count for about 3 times the effect of the inside-of-school variables, and they count for about 6 times the effect of teachers on the aggregate scores of classes and schools.)

 

Thus the international data support the estimate of poverty’s effects on test scores that we have obtained from studying internal US test data. In fact, the 2012 PISA data provides a similar estimate to what was found in the Coleman report of the 1960s. The historical record, therefore, tells us that if we want to fix schools that are not now performing well on achievement tests, we might do well to work on the out-of-school factors that influence educational achievement, and not put all our efforts into trying to improve inside-of-the school factors, as the President and Secretary of Education continue to do. Our elected officials and numerous misguided individuals and corporations keep failing to interpret the extant data in a credible way.

 

To those who say “poverty is no excuse,” I would then ask how they account for poverty’s potency in explaining so much of the variance in achievement test scores in the USA and elsewhere? Indeed, poverty may not be an excuse for poor performance, but it sure is a quite reasonable hypothesis about the origins of student, school, and school district differences in achievement test scores. And, of course, it may not be poverty per se that is the causal factor in the low achievement seen on so many different tests. Rather, it may be poverty’s sequelae that is the culprit. That is, the wealth of families determines such things as housing, and it is housing that determines the types of neighbors one has, the mental health and crime rates in your neighborhood, the availability of role models for children, the number of moves a family makes while children are young, the stability of family relationships, low birth weight, teen pregnancy rates, Otitus Media rates in childhood, and so forth. Discussing “poverty” and “achievement” is a simple way of expressing the relationships we find between dozens of the sequelae associated with poverty and the many forms of achievement valued by our society.

 

PISA provides still more evidence that poverty is a strong factor in shaping students’ lives, supporting the contention that it is really quite common for demography to determine destiny. PISA looked at “resilient students,” those who are in the bottom quartile of the social class distribution, but in the top quartile in the achievement test distribution. These are 15-year-olds who seem to beak the shackles imposed by family and neighborhood poverty. In the USA, about 6% of the children do that. So 94% of youth born into or raised in that lower quartile of family culture and resources do not make it into the top quartile of school achievers. Admittedly, poverty is hard to overcome in most countries. But why is it that Belgium, Canada, Finland, Turkey, and Portugal, among many others, produce at least 40% more “resilient kids” than do we? Could it be because the class lines are more hardened here in the USA? Whatever the cause, given these data, the mantra that “Poverty is no Excuse” seems weak, and easily countered by the more rational statement that comes directly from the PISA data, namely, that family poverty and its sequelae severely limit the life chances of most children in the lower quartiles, quintiles, and deciles on measures of social class standing.

 

More evidence of this is also found in the PISA data. Housing patterns seemed to matter a lot in determining scores on the PISA 2012 assessments. There were striking performance differences observed between students in schools with socially advantaged students and those in schools with socially disadvantaged schools. Students attending socioeconomically advantaged schools in OECD countries outscore those in disadvantaged schools, on average, by more than 104 points in mathematics! This is of course quite a common finding in the USA where Jonathan Kozol once described our housing patterns as “Apartheid-Lite.” We should note, too, that a reanalysis of the Coleman report by Borman and Dowling (2010) broke out the variance in test scores attributable to individual background (like variable 1 in PISA) and the social composition of the schools (like variable 2 in PISA). Borman and Dowling say their reanalysis provides “very clear and compelling evidence that going to a high-poverty school or a highly segregated African American school has a profound effect on a student’s achievement outcomes, above and beyond the effect of his or her individual poverty or minority status. Specifically, both the racial/ethnic and social class composition of a student’s school are more than 1 3/4 times more important than a student’s individual race/ethnicity or social class for understanding educational outcomes. In dramatic contrast to previous analyses of the Coleman data, these findings reveal that school context effects dwarf the effects of family background.”

 

Many other nations have the same pattern of housing and schooling that we do: wages determine housing, and housing determines the characteristics of the student body and the quality of the school attended by children. This all suggests that there is a lot of support for the statement that demography, in too many instances, really does determine destiny.

 

The clearest case of this comes from analyses of other, earlier PISA data, by Doug Willms (2006). His analysis suggests that if children of average SES attended one of their own nations high performing schools, or instead attended one of their own nations’ low performing schools, the difference at age 15, the age of PISA testing, would be equivalent to about 4 grade levels. Thus a 10th grader of average SES who can attend a high performing school is likely to score at about the 12th grade level (a grade level approximation from PISA data). And if that same child were to attend a low performing school, he or she would score at about the 8th grade level. It’s the same hypothetical child we are talking about, but with two very different lives to be lead as a function of the makeup of the schools attended. It is not the quality of the teachers, the curriculum, the computers available, or any number of other variables that are often discussed when issues of school quality come up. Instead, the composition of the school seems to be the most powerful factor in changing the life course for this hypothetical, average child. PISA data from an earlier assessment in Australia documents the same phenomena (Perry and McConney, 2010). In science, the score of a low income student in a low income school averages 455. But the score of similar low income students at schools that serve upper income children is over half a standard deviation higher—512. And a high income student in a school serving low income students scores 555, but high income students enrolled in schools with high income peers score half a standard deviation higher—607. Note what is most impressive here: the low income student in a school with low income families scores 455, while a high income student in a school with high income families scores 607. That is about a standard deviation and a half apart! These are 15 year olds that are worlds apart in both housing patterns, school quality, and in measures of cognitive ability. In short, PISA data overwhelmingly supports the belief that demography and destiny are closely related, a terrible embarrassment for democratic countries that pay so much lip service to the principal of equality of opportunity. Apparently, the chant that “poverty is no excuse” can easily become a reason for doing nothing about poverty’s effects on many social variables that consistently, and cross nationally, affect both school outcomes and life chances. Horatio Alger may have never been fully believable, but a few decades ago it looks like Horatio simply died, mostly unnoticed.

 

References

 

Borman, G. D. & Dowling, M. (2010). Schools and Inequality: A Multilevel Analysis of Coleman’s Equality of Educational Opportunity Data. Teachers College Record, 112 (5), 1201–1246.

 

OECD (2013), PISA 2012 Results: Excellence Through Equity: Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed (Volume II), PISA, OECD Publishing.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264201132-en

 

Perry, L. B. & McConney, A. (2010). Does the SES of the school matter? An

examination of socioeconomic status and student achievement using PISA

2003. Teachers College Record 112 (4), 1137–1162.

 

Willms, J. D. (2006). Learning divides: Ten policy questions about the performance and equity of schools and schooling systems. Montreal, Canada: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

 

 

 

 

The Rochester Teachers Association is suing the state for its flawed evaluation system, which unfairly judges teachers.

Erica Bryant explains why in this article.

“Years ago, I visited the Kennedy Space Center and bought a coffee mug from the gift shop. It is decorated with some NASA equations, including one used to calculate the speed an object needs to escape Earth’s gravity. This formula fits on one line.

“By contrast, the document that describes how to measure student growth for the purpose of evaluating New York’s teachers and principals is 112 pages.”

Even in 112 pages, the teacher evaluation system is unfair and senseless and penalizes teachers who work with the poorest students.

It is all the rage among the pseudo-reformers to dismiss the importance of poverty. Although most of the pseudo-reformers grew up in affluence, attended elite private school, and send their own children to equally splendid private schools, they feel certain in their hearts that poverty is a state of mind that can be easily overcome. All it takes is one great teacher. Or three effective teachers in a row. Or lots of grit. Or a no-excuses school where children dress for success, follow rules without questioning, and act like little test-taking machines. One by one, the pseudo-reformers insist, they will end poverty.

No one needs a higher minimum wage. No one needs a change in the tax structure. Nothing need be done except fire teachers who can’t raise test scores and hire lots of TFA, whose enthusiasm is sure to overcome their lack of training and experience.

The fact that social scientists have demonstrated the significance of poverty on one’s life chances never penetrates the discussion. In one State of the Union Address, the President lauded a peculiar study which claimed that the influence of a third or fourth grade teacher affected one’s lifetime earnings, even prevented pregnancies years later. Enough such teachers, one surmises, and poverty will be vanquished. The Secretary of Education used to point to schools where 100% of the students, impoverished as could be, went to college, until the news media realized that such schools usually had a trick, like high attrition rates.

The fact is that poverty does matter. No matter what standardized test you look at, the results portray the influence of socioeconomic status on test scores . Despite outliers, the kids with the most advantages are at the top, the kids with the fewest advantages are at the bottom. This is true of international tests, state tests, federal tests, the ACT, the SAT.

Standardized tests are the means by which privilege is distributed. The outcomes are predictable.

Here is yet another demonstration that poverty matters. So does advantage. But no matter what research or evidence shows, the charade goes on.

David Welch is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is spending millions of dollars in legal fees to try to strip teachers of any due process rights or job security.

Who is he and who are his allies?

This investigative report provides some answers, though no one can truly explain the animus towards teachers that blames them for poverty, inequitable funding, large classes, poor leadership, racism, incompetent administrators, and myriad factors beyond their control. Even the most expert, dedicated teachers will lose if Welch wins.

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