Richard R. Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Indiana University, compiled the following reading list to help others understand the root causes of low academic performance:

Professor Hake writes:

“Penny” commented: ”We know that poorer (lower socioeconomic) students tend to do poorer in school. How about looking at the true root cause.”

For the “true root cause” see the REFERENCE list below containing poverty-related references from my *complete* post “The Contentious Common Core Controversy” at

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University

Berliner, D.C. 2009. “Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success.” Education and Public Interest Center (Univ. of Colorado) and Education Policy Research Unit, (Arizona State University); online as a 729 kB pdf at In his abstract Berliner states: “This brief details six Out of School Factors (OSFs) common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish *on their own*: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.”

Brady, M. 2012. “Eight problems with Common Core Standards,” in Valerie Strauss’ “Answer Sheet,” Washington Post, 21 August; online at Note especially Brady’s crucial problem #4: “So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored-a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter” – see e.g., Berliner (2009), Duncan & Murnane (2011), Kristof (2013), Marder (2012), Neuman & Celano (2012), and my 14 blog entries on the overriding influence of poverty on children’s educational achievement at .

Duncan, G.J. & R. Murnane, eds. 2011. “Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances.” Russell Sage Foundation, publisher’s information at information at

Kristof, N.D. 2013. “For Obama’s New Term, Start Here.” New York Times OP-ED, 23 Jan, online at Kristof wrote: “Something is profoundly wrong when we can point to 2-year-olds in this country and make a plausible bet about their long-term outcomes – not based on their brains and capabilities, but on their ZIP codes. President Obama spoke movingly in his second Inaugural Address of making equality a practice as well as a principle. So, Mr. President, how about using your second term to tackle this most fundamental inequality?”

Marder, M. 2012. “Failure of U.S. Public Secondary Schools in Mathematics,” Journal of Scholarship and Practice 9(1): 8-25; the entire issue is online as a 2.7 MB pdf at, scroll down to page 8. Marder wrote: “The collection of nationwide data do point to a primary cause of school failure, but it is poverty, not teacher quality. As the concentration of low-income children increases in a school, the challenges to teachers and administrators increase so that ultimately the educational quality of the school suffers. Challenges include students moving from one school to another within the school year, frequency of illness, lack of stable supportive homes with quiet places to study, concentration of students who are angry or disobedient, probability of students disappearing from school altogether, and difficulty of attracting and retaining strong teachers. Most people who see the connection between poverty and educational outcomes are confident that low-income students in a sufficiently supportive environment will learn as much in a school year as students in well-off communities.”

Neuman, S.B. & D.C. Celano. 2012. “Giving Our Children a Fighting ChancePoverty, Literacy, and the Development of Information Capital,” Teachers College Press, publishers information at information at, note the searchable “Look Inside” feature. The publisher states: “This is a compelling, eye-opening portrait of two communities in Philadelphia with drastically different economic resources. Over the course of their 10-year investigation, the authors of this important new work came to understand that this disparity between affluence and poverty has created a *knowledge gap* – far more important than mere achievement scores – with serious implications for students’ economic prosperity and social mobility. At the heart of this knowledge gap is the limited ability of students from poor communities to develop *information capital.* This moving book takes you into the communities in question to meet the students and their families, and by doing so provides powerful insights into the role that literacy can play in giving low-income students a fighting chance.”