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Can Good Teaching Overcome Poverty?

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Modern School Donating Member (558 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 02:33 PM
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Can Good Teaching Overcome Poverty?
Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Can good teaching overcome the poverty? Of course not.
The notion that education is the great equalizer, that it is the poor kids ticket to the American Dream, is simply an extension of the American Dream mythology.

Statistics do show that those with a college degree earn far more on average than do high school drop outs and those who do not attend college and the overwhelming majority of todays long term unemployed workers are those without college degrees. Furthermore, children who are successful in high school are more likely to attend and succeed in college. However, these are only correlations, not cause and effect relationships.

Consider that familial wealth is also correlated future career success, as it is with K-12 and college success. This does not mean that K-12 success causes college or career success, nor even that affluence does. Rather, the most logical interpretation of these statistics is that familial wealth provides numerous advantages to children that help them succeed at a higher rate in school, college and career.

The American Dream myth presumes that there is a level playing field and that everyone has the same opportunities if they only apply themselves and work hard. While we do all have the same right to an education, to sell our labor, run for office, or become an entrepreneur, there are numerous life circumstances that are not guaranteed or equally distributed that can facilitate or hinder our academic and career success.

Affluent children tend to have better diets, perinatal care and overall health, and less exposure to environmental toxins, each of which decreases the chances of being born premature, with low birth weight and brain size or having developmental or cognitive impairments. They have increased access to enriching extracurricular activities like travel, summer camp, sports, art classes, museums, and educational games. They tend to have greater early exposure to reading and complex vocabulary which results in an achievement gap before they have even started preschool or kindergarten (see Burkam and Lee and Hart and Risely). They have far less danger at home and in their communities and tend to have much less stress in their lives, thus reducing exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, which can impair memory and learning. While it is true that affluent kids, particularly teens, are under increased pressure to take more AP and other advanced classes, the stress associated with this is not the same as the stress of regularly going hungry, suffering with untreated injuries and illness, and constantly seeing parents worried or complaining about their finances.

Their material security and their parents assurances that they will always come out on top confers greater self-confidence and self-efficacy in affluent children. They grow up observing parents and family members who are comfortable with and effective at negotiating bureaucracies and getting their needs met at stores and businesses. Middle class language, norms and mores (which are essentially the same as the language, norms and mores of school) become internalized and second nature to them by the time they are ready for school. All of this gives them a huge advantage over their lower income peers. They are more likely to take risks at school, like asking questions, asking for help, or persevering with something that is difficult. They are more likely to get what the teacher is asking or suggesting and to already know how and be able to behave according to the teachers expectations.

Can good teaching help some poor students succeed in school? Of course!
There are obviously poor kids who transcend their class backgrounds and move up into the middle class and occasionally even become members of the ruling elite. This does not mean that all of them. It also is absurd and condescending to them and their families to attribute their success entirely or even mostly to their teachers. Many poor kids come to school with self-confidence, motivation, perseverance and a strong work ethicattributes that are necessary to succeed in school and that stem mostly from their upbringings and home lives, not from school. Having good teachers most likely helps them to reach their potentials, as it does for affluent children, but it is not the only, nor even the main, reason they succeed.

Nevertheless, the Ed Deformers love to assert that poverty isnt the problem and that it shouldnt even be on the table. (Of course, many of the most well-known Ed Deformers are billionaires who want to crush the public sector unions and open up public education to private entrepreneurs).

All the poor kids need, they insist, is better teachers, super men and women who are willing to work 16 hours per day, and do more during each hour than do those other shirkers we politely call teachers. They continue to misrepresent the data on the teachers influence on educational outcomes, suggesting that teachers are the largest influence, when even the most conservative researchers say teachers are only responsible for 7-20% of students academic success.

Dana Goldstein recently posted links on her blog to some of this research in a rebuttal to RiShawn Biddles criticism of her essay on Steven Brills Class Warfare.

This 1998 paper by Eric Hanushek, John Kain, and Steven Rivkin--economists who support free-market education reforms--concludes that teacher quality accounts for "at least 7.5 percent" of student achievement outcomes.
This 2004 review of a number of studies on teacher effectiveness estimates that between 7 and 21 percent of student achievement differences can be attributed to teachers. See pg. 240. The authors are education researchers at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and Tennessee State.
On pages 3 to 4 of this 2002 University of Pennsylvania study, the researchers conclude that depending on the valued-added method used, between 4 and 28 percent of student achievement gaps can be attributed to differences between classrooms within a school, of which the teacher would be the most significant.

The wealthy do not want to acknowledge the role of poverty out of fear that they might be asked to give up a tiny modicum of their wealth. Politicians dont want to acknowledge it for fear of losing the support of their funders. School administrators dont want to talk about it because they dont have any control over it, and they want to focus on what their teachers can control through reforms (even if the reforms do not actually do much or anything to help poor children). Teachers do not want to talk about it because theyre too busy trying not to drown under the weight of all the new reforms. The Occupiers do want to talk about it, but ineffectually and delusionally, presuming that their mere presence in public spaces will be sufficient to get the rich to part with a bit of their wealth and that a few extra bucks going into education and public services will somehow end poverty.

Modern School
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 02:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. It's worth a try
Lack of education and stupidity sure doesn't seem to work.
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 05:57 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. I think education is important, and I think that
The fact that educated people will not put up with $hit is one reason why the Powers that Be don't want people to have an education.

One of the biggest problems for kids growing up inside a ghetto is that the families are now fractured. It is no longer true that at least one parent is at home. Parents are in jail, and kids are literally raising themselves.

In the S. F. Bay Area, some of the neighborhoods where this is very true to form are in Oakland.

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txlibdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-09-11 11:31 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Parents in jail in service to the multi-billion dollar private prison industry
That is why they'll never decriminalize Marijuana... that would cut out 30% of their profits!
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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 02:52 PM
Response to Original message
2. There's no doubt that family income correlates most strongly with lifetime earnings and education.
Edited on Sat Nov-05-11 03:11 PM by leveymg
A good public education, however, is shown to raise kids out of poverty, particularly children of first-generation immigrants. Such a quality public education should be available to all, not just in enclaves such as affluent suburbs in New York, California, and Virginia.

A refocusing of the political agenda toward increased national funding of schools is essential, but that runs 180 degrees counter to the austerity and privatization agenda of the 1 percenters, the Charter School industry, and the paleo-GOP.
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 02:53 PM
Response to Original message
3. Poverty and too little emphasis on and knowledge about what it means
to be a good parent.

Where are the TV programs about good and bad parenting -- from the kids' and parents' perspectives.

A lot of poor parents are good parents, and their children thrive.

Being rich does not mean you are a good parent.

I know people whose parents were rich alcoholics. The kids suffered a lot, and have acted out their misery in their adult lives.

We need to talk more about good parenting and less about good teaching. You learn about character, about patience, about optimism and honesty at home. And those qualities are more important than how well you read.
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dkf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 03:07 PM
Response to Original message
4. I doubt it's money that will "fix" these parents. It's probably culture.
And then you will be criticizing the way they live. Good luck with that.
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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-05-11 03:14 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Yes, but a lot of the kids can be "fixed" before they're broken. The parents don't have to speak a
Edited on Sat Nov-05-11 03:17 PM by leveymg
word of English or even be able to read, and within a year or two their kids are performing with the rest of the class provided that the resources are put into their education and there is a school environment where learning is sustained Preschool-12. I know - my child has been through the most diverse school system in the country, and she is thriving along with most of her cohort from over 100 countries.
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ObamaFTW2012 Donating Member (147 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-14-11 07:53 PM
Response to Original message
8. I grew up poor
My dad didn't feel much responsibility and lacked discipline, and my mom ended up divorcing him when I was little. She raised 4 kids (me being the oldest) making barely anything. I don't know how she did it. We had a cold house and ate government cheese (literally). But my mom made sure we went to good schools, and pushed us to do well.

I'm not rich, but I have a comfortable life. I own a small business that is growing in a terrible economy. My wife is a stay at home mom, caring for our 2 year old daughter and pregnant with our second child. I have a nice truck, a new BMW, and a Corvette. We eat good food and our house is always 72 degrees.

You can believe whatever you choose, but I attended good public schools and overcame poverty through education, ignoring the naysayers such as yourself along the way.
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Modern School Donating Member (558 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-18-11 11:54 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. Success for 1 does not equal success for all
Congrats on your success. Yes, good teachers are important, especially for those who have the motivation, drive and perseverance to make it in this world. That does not mean that good teaching can bring everyone up and out of poverty. That requires social change. Academic success is correlated more strongly with family wealth than any other factor, including good teachers. Therefore, if we want to get the biggest bang for our bucks in terms of improving educational outcomes, we should focus on reducing poverty.
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ObamaFTW2012 Donating Member (147 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 09:53 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. Holding education in high regard
is something that does not depend upon wealth. I disagree with your notion that educational outcomes should be improved by reducing poverty. You are putting the cart before the horse. The way to reduce poverty is to improve educational outcomes. If you educate people, they will have the skills needed to provide for themselves and their families. If you spend money paying their bills, hoping to alleviate their stresses so that they might focus on education, you will be disappointed.

Most importantly, people have to want a better life. Sadly, many of the poor people I grew up with have no desire to live better, because they live almost entirely for free (free to them, not the taxpayer) now. They teach their children to value the free ride more than independence and personal success. it's not something you can fix with any amount of money.
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muddrunner17 Donating Member (136 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-15-11 10:19 PM
Response to Original message
9. LOW SES students are at a disadvantage, but good teaching combined with home support
can help overcome those disadvantages. Students whose parents expect them to do well in school, even when the parent doesn't understand the work, do better. The hard part is that low SES parents often work two or more jobs, or have work shifts that prevent them from giving their children the support that they would like to provide.

It is much harder for students who do not have home support, however, some still rise above it. A teacher that I work with had absolutely no support growing up. By all statistics she should've been a failure; divorced parents, alcoholic and abusive step parent,and low income. However, she was determined to change things for herself and did. I refuse to give up hope on any student.
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MKChang Donating Member (2 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-16-11 06:06 PM
Response to Original message
10. Poverty and Education-Both are complex topics
When it comes to poverty and education, there are way too many factors to ever have a clear "yes" or "no" answer to anything concerning those topics. What works for one poor kid doesn't work for another poor kid, so how do you determine exactly what "good" teaching is to begin with? Gr, there are just too many complex factors involved.
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MichiganVote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-20-11 01:49 PM
Response to Original message
13. It may help but the role of education is to educate, not mitigate.
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