Poverty's role in bad U.S. test scores

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Educators are always interested in improving teacher evaluation, and Anne Faigen's comments ("Evaluating Teachers Is Not So Easy," Aug. 5 Forum) are helpful. Her essay also, unfortunately, contributes to the impression that there is a crisis in teacher quality in the United States.

Our international test scores are low, we're often told, and the problem is bad teaching. Hence, we need better methods of evaluating teachers.

Our international test scores are unspectacular, but the reasons are not related to teacher quality (or parents or unions or schools of education): Middle-class American students who attend well-funded schools rank at the top of the world on international tests.

The problem is poverty: Our average test scores are mediocre because the United States has such a high level of child poverty, the second highest among economically advanced countries (23 percent). Study after study shows that poverty has a devastating effect on school performance.

The current obsession with teacher quality and evaluation of teachers should be replaced with an obsession to protect children from the impact of poverty: Make sure all children are well-fed, have proper health care and have access to reading material.

STEPHEN KRASHEN
Los Angeles
The writer is professor emeritus of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.


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