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I read the July 26 article on failing schools in Allegheny County with a deep sense of sorrow ("State List of Failing Schools Has 53 in County"). The one commonality these schools have is a student population that comes from poverty.
Unfortunately, the best predictor of test performance in the United States is family income. That would suggest that we should work to alleviate the crushing effects on children of our ingrained economic inequality, which is the worst of any wealthy nation. Instead we choose to blame teachers and schools when children who are hungry, homeless or lacking in medical care do poorly on standardized tests.
While it is true that not all schools with a large population of children from economically disadvantaged families "underperform," it is equally true that schools from wealthy districts do not fail the recently created performance measures.
As punishment for this "failure," the current solution is to loot the budgets of already depressed schools and districts and transfer the money to charter and cyber schools, which are increasingly run for profit. For example, Goldman Sachs is a large investor in for-profit schools -- who would ever believe that they would put the interests of our children first? If we want all of our schools and children to succeed, we must create the conditions and programs to, at a minimum, meet their basic needs. Then, we truly will give every one of our children a fair and equal chance.
The writer is a professor of elementary and early childhood education at Slippery Rock University.
First Published August 14, 2012 12:00 am