Class Matters in education, wrote Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske in a New York Times op-ed that claimed “No Child Left Behind required all schools to bring all students to high levels of achievement but took no note of the challenges that disadvantaged students face.”
Large bodies of research have shown how poor health and nutrition inhibit child development and learning and, conversely, how high-quality early childhood and preschool education programs can enhance them. We understand the importance of early exposure to rich language on future cognitive development. We know that low-income students experience greater learning loss during the summer when their more privileged peers are enjoying travel and other enriching activities.
The op-ed called for more funding for Promise Neighborhoods, which provides social and health services to low-income families.
Diane Ravitch praised Ladd’s research on education and poverty.
Even Scrooge might agree that our current efforts at school reform are ignoring the needs of the neediest children. Even Scrooge might wake up and realize that schools alone cannot equalize vast income gaps and cannot reinvent our social order.
When George W. Bush decried “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” he was asking too much of schools with low-income students, write Ladd, Fiske and Ravitch.
Nobody denies that class, poverty and parents matter, responds Peter Meyer in A Christmas Carol For Our Schools on Education Next. No Child Left Behind “forced schools to pay attention to their poor and minority students by demanding disaggregated data.” Schools were pressured to pay much more attention to struggling students.
As for special help for low-income children, Meyer asks:
What happened to Title I? What happened to free-and-reduced lunch? What about the dozens of adequacy and equity lawsuits that have redistributed billions of tax dollars to low-wealth schools? . . . Outside of schools we have Medicaid, Section 8 housing, WIC (Women, Infants and Children food program), food stamps and a plethora of anti-poverty programs that should prove, if nothing else, how misguided the cure-poverty first folks are.
An “increasing number of reformers” and Catholic educators “have proven over and over again that poverty is an educational challenge for schools, not a death sentence for their students,” Meyer concludes.
“Saying we need to fix poverty before we can fix schools is like a doctor saying that he’s going to wait until you get better before he treats you,” writes Kathleen Porter-Magee in The Poverty Matters Trap.