Monday, July 20, 2015

American educators just can't win

Sent to the Christian Science Monitor, July 20
The US won the Math Olympiad, but American educators just can't win: Instead of telling us how these young people did so well and celebrating their accomplishments, the Monitor’s report of the Olympiad reminded readers that US math scores are not at the top of the world. The article then presented suggestions for improvement in math education ("US wins Math Olympiad for first time in 21 years. Is math education improving?"July 19).
We are always interested in improving our teaching methods, but pedagogy is not the main problem. The main problem is poverty. Study after study shows that when we control for the effects of poverty, American academic performance, including performance on math tests, is among the best in the world. American scores are unspectacular because of our rate of child poverty, now an astonishing 25%, is far higher than the poverty rates in top performing countries.
Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and underfunded libraries, often without librarians.
The best teaching in the world will not help when students are hungry, ill, and have little or no access to books.
Stephen Krashen

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