Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Gates Foundation Ignores Poverty's Hold on Student Performance

Education Week, June 19, 2018
To the Editor:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to "diagnose the root cause of poor performance" by investing $68 million to expand education grantmaking abroad ("The Gates Foundation's Education Plans Go International," Curriculum Matters blog, June 3, 2018). But we already know what causes poor performance. Study after study over many decades has concluded that poverty is the culprit.
Until our country's government and citizens take steps to substantially reduce and eventually eliminate poverty by ensuring every person has full employment at a living wage, we can do a lot to protect students from the negative impact of poverty. Many low-income children suffer from food deprivation, lack of medical care, and lack of access to books&—all of which affect their school performance. We can invest more in food programs, medical care and school nurses, and libraries and librarians.
The Gates Foundation seems to have no interest in doing this. Instead, the foundation seems to be concerned about better data analysis and improving teaching and classroom practice. The best teaching in the world will have no effect if students are hungry, ill, or have nothing to read.
Stephen Krashen 
Professor Emeritus of Education 
University of Southern California 
Los Angeles, Calif.


  1. Organizations like the Gates Foundation will never address the actual causes but will throw billions of dollars at window dressing programs. Once they decide to move onto the next shiny toy, they'll shrug and say, "well, we tried, but obviously investing in 'those people' is a waste of money, so let's put our resources into what we know works--aka, people like us." In some ways, that's even worse than wasting millions of children's childhoods.

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  3. This would be true (poverty being the cause of illiteracy) if kids from rich background, with all sorts of books available, do not leave school as illiterates. All the more than 60 kids I had taught on a one on one basis since 2004 were from rich families.Why were they not able to read in English when they came to me for tuition? Why were they able to read in Malay and Hanyu Pinyin but unable to read in English?
    The answer is simply because these kids had shut down from learning to read as a result of confusion. The teachers had taught them Phonemes wrongly.
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  4. Deborah Nam-Krane, what is the actual causes.
    The main cause of kids leaving school as illiterates is that sounds of alphabets are taught wrongly. As a result, kids shut down from learning to read. AND then Stephen Krashen says that he will change the teaching of phonics as the best method from an axiom to an hypothesis.

  5. Stephen Krashen does not know how alphabet sounds should be taught and he has the audacity to say that he wants to implement teaching 'Whole Language'.
    I have invited him to comment on my post and have yet to receive a respond.
    Read my post at

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