Louisiana is ignoring the poverty that limits children’s success in school

(Times-Picayune illustration by Kenneth Harrison)
(Times-Picayune illustration by Kenneth Harrison)

By Robert Mann

So, now Louisiana’s education accountability program will include 3- and 4-year-old children? As one wag on Twitter asked, what’s next, prenatal testing? This fall, state officials launch a pilot program at day care and childcare centers in 15 parishes to test students’ academic performance. State Education Superintendent John White says too many kids are unprepared for kindergarten. “This is about saying, ‘How do we ensure there is a basic minimum standard of quality?'” White explained.

White seems flummoxed about why so many young children aren’t learning. Here’s an idea: Instead of testing them, perhaps he should visit their homes.

If he did, he’ll find that many of them are poor. Some leave for school on empty stomachs. Others are victims of abuse or neglect. Sometimes, they arrive with debilitating earaches or toothaches. Others need eyeglasses or hearing aids. The list of maladies is endless in a state in which 26 percent of children live in poverty.

How, exactly, do you teach such children? The evidence is overwhelming that, on average, it’s hard. Many studies over many years show that poor children usually don’t learn as well as affluent children. Fact is, if there’s a school in a poor district, it will usually have lower test scores than schools in a wealthier district.

Consider, for example, eighth-grade reading and math scores across the United States.There’s a strong correlation between a state’s poverty level and reading and math scores. On standardized tests, like the SAT, the most reliable predictor of success is the income of the child’s family.

Continue reading at NOLA.com

3 thoughts on “Louisiana is ignoring the poverty that limits children’s success in school

  1. Anyone who chooses to examine the data will find that poverty and academic achievement is as close to a perfect correlation as one will find in research. Perhaps if one wanted to truly improve education that would begin looking at the causes of poverty and who benefits from a large poor class of people.


  2. Independent Thinker July 28, 2013 — 8:55 am

    As an Early Interventionist, I spent 9 years visiting the homes of high poverty at-risk infants and toddlers. Much of the dysfunction you describe does exist in these homes. But what we rarely recognize is that the parents of these children love their children as we do ours, and want for them what we want for ours. The problems of poverty overwhelm their lives. They are highly transient, struggle to earn a living wage, and are entrenched in a cycle of poverty that is never ending. They also usually have strong family bonds and supportive social structures within their communities. Testing these young children will not solve these problems. Wrap around services and parent education that support families might be a start. Exposure to early literature and language rich environments are a start. Parents having access to a living wage might be a start. Access to high quality universal preschool definitely would be a great start. Child care providers are not equipped to test these babies and solve their problems. It is so much more complicated and we can’t test our way out of poverty. Our state department is clueless about the reality of poverty on our state. You are so correct. Visit their homes and you might begin to understand…or maybe they don’t want to understand.


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