Research has long shown the achievement gap to be dominated by poverty and the differences in income. It is remarkable then, that the Dispatch would publish an 800 plus word article on the achievement gap, and not once in the entire article mention poverty. This is important, because just like the Dispatch, the state plan to grade schools based upon closing this achievement gap also does not address the issue of poverty either. Somehow, simply wishing the gap to be closed is good enough policy, when coupled with punishment for the schools when the miracles fail to happen.
A recent paper, titled "Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence" from the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy had this to say
These bolder, broader efforts would require sacrifices beyond the school walls, and prove politically difficult for law makers to confront. This in part explains why Ohio is the only state in the country that does not have a school funding formula, let alone a constitutional one.
What it doesn't explain however, is Republican policy to make the poverty situation worse by trying to enact budget measures like slashing food stamps
A policy that would ensure more students go to school hungry is particularly cruel.
Data released by the Census Department recently showed the percentage of Americans living in poverty is the highest in 15 years, with children feeling the rise most acutely. The news has direct implications for reformers intent on narrowing the academic achievement gap. As the NYT reported recently
It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.
Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.
“We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
It is with some releif then that Ohio Democrats are proposing at least a modest restoration in funding for schools, after the savage cuts made by the previous budget
House Minority Leader Armond Budish, a Beachood Democrat, and five Democratic members of the House Finance Committee appeared at a Statehouse news conference Monday morning calling for $400 million in additional funding for schools and local governments hit by cuts in the state's operating budget.
"The Kids and Communities First Fund will keep teachers in the classroom and police and firefighters on the streets in communities across Ohio," Budish said.
As long as policy makers and newspaper reporting ignore the very real problem of poverty and its connection to student achievement, we are deluding ourselves into thinking all we need to do is come up with a new test, or a new way to grade schools and everything will be A-ok.