Invisible Child

December 10, 2013

 

This is a poignant and deeply disturbing account of a young homeless girl and her family in New York City.

 

She’s not an invisible child. Hundreds of teachers see such children every day, and are dismissed when they try to speak to policy makers of why these children need so much more than better standardized test scores.

 

Low-income students are twice as likely to be taught math by a teacher who is teaching “out of field” than are other students.   One of three math classes taught in l0w-income schools is taught by a teacher with out a degree in math or certification in math education

Read the report from the Education Trust here , and then write, call, or email your policy maker of choice and ask what they’re doing about this beyond requiring poor kids to spend more time taking math tests and then withholding their diplomas when they don’t pass.

There’s too little time for reading or writing during this hectic stretch that I’m in,  but I did sneak away with an iced tea last week to read a very good analysis of Ruby Payne’s work published by  Teachers College Record last November (Formal cite: 2008, Vol 100, Number 11. E access # 14591)

The article, Miseducating Teachers about the Poor:  A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne’s Claims, by Randy Bomer, Joel Dworin, Laura May, and Peggy Semington is among the most carefully researched, thorough, and detailed analyses of Payne’s writing that I’ve found.

The authors systematically weigh the claims made by Payne against what can readily be found within peer-reviewed research about the causes of poverty and the lives of the poor (their reference list alone runs to five pages), and as others have already observed, Payne comes up very short.

They review research on the lifestyles, values, goals, language, and educational aspirations of the poor.  They find evidence for little of what Payne writes and teaches, and instead cite solid and respected research that directly contradicts much of what she claims.

As I’ve written before here, here, here, and here, this sort of analysis makes it very difficult to understand why schools settle for Payne’s work when there is so little support for her claims, and so little evidence that poor kids are well-served by teachers who have experienced her training.

I’d encourage folks who have dismissed  criticism of Payne’s work as “academic jealousy” (or other personal, rather than intellectual motives) to read this article.

And I’d welcome discussion here — not about the motives of the article authors, but about the research that they cite.

It would be a violation of Fair Use policies to attach the entire article here, but it’s worth the effort to track down a copy.  Readers with access to  academic libraries can find copies there, you can get a PDF (for a fee) from the publisher here , or you might email the lead author, Randy Bomer, at rbomer at mail dot utexas dot edu.

So, are we willing to get past questioning the motives of those who critique her work,  past the “but she seems to make sense” reasoning,  past  anecdotes about ones own family members, and down to the core questions of whether we’re simply settling for Payne rather than bringing all that we know to the education of poor children?

I have no doubt whatsoever that teachers exposed to solid, carefully done research such as that cited in this article can, together, formulate ways to better serve poor children in schools.  Given how this field is developing while Payne’s work stands still, I think that we should be well past the point that we depend so heavily on someone  who just hasn’t done her own homework  to tell us how to do this work.

Thanks to Lane Kentworthy at Consider the Evidence for the link to Pathways Magazine: A Magazine on Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy, a publication of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. In this issue, you’ll find articles by John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton on how they would alleviate poverty.

Rebecca Blank’s article comparing and critiquing the candidates’ platforms is particularly informative.

Two studies on education and poverty are getting press this week.

In the first, the Educational Testing Service reports that a state’s performance on federal 8th grade reading tests can be accurately predicted by only four factors, none of which can be controlled by schools: The percentage of children living in single parent homes; the percentage of eighth graders who miss at least three days of school a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger read to by their parents every day; and the percentage of eighth graders reporting that they watch at least five hours of TV a day.

Reporting on the study, Michael Winerup of the NYT advises caution. The child watching hours of TV, for example, may have parents who have too little time at home because they are working two jobs. The study notes significant gaps in the quality of day care available to poor and privileged children. In other developed countries, the NYT article reminds us, mothers have paid leave after their babies are born.

It’s curious, then, that the title of study (The Family: America’s Smallest School”) and the NYT article’s headline, (“In Gaps in School, Weighing Family Life”), make no mention of these policy factors, as if this were all simply a matter of parenting style.

Meanwhile, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment reports that students’ socio-economic background affects achievement more profoundly in the United States than in other high- achieving countries. Education Week ‘s (you may need to register ) Sean Cavanagh reports:

The exam’s results are not surprising, given research showing that the U.S. system tends to provide underprivileged students with less demanding curricula, poorer-quality teachers, and fewer educational resources than their peers in wealthier U.S. communities, said Ross Wiener, the vice president of program and policy for the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group in Washington.

“We give students less of everything that makes a difference in school,” Mr.Wiener said. If the public is inclined to believe “we’re doing as well as we can for these students,” he added, the international data “demonstrates we’re simply not.”

Both studies challenge NCLB’s assertions that we can close achievement gaps primarily within classrooms decontextualized from their communities.

Both negate NCLB’s promise that the best that we can offer children left behind by regressive social policies are underpaid teachers, toiling away in poorly-funded schools.

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