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.