Poverty Affects Student Learning

Posted By Levi

June 5th, 2012 8:04pm

Category: Education

Thanks to Diane Ravitch for pointing  this out.
Student learning is affected by a number of factors such as school environment, good administrators, parental involvement, student desire to learn and yes, the quality of the teacher. But there is another important factor, the level of poverty in which the child is growing up. Many reformers don’t like to talk about the effects of poverty on student learning; when they do, they say it doesn’t have much effect at all. Put a good teacher in the classroom, they say, and nothing else matters. Good teaching can overcome all the other variables that migh affect a child from learning. Hence, if students’ test scores don’t go up, blame the teacher.

UNICEF has just issued a new report on child poverty in the industrialized nations. Here is the chart showing how the countries stacked up against one another.

Notice where we are – right at the bottom next to Romania with a child poverty rate of over 23 percent.  Now, look at the country that we have been hearing a lot about recently as having one of the best educational systems in the world and one that many would like to emulate – Finland. Its child poverty rate is a little over 5 percent.

Next, watch the video below. Professor Michael Marder, a 
physicist  at the University of Texas, uses the child poverty numbers provided by UNICEF and plots them on a graph with the test scores from the PISA math test. PISA is an international test used to measure test scores among several countries in  math, science, and reading to 15 year olds Finland has consistently outscored the United States on these tests.

What was Professor Marder findings? He disaggregates the numbers and found that American students who experienced no poverty at all score much better than Finnish students. What drags the United States almost to the bottom of the chart is its high levels of poverty among children, the highest in the industralized world.


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