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[Susan notes: ]

Submitted to USA Today but not published

To the editor

This strong letter points to the elephant in the classroom: poverty.

A few words for Obama on closing the "achievement gap"

Those interviewed in "A few words for Obama" (Jan. 15) claim that our schools are bad because of bad teaching and poverty. Their cure is

"teachers who demand rigor, improved standards and accountability, monitoring homes to make sure children get enough sleep,food and fresh air, and moving children to "good" schools, charter

schools, and school vouchers." This kind of thinking only perpetuates problems that need to be addressed by the new congress-issues of long


There is plenty of evidence that some our schools are bad, but poverty is the issue that must be addressed. Children who live in high-income areas score as well as those in the highest scoring countries on international tests. Study after study shows that levels of poverty are strongly related to school achievement.

The obvious solution, not considered by any of the experts, is to reduce poverty. When adults in a family can earn a living wage for honest work, in nearly all cases, their children will have good diets and get enough sleep and they will live

in areas with fresh air. Their children will be surrounded by books and other advantages that middle and upper class children have, and they will achieve the same high levels that middle and upper class children do.

There is no small measure of hypocrisy bemoaning the poor academic performance of children from poverty and blaming the schools.

The author is Professor Emerita at University of Northern Colorado.

Yvonne Siu-Runyan

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