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[Susan notes: As usual, Stephen Krashen cuts to the point, offering data rather than jingoistic, unsubstantiated claims.]

Submitted to Washington Post but not published

To the editor

Education expert Bill Gates says that the US educational system is failing, and that the cure is national standards ("The influence game: Gates sways government dollars," October 26).

A careful look at the data shows that the schools are not failing. If the role of poverty is taken into consideration, American children do very well in international comparisons.

The late Gerald Bracey pointed out that U.S. schools with less than 25 percent of their enrollments made up of children of poverty outscore all other countries in math and science. American children only fall below the international average when 75 percent or more of the students in a school live in poverty.

The obvious reason: Poverty means hunger, poor diet, toxins in the environment, and a lack of reading material, which seriously affect academic performance. The United States has the highest level of childhood poverty of all industrialized countries.

Clearly, poverty is beyond the control of the schools. The solution is for our society to deal with poverty, not add more standards and tests.

Stephen Krashen

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