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[Susan notes: We must say this over and over: It's the poverty. Everything else is a distraction from the real issue.]

Submitted to Washington Post but not published

To the editor

Reduce poverty in order to improve science and math achievement

The recent push for more emphasis on science, technology and math education is based on American children's performance on international tests in math and science ("$250 million initiative for science, math teachers planned," Jan. 6). But studies have shown that American children in low-poverty schools outscore nearly all other countries on these tests.

U.S. children only fall below the international average when 75 percent or more of the students in a school live in poverty. Studies also confirm that hunger, poor diet, and a lack of reading material seriously affect academic performance. We have so many children who live in poverty that it profoundly affects the average test score: The United States has the highest level of childhood poverty of industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's, 2%).

The problem is poverty, not a lack of high-powered science and math instruction.

Stephen Krashen

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