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[Susan notes: Stephen Krashen delivers a very important truth.]

Submitted to Ebony but not published

To the editor

According to President Obama and the panel of experts interviewed in Ebony, if we improve education by making it more rigorous, we will improve our economy ("Education Nation," "The Ebony Roundtable on Education, September, 2010).

But high levels of poverty make high educational achievement impossible: The impact of hunger, toxic environments, lack of health care and lack of reading material on school achievement is devastating.

When studies control for poverty, American children do very well on international tests, indicating that there is nothing seriously wrong with our educational system. Our scores are low only because we have so many children living in poverty, the highest of all industrialized countries (22.5%, compared to Sweden's 2.5%).

The "panel of experts" want school to be tougher and longer, a painful and hopeless path. Instead, we should be focused on protecting children from the effects of poverty: Proper nutrition (no child left unfed), health care, and access to books. When this happens, all American children will have the advantages that middle class children have and our test scores will be among the best in the world.

Some sources:

Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential

Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. Educational Research Service

Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.

Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in âfailing schools.â http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.

Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.

Stephen Krashen

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