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[Susan notes: As the media keeps reporting those claims that roll off Standardisto tongues, we must be grateful to Stephen Krashen, who doesn't let them get away with it.

After gratitude, must come action. Use the information Stephen provides to send your own letters of refutation.]

Published in Time Magazine

To the editor

"A call for action" (September 20) is based on two incorrect claims: American students are poor in reading, with 69% of 8th graders "below proficient", and the US "trails most other rich nations" in science and math.

The late Gerald Bracey published compelling data showing that the "proficient" level on our national reading test is set far too high: Bracey reported in 2007 that only 29% of American children scored at the proficient level or higher. According to Bracey's analysis, only 33% of Swedish children would have scored proficient or higher on our tests, and Sweden consistently ranks at or near the top of the world in reading. Setting the proficiency level unreasonably high is an excellent way of making our students look bad.

Our science and math test scores are unspectacular, but the problem is not science and math education. Studies show that American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore all or nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores look low because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's 3%). Our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.

"A call for action" is a call for tougher schools and longer school days, 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.

Stephen Krashen

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