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[Susan notes: ]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Yahoo! At last, an item in the Times acknowledging poverty.

Kudos to Krashen!

Thomas L. Friedman notes that in countries like Denmark and Finland that

outperform the United States in education, teachers graduate in the top

one-third of their classes.

But there is another explanation for why the United States lags behind: poverty.

The percentage of children living in poverty in Denmark and Finland is under 3

percent. In the United States the percentage is 21.

Poverty means poor nutrition, substandard health care, environmental toxins and

little access to books, all of which have a strong negative effect on school


Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly

all other countries. But our overall scores are unspectacular because we have

such a high percentage of children living in poverty.

Increasing pressure on teachers and parents will not significantly improve

achievement, but if we can protect children from the effects of poverty,

American tests scores will be at the top of the world.

The writer is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California

Rossier School of Education.

Stephen Krashen

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