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[Susan notes: ]

Submitted to Indianapolis Star but not published

To the editor

With teachers under increasing [unfair] pressure, it is tempting to shift the blame to parents. This is also unfair. We must follow Stephen Krashen's lead and keep the emphasis on the real culprit: poverty.

The problem with parents
(March 13) blames parents for problems in American education. There is, however, no evidence showing that parents today are any less or more committed to their children than in previous decades.

The real culprit is poverty. Children of poverty suffer from inadequate food and medical care, and lack of access to books. Each of these is associated with low school performance.

Our high level of child poverty is responsible for our less-than-spectacular performance on international tests: Middle-class American students attending well-funded schools achieve higher test scores than nearly all other countries. Our average scores are mediocre because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (over 20%; high-scoring Finland has less than 4%).

Instead of forcing often overworked and exhausted parents to do school duties, let's help them out. Full employment at a living wage will give parents the means to do the right thing for their children. Until this happens, we must protect children against the effects of poverty by making sure all children have adequate diets, health care, and access to quality libraries. When this happens, American test scores will be the best in the world.

Stephen Krashen

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