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[Susan notes: We must repeat this as many times as possible: Our problem is poverty, not a lack of standards.

Kudos to Steve: 3 out of 4 letters he wrote last week about libraries, poverty, reading, common core have been accepted for publication.


Published in Los Angeles Times

To the editor

Re "Backsliding on school reform," Editorial, Nov. 5

The Times faults the Harkens-Enzi proposal for a new education law because it lacks national standards. Without national standards, The Times insists, schools will have "no incentive to improve."

In reality, American teachers have been successful without national standards. Middle-class students attending well-funded schools score at the top on international tests. Our overall scores are mediocre because the U.S. has a very high level of child poverty, with 21% of children living in poverty, compared with high-scoring Finland's 5%.

High poverty means inferior healthcare, inadequate diet and little access to books, all of which have devastating effects on school performance. Our problem is poverty, not a lack of standards.

Rather than spend on standards and tests, let's invest in protecting our children from poverty. This would raise test scores; more important, it is the right thing to do.

The writer is professor emeritus of education at USC.

Stephen Krashen

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