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[Susan notes: Yes! We must say it again and again: Poverty. Poverty. Poverty. It's not an excuse; it's an ugly reality.]

Published in San Francisco Chronicle

To the editor

The media has learned nothing from the extensive research done on international test scores in the last decade ( U.S. Students Get Stuck in Middle of the Pack on OECD Test, December 3). Study after study shows that the strongest predictor of high scores on these tests is poverty, a conclusion that is backed by a number of other studies showing that students who live in poverty have poor diets, insufficent health care, and lack access to books, all of which contribute to low academic performance. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world.

In contrast, no studies show that increased testing, increased rigor, and a more controlled curriculum help school achievement. The solution, in other words, is not the common core, which Susan Ohanian has described as "a radical untried curriculum overhaul and . . . nonstop national testing." The solution is to protect our youngsters from the impact of poverty.

Stephen Krashen

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