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[Susan notes: Terrific letter.

Calls for tougher courses, calls for grit, and so on are indeed just macho talk, diversions to distract people from coming to grips with the real problem: poverty.


Published in Los Angeles Times

To the editor

Punishing schools for child poverty doesn't help students

Richard Whitmire thinks the answer to "turning around" school districts is more "gutsy" leadership, closer relationships with charter schools and pushing students to take more demanding courses. ( Troubled school districts need more than prizes, Op-Ed, Feb. 12)

All this macho talk ignores the big problem: poverty. The rate of child poverty in the U.S. is at an astonishing 25%, the second highest among industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

There is strong evidence that poverty is the major problem in American education: When researchers control for poverty, our performance on international tests is at the top of the world. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate healthcare and lack of access to books.

The best teaching and strongest exhortations to work hard have little effect when students are hungry and ill and have nothing to read. Let's not worry about "turning around" school districts; instead, let's work on protecting children from the effects of poverty.

Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus

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