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[Susan notes: Kudos to Stephen Krashen for once again bringing the focus to the elephant in the room: poverty.]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

"Urban Students Fold Under Basic Science" (Nov. 29,

2006) reports that 10 urban districts were low scorers

in science on a 2005 version of the National

Assessment of Educational Progress, and suggests that

national standards and teacher incentives may be

possible solutions.

Urban districts also tend to be high-poverty

districts; this fact was noted in the NAEP report, but

not in your article. The relationship between poverty

and test performance is probably the most firmly

established result in educational research. NAEP

science scores are no exception.

“The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2005 Trial Urban

District Assessment of Grades 4 and 8,” the National

Center for Education Statistics study cited, shows

this. For 4th graders nationwide, children eligible

for free or reduced-price lunch averaged a score of

135, while those not eligible averaged 162. Results

were similar for 8th graders. That’s a huge


Statistical analyses contained in the report, in fact,

led its authors to conclude that the “gaps in overall

scores may be related, in part, to the greater

percentages of low-performing, low-income students in

the [urban] districts.” When low-income children in

the 10 districts were compared with low-income

children in the rest of the nation, differences in

science scores were clearly reduced or were even


This suggests that rather than being so concerned with

uniform standards, we should make dealing with poverty

and providing more resources for schools in

high-poverty areas higher priorities.

Stephen Krashen

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