In 2011The Nation magazine reported, “…at most teaching accounts for about 15 percent of student achievement outcomes, while socioeconomic factors account for 60 percent.”
I mention this quote not to diminish the importance of teaching, but to emphasize that there are some elements over which a teacher has no control. Why do students who attend schools in higher socioeconomic areas always do better on tests than inner city urban schools? You know the answer.
There was a letter to the editor in my paper this past week downplaying socioeconomic factors in education. His rationale was that in the earlier 20th century nearly everyone lived in poor socioeconomic conditions, but achieved success.
The writer missed the obvious point! When the majority of the people experience the same situation, there is NO DIFFERENCE in circumstances.
The work ethic in early 20th century America was much stronger than it is today. During my master’s program one instructor shared an old test with us. Initially we were told nothing about it. The questions were wide reaching and quite difficult. Later she told us that the test was an early twentieth century eighth grade graduation test!
Many of us have heard about family members who only had an eighth grade education. Trust me; if they had to pass that test, then their eight years were no walk in the park!
Good teachers can make a difference in the educational life of a child, but realistically how many children can one teacher reach? Classes may have 20 or more children. To expect one teacher to learn and then address the individual needs of each one on a daily basis is unrealistic at best! In the early grades the differences among children are wide reaching.
Those who adamantly support the one-size-fits-all education program (Common Core, standardized tests, four-year-old pre-K) strongly believe that all children can learn. Additionally they tell us that socioeconomic conditions do not have to affect learning.
Yes, all children can learn! But socioeconomic conditions affect learning whether we want to accept it or not. Schools have encroached further and further into child rearing over the past 30 years. Meals, before and after school care, character building, sex education, including in some schools distribution of condoms, just to name a few.
Why are the schools doing what parents have done for generations?
Because in far too many situations, there are no real parents. Or there is one parent who may or may not understand what is required of a parent. Or one parent who is overworked and struggling to care adequately for the children. In far too many cases the parent herself (because in the vast majority of instances, it is a mother on site) had a poor or incomplete education, and she does not see any value in education.
Children become possessions and a means to secure government support. The Politically Correct out there are probably about to get their torches and come after me, but true is true. The longer we ignore facts, the longer it will take to resolve the problem. Substituting school programs for parenting is not the means to raise healthy – in every sense of the word – children.