My role as a member of the Clinton School Board has created opportunities for me to learn more about student achievement than I thought possible. Student achievement should be the primary goal for any school system and any school board, I know for a fact it is in Clinton. I recently read an article by Eric Jensen that really struck me because of the correlation he drew between student achievement and poverty. One of the things we struggle with at times in the Clinton School district is poverty and at times we view it as a roadblock. The author of the article makes the point that schools, and specifically great teachers, can help to put an end to poverty. Here’s an excerpt from the article and I put a link to the full article below if it peaks your interest enough to read more.
Teachers Affect the National Rate of Poverty. Is there a correlation between student achievement and the rate of poverty in the U.S.? Yes; nationally over 7,000 students a day (1.2 million/yr.) get so fed up, they drop out. Each dropout costs our economy three quarters a million dollars over his or her lifetime.
- Teachers often come into the profession as a chance to “make a difference.” But making a difference can go both ways. If students achieve well, the difference is positive. If students struggle, our nation struggles. If teachers raised student achievement by 10%, the U.S. schools would not only rank among the top 5 in the world, it would also raise gross domestic product by 1% a year. Over the next two generations, this would boost the economy by 112 trillion (not a typo). The government has tried for 50 years and failed; but educators can erase poverty in our own lifetime.
- Here’s what we do know, as of today: a) the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty, b) the effectiveness of classroom teachers varies dramatically, especially within schools, c) research shows teachers in the top 20%, based on year-on-year progress with their students, will completely erase the academic effects of poverty in five years, d) most teachers simply don’t know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don’t try any more.
Results of a Recent Study. We live in an era of unprecedented academic and neuroscientific research. I just finished doing a study on twelve high poverty schools from three time zones and five states. Every one of these schools had 75% or more students from poverty. But, half of them were high-flyers, with school achievement scores in the top 25% of their state. The other half of the schools struggled; their scores were in the bottom 25% of their state. The demographics were identical. The two cohorts of schools (low and high performers) also shared many of the same values. When I offered statements such as, “I believe in my kids,” both school staffs said, “I strongly agree.” So, what was different?
It’s not poverty that makes the difference; it was the teachers. The difference was that the high-performing teachers actually “walked the walk.” First, the classroom and school climate was MUCH better at the high-performers. Secondly, the teachers at the high-performing schools didn’t complain about kids not “being smart” or being unmotivated. They made it a priority and built engagement, learning, thinking and memory skills every day. In short, they didn’t make excuses; they just rolled up their sleeves and built better student brains.
Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to read more: http://www.jensenlearning.com/news/poverty-student-achievement