Poverty

A Call for Celebration! National School Breakfast Week

Guest post by Alison Maurice, MSW, child nutrition policy analyst, Food Research & Action Center

Why celebrate the 2017 National School Breakfast Week? School breakfast not only fights hunger and improves young people’s nutrition, but it is a vital tool for improving the academic achievement of your students. (more…)

Poverty: A Reason NOT An Excuse

Top teachers say that poverty is the most important barrier facing them in their classrooms. Reformers insist that those teachers are merely making excuses for poor achievement of low-income students.

Having worked in and with many high-poverty schools I am, on the one hand, discouraged by the current fad du jour of ignoring poverty as a detractor, and on the other hand, inspired by the fact that I know that, if schools do the right things, the right way, long enough, their students can achieve at high levels. Every day, we learn that more and more schools are beating the odds.

While the mantra of education reformers continues to be ‘No excuses, because poverty is not destiny,’ researchers and practitioners know that “socio-economic circumstance matters to education outcomes.”

Blaming Only Hurts Those Most In Need (more…)

If They Don’t Eat At School, They Don’t Eat

When Eric Jones, Principal of J.O. Johnson High School in Huntsville, AL, started a “Breakfast in the Classroom” program, it made me stop and think for a moment. Would the loss of instructional time be worth it?

Don’t get me wrong. Our school had a huge breakfast program. In fact, if you walked into our cafeteria at 7:15 a.m. you would have thought it was lunchtime. The cafeteria was completely full.

After thinking for a moment, a number of points in support of Eric’s approach occurred to me. First, every school has its own DNA. Our students were eating breakfast in the cafeteria. Eric’s students, for whatever reason, were not. If he did not feed them in their classrooms, they would not eat.

Second, I was reminded of Roy Baumeister’s excellent book, Willpower. Baumeister points out that “depletion” weakens willpower. When students don’t eat, their blood glucose levels drop and they become “depleted.” In a “depleted” state, learning will not take place. Feeding students will raise their blood glucose levels, which will help improve their concentration and increase their resilience and willpower. (more…)

PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’

PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’

Editor’s Note: This is an update of a previous post on the relationship between PISA scores and poverty. Although these figures relate to 2009 scores, little has changed. The U.S. is still in the middle of the pack when compared to other participating nations. Walt Gardner of Education Week and Diane Ravitch have provided similar analysis of more recent PISA scores.

PISA results have provided ample fodder for public school bashers and doomsayers who further their own philosophies and agendas by painting all public schools as failing. For whatever reason, the pundits, many of whom have had little or no actual exposure to public schools, refuse to paint an accurate picture of the state of education.

A closer look at the data tells a different story. Most notable is the relationship between PISA scores in terms of individual American schools and poverty.  While the overall PISA rankings ignore such differences in the tested schools, when groupings based on the rate of free and reduced lunch are created, a direct relationship is established.

Free and Reduced Meal Rate PISA Score
Schools with < 10% 551
Schools with 10-24.9% 527
Schools with 25-49.9% 502
Schools with 49.9-74.9% 471
Schools with >75% 446
U.S. average 500
OECD average 493 

With strong evidence that increased poverty results in lower PISA scores the next question to be asked is (more…)