Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poverty's fallout

New study confirms damaging effects on brain development

Yesterday's WaPo reports on the latest research showing the damaging effects of poverty on childrens' cognitive development and especially on "working memory." The new studies provide more and deeper understanding of why poor kids tend to lag behind on standardized tests and why conditions in the community may have a greater impact on measurable learning outcomes than anything that happens in the classroom.

The findings indicate that education standards and other government policies that aim to improve poor children's performance in school should consider the stress they are experiencing at home, Evans said. "It's not just 'Read to our kids and take them to the library,' " he said. "We need to take into account that chronic stress takes a toll not only on their health, but it may take a toll on their cognitive functioning."

American Prospect and Matt Yglesias picked up the story. Dana Goldstein at Prospect writes:
All this suggests that the coalition of education experts that calls itself the Broader, Bolder Approach was barking up the right tree during election season, when it formed to discuss how poverty and inequality deplete student academic achievement. It was another education reform effort, however -- the Education Equality Project -- that created the bigger media splash.
But Goldstein doesn't quite get why BBA and EEP just can't get along.
There is no reason, of course, why a societal approach to alleviating poverty can't go hand in hand with support for charter schools and greater innovation in how to recruit, train, and pay teachers.
That systhesis between school improvement and improving the lives of children at home is exactly what BBA's Richard Rothstein, Pedro Noguera and others have been arguing for. But EEP leaders continue to play the one-note of testing madness begun under NCLB and won't move from their "no excuses" "work harder" arguments.

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