With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What tests may really be measuring

90% African-American children on food stamps, lack Vitamin D

I'm no statistician, but I was taken by the statistical correlation I found in two recent studies.

One released Monday in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reveals that half of all U.S. children and 90 percent of black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood, and fallout from the current recession could push those numbers even higher.

The other Academy of Pediatrics study, which came out a week ago, shows a similar percentage of children and black and Hispanic children in particular, suffering from Vitamin D deficiencies. Such deficiencies compromise the immune system and can make children more susceptible to diseases like the H1N1 virus.

What's missing is a study of the effect the two above may have on student learning and relative scores on standardized tests. Is it possible that what these tests are really measuring in large part, is the relative health and nutrition levels among school children?

If so, shouldn't the new version of NCLB mandate states to look after the proper nutrition of all students, close the Vitamin D gap, and track annual yearly progress (AYP)?


  1. I don't think proper nutrition is going to fix any long-standing problems that these minority communities experience. I do think it's a step in the right direction, however, in terms of leveling the playing field. obviously, the issue of academic performance is multifaceted, and keeping variables consistent will give standardized testing more validity. there are so many variables that can potentially impact students' performance on these tests--sometimes it seems overwhelming. how do you account for all of them, and are these variables the real issue? are we looking at test performance as an indicator for what we already know? that urban schools are underfunded, overcrowded, and geared primarily towards behavior modification, rather than education.

  2. I definitely agree. This area should be looked into has being a large factor in the ability of teaching students. Also, the parents of these students need to be educated about the importance of Vitamin D, and how it affects the body. There are many factors that contribute to the "achievement gap" but you cannot change the surroundings of the students home, but you can change what they are fed at school, and how they are schooled.

  3. Krystie,

    It's not a matter of changing what goes on in a student's home. These stories reveal gross inequality in the system. I mean, you're talking about virtually all black and Hispanic kids being at risk here--and in this the wealthiest of all nations. Shameful. If we can mobilize all our resources to vaccinate millions of kids, why can we make sure they all are fed and have access to medical care? Ending either one of the two wars we are fighting would pay for the whole thing.

  4. I agree that tests might be measuring nutrition level and health, but I think that a longer school year would have more of an impact on closing the achievement gap.

  5. I am a white, 27-year-old female and have been well-fed my entire life and my doctor recently discovered I was deficient in Vitamin D. My roommate, also a healthy 27-year-old white female, went in for a yearly check-up and her doc decided to check her vitamin, iron levels, etc. and she came back as deficient in vitamin D, but nothing else. In fact, Vitamin D screening is becoming more commonplace because its deficiency is being linked to a host of problems from cancer, to heart and kidney disease. Most of the U.S. population seems to suffer from this deficiency...not just Latino and African-American children.

    It's pretty much impossible to get/absorb all the Vitamin D you need from your diet. You get it mostly from being in sunlight...of which it seems we don't have much of in Chicago.

    I agree though, it would be interesting to find out what impact vitamin D deficiency has on learning. I also would be willing to bet there are other gaping nutritional deficiencies in kids who are on food stamps.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.