education, teachers, & the effect of poverty

From the Seattle Times’s Pacific Northwest magazine for yesterday: “What’s the matter with teachers today?”  A long, interesting piece about K-12 education that asks the question, “Teaching is one of the most criticized jobs in America. What’s up with that?”

Naturally, these paragraphs jumped out at me:

And [teachers] also hate that, outside of the teachers lounge, they can’t raise the problem of poverty without being branded an excuse-maker. They consider poverty the elephant in the room. Not an excuse but a reality that affects test scores much more than the few bad teachers.

Even if we fired all the bad teachers tomorrow, they say, we would still have a big gap in achievement between the rich and the poor.

I really don’t have much commentary on that except:  Well, DUH.

One thought on “education, teachers, & the effect of poverty”

  1. When I was interpreting at a teachers’ conference, everyone was swarming around the Finns to find out what makes them so good in education. The Finns replied with a) having 99% of teachers in a union that takes care of their rights and b) 5-year long Master’s program for teachers so everyone is super-qualified.

    See, they didn’t even think of any reasons that could be pinned on class because in Finland, it’s a given that every student comes to the school with full health care (free dental until they’re 17) and their parents have full healthcare. In addition, the school provides text books, pens and notebooks for the kids (up until high school age), so the parents don’t need to buy anything but a backpack and a pen case. School offers free hot lunches and snacks until college age. Kids are never made to work on projects that would require their parents’ help or for them to buy materials with their own money.

    In addition to that, each child gets a government allowance once a month (1-200 euros a month) until they turn 17.

    I think this is one reason why Finland has been leading in education: kids can really focus on learning when they are in the classroom. Obviously, there are problems in that system as well and there are issues that work in Finland’s advantage(such as having a language that would make everyone a spelling bee champion, heh) but I was surprised at how the Finnish educators overlooked society’s effect on students’ everyday life and honestly thought that Finnish success is only due to having very qualified teachers. Maybe they thought that students are supported the same way in the US?

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