Why Johnny is behind in reading.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Tyler B., Jul 30, 2013.

  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Jul 30, 2013

    It might be due to poverty. The US ranks #2 in childhood poverty among the 35 wealthiest countries, and it's getting worse according to this new report:

    http://www.ets.org/s/research/pdf/poverty_and_education_report.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,0,792


    Since the “Great Recession” officially ended in 2009, the average net wealth of the wealthiest seven percent of households rose by 28 percent, while the average wealth of the lower 93 percent of households dropped by 4 percent (Fry & Taylor, 2013).

    If you're not a geek like me and don't want to read the whole report, the conclusions are on page 45.
     
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  3. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Jul 30, 2013

    FIXED!

    Carry on. :whistle:
     
  4. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    95% of my students are from families living WAY below the poverty level. I try to stay in contact with parent/guardians as much as possible (good and bad communications), and differentiate, differentiate, differentiate! Sometimes, it feels like I'm teaching 20 different lessons to 20 different students, other times it feels as if all I do is RtI or progress monitoring, and still others I feel like I am banging my head against a wall. Then there are the "golden" moments when something I do actually takes hold - I live for those!
     
  5. Miss84

    Miss84 Comrade

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    Couldn't agree more.:thumb:
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Tyler, poverty doesn't directly cause reading problems. Poverty may cause certain things like psychosocial stressors which impede a child's ability to learn, but it itself does not cause reading problems.

    This isn't just an academic point. If we leave it at "poverty," we may be tempted to say, "Well, we can't fix that." But, if we understand that poverty may affect things like emotional stressors, there ARE things we can do about that.
     
  7. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Poverty does not directly cause reading problems. I only asked the question. However poor children have barriers to learning.

    • Only 12 percent of poor children are raised in two-parent families, compared to 60 percent of
    all children.
    • Poor children are more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke and lead.
    • Even though the United States is one of the richest nations in the world, more than one in
    five children is food insecure.
    • Nearly one-third of U.S. children are in a household where neither parent holds full-time,
    year-round employment.
     
  8. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    What mechanism of action would you identify for each of these points as to how each constitutes a barrier to learning? Not disagreeing, but since we're having the discussion... :).

    For example, how does being raised in a single vs. two parent family contribute to a child comprehending text more thoroughly?
     
  9. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    She sat across from me smelling strongly of cigarette smoke and desperation. She was a single mom with two special-needs very active boys. She arranged to come to the parent/teacher conference between working her two jobs as a hotel maid. When I suggested she should read to her boys to help them with their reading, she burst into tears saying she's never there when they put themselves to bed, and she works/commutes all day. She can't take them to their counseling because her car broke down and the bus doesn't go anywhere near the counseling center. The father was nowhere in the picture. Enough said.
     
  10. live

    live Companion

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    We've had parents who couldn't read with their children, because they never learned how to read themselves.

    It was the worst when students would get suspended for being late to school. Sometimes, they were late because a car would break down due to cold or heat. Or they had the responsibility of feeding and taking their younger siblings to school before they would even think about getting their own education. So many students are simply trying to survive and help their family, and so many schools are ready to push these children out.
     
  11. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    If poverty caused reading problems, then there wouldn't be so many reading problems in wealthy schools. Teaching in a wealthy school, we had reading problems. The difference was that these parents paid around $50/hour for private tutoring until they found someone who made a difference with their child.

    Having worked in poor areas, the solution can't be $50/hr. private tutoring, but some schools have gotten grants to get teachers to tutor for pay. The limited knowledge I have of these programs, the results have been quite good.

    Poverty brings greater challenges to the reading problem. There is no doubt about it. There are children who come from poverty who read very well, and those who come from influence who don't, so the situation is a bit more complicated then SES.
     
  12. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Okay, so you've identified some intermediary variables that poverty can cause/influence:

    - Not being able to assist with homework at night or provide supplemental educational support
    - Not being able attend counseling

    I'd say there was also a lot of other data thrown in there - cigarette smoke, father absent, etc. - which I'd be interested to hear how you'd connect to reading (again, not disagreeing, just think it's important to understand why we care about those variables).

    That being said, let's take the two variables you mentioned which most clearly have a relationship with academic performance - assisting with academics at night and attending counseling. Now, let's unpack those and try to understand their relative weight on the child's academic/reading performance:

    - No question that amount of language/academic exposure at an early age influences reading acquisition, but how much improvement do you think you'd see with reading if the mom started reading to the boys for 20 minutes each night? How do you see that comparing with intervention strategies at school?

    - With counseling, again - what's the mechanism of action involved with counseling, and their specific special needs? You mentioned being very active. If they special needs are ADHD, for example, there is no evidence that counseling makes an impact on ADHD.

    Another angle to consider is how school/community based groups can address some of those needs. For example, what if there were services available to:

    - Provide supplemental academic support outside the home
    - Provide transportation to services such as counseling
    - Counseling provided at the school rather than in a community-based setting

    Where I'm going with this: The equation isn't as simple as "poverty vs. school variables." What about a school that partners with a mental health agency and after-school program and provides some of those supplemental services? How do those variables mediate the effects of poverty?

    Bottom line: We can't assume that poverty is an uncontrollable, non-educational issue. Many of the effects of poverty are related to strategies we can implement that might have an impact.

    All of this comes back to my question of your original post - that poverty isn't necessarily a cause or determinant of reading failure because there are a lot of mediating variables (positive and negative) in between poverty and end reading performance. Not arguing that poverty is insignificant - it's huge. But, we can't neatly package the argument as poverty on one side and school effects on the other, nor is poverty a singular variable which has a uniform impact on a child's learning experience.
     

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