Santa Monica-Malibu Unified certainly understands the importance of improving achievement for all groups (“Achievement gap a key concern for SMMUSD officials,” Jan 25).
I have a suggestion: Decades of research have shown that the children of low-income groups do poorly in school, and the research has also told us why: Children of poverty have inadequate diets, poor health care, and little access to books at home, in school and in their communities; each of these has been shown to have a strong negative impact on school performance. The best teaching will have little effect when children are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
The solution? Instead of investing in creating “higher standards” and increasing the amount of testing, let‚Äôs protect children from the effects of poverty: improve food programs, improve in-school health care (e.g. basic dental care, optometry, and more school nurses) and continue to invest in school and public libraries and librarians.
We have evidence that this will work. For example, in a recent study of literacy in 40 countries, my colleagues and I reported that the presence of an adequate school library cancels the negative effect of poverty on reading achievement.
University of Southern California