Blame poverty, not schools, for turmoil in education

Joseph H. Crowley

Children spend 9% of their time in school.

Joseph H. Crowley is past president of the R.I. Association of School Principals and co-author with Alfred Colella of “Poverty & Despair vs. Education & Opportunity.”

The Providence schools are in turmoil and have been taken over by the state Department of Education. Negotiations on the teachers’ contract are at loggerheads.  Why? No Child Left Behind (NCLB) said schools with significant differences in standardized test scores based on socio-economics were “in need of improvement.” 

Because Providence students score lower on standardized tests than the state average, the Department of Education is intent on “fixing” the schools. The teachers’ contract must be changed to improve student test results. This is the same faulty NCLB thinking that has failed to change learning gaps for the last 20 years.  

While there may be labor-management balance issues in the Providence contract needing to be addressed, teachers’ contracts, by and large, have little to do with eliminating test score differences.  Is the wonderful Barrington teachers’ contract the reason Barrington students score at the top in Rhode Island?  Barrington has its own learning gaps.  They are less pronounced because poverty is not as pervasive or severe as in Providence.  Trading teachers between Barrington and Providence will not miraculously eliminate the learning gaps in Providence.

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