THE BLOG
10/29/2013 11:20 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

College Board Enters the Poverty Debate

According to a recent study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 63 percent of available jobs in the U.S. will require workers with at least some college education.

In the knowledge economy which requires new thinking skills to fuel innovation, it is even more imperative that America tap into the nation's bank of ideas that young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban people have to offer.

Even kids from low-income families and neighborhoods are capable of new innovation, new ideas, adding to the creative and innovative workforce. And we desperately need more kids with post secondary education.

The College Board noted :

"The need to expand access to rigorous course work among underrepresented minority students is critical (because) data show that underrepresented minority and low-income students are less likely to complete a core curriculum, less likely to pursue more advanced honors or AP course work, and less likely to report a GPA equivalent to an A."

To combat this problem, they are "working with (their) partners to expand access to AP for students across the country...to identify even more students with the potential to succeed in an AP course" and to reach out to them, thus "giving them a fair shot at college."

The big question is whether low-income students will respond, or to be honest, whether poverty itself is the obstacle.

Many people, including experts such as historian Diane Ravitch, sincerely believe the main culprit of the lack of academic performance is poverty. Ms Ravitcht wrote in the Wall Street Journal that:

"They (the Obama Administration education executives)) also fail to recognize that the best predictor of low academic performance is poverty--not bad teachers."

Contrarily, Michael Holzman, author of The Black Poverty Cycle and How to End It, argues that:

"It is becoming fashionable to argue that the low education achievement levels of African-Americans and Hispanics are caused by poverty. This is tantamount to an argument that the problem is insolvable, as poverty, especially black poverty, is unlikely to become the focus of governmental action any time soon."

Maybe we are looking at the difficulty of low-income students in the wrong way. As Valerie Strauss, education reporter for The Washington Post, observed:

"Poverty may be correlated with low academic achievement, but correlation is not causation, and poverty does not cause school failure. Low-income children can and do learn. If low-income children are not learning, the fault does not lie with them, but with the many adult-centered policies that block school principals and teachers from designing and running a school program, which meets their needs."

This was what Amanda Ripley, author the recent best seller, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, also discovered looking at education in Finland, South Korea and Poland.

"It may be human nature to stereotype, but some countries systematically reinforced the instinct and some countries inhibited it... equity was not just a matter of tracking and budgets; it was a mindset."

Maybe we, too, need to stop thinking about low-income kids the way we do.

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