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A Response to “Poverty and Education: A Critical Analysis of the Ruby Payne Phenomenon”

by Ruby K. Payne - July 18, 2006

These comments are a response to the commentary “Poverty and Education: A Critical Analysis of the Ruby Payne Phenomenon”.

This paper limits its critique to only one aspect of the work—resources. It doesn’t critique or address the constructs of hidden rules, language, and cognitive structures—or the instructional interventions that are recommended. It’s a very incomplete analysis of Framework.

This paper also examines the possibility that Framework fills a void not addressed by universities. I would agree with that. The void is linked in part to two issues: (1) the lack of research money for education (the U.S. government gives $27 billion annually to health research and $260 million annually to education research, which is why the National Institutes of Health is now doing research on reading) and (2) the lack of a good methodology to study social phenomena.

To quote Jared Diamond, a researcher from Harvard and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book Guns, Germs and Steel:

Science is often misrepresented as “the body of knowledge acquired by performing replicated controlled experiments in the laboratory.” Actually, science is something much broader: the acquisition of reliable knowledge about the world … When I began studying birds in New Guinea rainforest in 1964, I was immediately confronted with the problem of acquiring reliable knowledge without being able to resort to replicated controlled experiments … It’s usually neither feasible, legal, nor ethical to gain knowledge about birds by experimentally exterminating or manipulating their populations at one site while maintaining their populations at another site … (Collapse, p. 17).

And so it is with people. Framework focuses on the findings of a 30-year longitudinal case study of one neighborhood of poverty, which was the one in which my former husband lived.

The book was written primarily for teachers, not researchers, to help them understand the realities of the classroom, as well as the home environments of many of their students. To more fully address systemic and political/economic issues, we’re in the process of rewriting portions of the book with additional research citations to clarify the research base. We’re also in the process of gathering quantitative data at different sites. Preliminary findings indicate that the Framework approach does make a significant difference in student achievement.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 18, 2006
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12597, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 1:41:44 AM

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About the Author
  • Ruby Payne
    aha! Process, Inc.
    RUBY K. PAYNE, Ph.D., author, speaker, publisher, business owner and career educator, is an expert on the mindsets of economic classes and on crossing socioeconomic lines in education, work, and for social change. Dr. Payne’s work stems from more than 30 years of first-hand experience in the public schools, as head school department head, principal, and central office administrator of staff development. She became known for helping students from all economic backgrounds to achieve academic success. She received her B.A. from Goshen (IN) College, earned a master’s degree in English Literature from Western Michigan University, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership & Policy from Loyola University in Illinois. She has written or co-authored more than a dozen books - with her seminal work, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, having sold over 1,000,000 copies. As founder and president of aha! Process, Inc., she has published more than fifty books and audio-visual products. Dr. Payne presents her work throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia, traveling extensively. She presents a variety of workshops based on her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, together with her strategies for successfully raising student achievement and negotiating economic class barriers.
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