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Barbara Lieb, Former Senior Researcher, U.S. Department of Education,

Posted By: Barbara Lieb on April 8, 2011
David Berliner and education policy researchers have provided
solid evidence of the links between poverty and low school and student achievement. It is rare to see teachers who can rise above the constraints of curriculum, rigid bureacratic demands, and family attitudes of resignation and hopelessness that charactrize neighborhoods in poverty. Faced by too little funding for creative projects and blame for student failure, many promising teachers leave the profession in the first few years. In my experience with various federal programs aimed at improving teaching and learning, I became convinced that very different systemic approaches to reform are needed. Programs with the most promise at the local levels seemed to be those that emphasized true partnersips among employers, educators, social agencies, families and health providers aimed at tracking individual student needs and progress. The closest I came to being involved in such a federally-stimulated venture involved the Teacher Corps programs of the 1960-s and 70-s where teacher interns lived in the communities and understood the culture of poverty.
Decades later, at the federal level, we talked about partnerships among the Departments of HHS, Education, Labor, HUD, etc. We once talked of systemic reform, but that tended to be among the structures of the education system itself and not among the more macro structures of the communities and economic and political systems that intersect with education. Also eachh promising venture seems to die with each new administration or wave of reform. Although I believe we understand the impact of poverty on learning, we never really develop and support a working system at the federal and local levels (made of interdependent components) that impact on the indivual student. Until we define and implement a systemic approach to education that views education in the context of key components that include family resources, we will keep inventing new labels at the federal level for our ESEA programs and citizens will continue to blame teachers, federal agencies, and poor parenting for low student achievement. I hope David and others keep on plugging this vision of an education system embedded in and impacted by other key variables.
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 Barbara Lieb, Former Senior Researcher, U.S. Department of Education, by Barbara Lieb on April 8, 2011
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