Your recent editorial “One hard day in classroom” accurately portrayed the stark contrast between the misguided idealism of many of the so-called education reformers and political opportunists versus the real-world experiences of teachers in too many American classrooms.
I appreciate the honesty of your reaction to the Los Angeles Times story about a teacher who must cope with the grinding poverty of her students while struggling to meet school accountability goals. Unfortunately, Ellie Herman’s narrative is the all-too-common, very human story of good teachers trying very hard to address the often-overwhelming needs of America’s children.
The Advocate’s frank questioning of the two pillars of current reform orthodoxy, that neither class size nor money matters, is a welcome, positive step forward for educators and our community at large.
The editorial was timely in light of the major report that Louisiana has the second-highest poverty level — surpassed only by Mississippi — in the United States.
Poverty does matter a great deal in the debate about improving our schools. According to recent reports, schools in the United States that have fewer than 10 percent of poverty-level students have scores higher than the top nations in the world. But as the percentage of poverty-level students rises, the schools’ international competitiveness declines.
Simply put, poverty continues to be the single greatest determiner of a school’s success or failure. Overcoming the disadvantages of that poverty requires fewer platitudes, more resources and smaller class sizes. Finger-pointers and self-anointed, sideline reformers should spend real time in the world of the many Ellie Hermans.
Steve Monaghan, president
Louisiana Federation of Teachers