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Policymakers to blame, not teachers

Policymakers to blame, not teachers

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Recently a school superintendent in Nebraska berated teachers (to tears) in a high-poverty high-immigrant elementary school because their school’s test scores were hurting the district’s score. Berating teachers for not solving what is a social problem, not an educational problem, is unfair and has led to unequal achievement between poor and affluent children.

Large amounts of recent peer-reviewed research are available that prove the cognitive and behavioral damage to young children’s developing brains from toxic stress. Toxic stress is much more likely in children living in poverty than more affluent children, which accounts for the achievement gap between poor and affluent children.

The Harvard Center on the Developing Child has developed a summary and index of this research. Pertinent items include: brain architecture, toxic stress, neglect and gene & environment interaction.

Despite this research, Nebraska teachers are held accountable under a racist and xenophobic AQuESTT system, where schools are ranked into categories. Under the AQuESTT rankings of 283 large district elementary schools:

— Affluent schools with under 30% poverty and few children of color have 87% of the Excellent schools and have none of the Needs Improvement schools

— High-poverty schools with over 70% poverty and high numbers of children of color have none of the Excellent schools and 85% of the Needs Improvement schools

Ten years of statewide testing also confirms there has been no closing of the achievement gap in Nebraska. No amount of help from the Nebraska Department of Education under AQuESTT will change the test scores of Omaha South High School (82% poverty — ACT score 15.6) to the level of Elkhorn South High School (4% poverty — ACT score 24.3) without drastically reducing child poverty in south Omaha.

This superintendent should be berating his state and federal policymakers, not teachers.

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