Newspaper blasts teachers unions for blaming bad test scores on poverty

stop making excuses

PARKERSBURG, W. Va. – West Virginia students ranked dead last in reading in a recent national assessment of education in 13 states.

In math, the Mountain State’s seniors tied with Tennessee students for last place.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association, the state’s teachers unions, have attempted to blame the poor performance on poverty. But the Parkersburg News and Sentinel’s editorial board recently called the unions out on their lame excuses, and explained to the public why the state’s union bosses are full of hot air.

WVEA President Dale Lee attempted to downplay West Virginia’s test scores by claiming “all educators will tell you that the poverty level will have a direct reflection on the test scores.”

The newspapers response?

“Nonsense. If there was a direct correlation, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., would all routinely perform more poorly than West Virginia in meeting academic standards. They all have higher poverty rates than our state does.”

A recent study of student performance in Los Angeles by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) illustrates the point further. Children from lower-income groups can learn in the right academic environment:

“Low-income charter school students in Los Angeles gained 14 more days of learning in reading and 43 more days of learning in math compared to their peers in traditional public schools,” according to EdSource. “Gains for low-income Hispanic students were the largest: 58 days in reading and 115 days in math.”

The News and Sentinel also took issue with AFT-West Virginia President Christine Campbell’s comments following the test results that “we need to focus on students’ social and emotional issues, as well as their academic needs.”

“Campbell’s assertion that teachers’ jobs are to focus on students’ social and emotional issues, with academic needs mentioned as an afterthought, is particularly galling,” according to the editorial.

“Yes, education for students whose families are struggling financially can be more challenging than teaching children from financially secure homes. Generations ago, teachers in one-room school houses filled with farm children, understood the difficulties of their task, and found ways to do their jobs well, anyway, without throwing up their hands in defeat.”

As the paper rightly points out, it’s not poverty that’s dragging down the state’s education system. There are a lot of places with much more poverty that are doing much better academically.

The problem is that the state’s teachers unions refuse to acknowledge that poorly prepared teachers are delivering sub-par instruction. Instead of accepting that reality and devising ways to improve, they instead blame poverty and parents for the state’s educational deficiencies.

It’s a common union tactic that’s used to justify bad teachers in America’s inner cities, as well.

The unions’ “blame poverty” excuse is typically followed up by a call to increase tax dollars spent on public education, with the implication that more money can fix what’s wrong with the system.

But the sad reality is that until the unions take a hard look in the mirror, and take tangible steps toward improving the teaching profession by holding educators accountable for their performance, it’s highly unlikely that more money or a focus on the “social and emotional issues” of students will make much of a difference.

Authored by Victor Skinner



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