Faulty Logic

Everyone has been to school.

Everyone has a story that begins, “I had a teacher who…”

Teachers have stories, too. “I had a kid who…” or “I had a kid whose parents…”

People use anecdotes to prove a point.

But anecdotes, however true, prove nothing.

My grandfather smoked heavily, lived to be ninety. My sister, who never smoked, died of lung cancer. From this ‘evidence’, one might suppose that there is no link between smoking and cancer. Maybe if we all smoked, we’d live longer!

It is from this kind of logic that conspiracies are imagined: “They’ve found a cure for cancer, but the drug companies are keeping it secret because they would lose a lot of money if everyone could be cured.”

Lately, it seems that this kind of anecdotal logic has been applied to education.

You might believe that because you had a bad teacher, there must be a lot of bad teachers out there. You might even think that’s why our educational system is going down the tubes — teachers are ignorant, lazy, and only care about their paychecks. You might even imagine that teacher’s unions are conspiring to keep our schools in decline.

Evidence? Oh, I guess we need some of that.

The evidence is this: the factor that most influences a student’s ability to learn is poverty. Poverty — not class size, school size, teacher experience, how long or short the school day is, or how many tests we give them.

Let me say that again: Kids who grow up in poverty, whose parents have little education, who have not seen a book before they start school, who move every six months, who have never been to a museum or library — these kids are more likely to do poorly in school and on standardized tests.

In other words: standardized tests show us who is poor. Didn’t we already know that?

What about “Leave No Child Behind In Poverty?” More

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