Check out this NYTimes editorial that refers to the McKinsey report posted earlier. And then check out Dr. Stephen Krashen's response sent to the New York Times, April 24. -Angela
April 22, NY Times
By Javier C. Hernandez
WASHINGTON — The lagging performance of American schoolchildren,
particularly among poor and minority students, has had a negative
economic impact on the country that exceeds that of the current
recession, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The study conducted by the management consulting firm McKinsey &
Company, pointed to bleak disparities in test scores on four fronts:
between black and Hispanic children and white children; between poor
and wealthy students; between Americans and students abroad; and
between students of similar backgrounds educated in different parts of
The report concluded that if those achievement gaps were closed, the
yearly gross domestic product of the United States would be trillions
of dollars higher, or $3 billion to $5 billion more per day.
This was the second report on education issues by the firm’s
social sector office, which said it was not commissioned by any
government, business or other institution. Starting in fall 2008, the
researchers reviewed federal and international tests and interviewed
education researchers and economists.
In New York City, an analysis of 2007 federal test scores for fourth
graders showed strikingly stratified achievement levels: While 6
percent of white students in city schools scored below a base
achievement level on math, 31 percent of black students and 26 percent
of Hispanic students did. In reading, 48 percent of black students and
49 percent of Hispanic students failed to reach that base level, but
19 percent of white students did.
The New York City schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, who introduced
the findings at the National Press Club in Washington, said the study
vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was
not poverty or family circumstances, but subpar teachers and
principals. He pointed to an analysis in the report showing low-income
black fourth graders from the city outperformed students in all other
major urban districts on reading (they came in second in math).
“Schools can be the game changer,” he said. “We are able to
get very, very different results with the same children.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Klein was in Albany attempting to persuade
legislators to leave control of the city’s schools in the hands of
the mayor, a governance model adopted by the state in 2002 that is due
to expire in June. A crucial measurement of Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg’s seven years at the helm will be Mr. Klein’s progress
in narrowing the achievement gap in a city where 32 percent of
students are black and 40 percent are Hispanic.
While state test scores have shown improvement since Mr. Klein took
office, eighth-grade scores on federal math and reading tests, known
as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, have not shown
significant increases since 2002.
In an interview after the speech here, Mr. Klein said he would be
the first to acknowledge that the city was not where it needed to be
in closing the gap, particularly in middle schools. But, he added,
there have been signs of progress among younger students, and he
believed the city’s four-year graduation rates — 69 percent for
white students, 47 percent for black students and 43 percent for
Hispanic students — could reach state averages within five or six
He said it would require a focus on finding ways to recruit
Nationally, the gap in test performance between white and Hispanic
students grows by 41 percent from Grade 4 through 12, and between
white and black students it grows 22 percent, the report said.
Students educated in different regions also showed marked variation in
test performance, despite having similar demographic backgrounds. In
Texas, for instance, schools are given about $1,000 less per student
than California schools, but Texas children are on average one to two
years of learning ahead of their counterparts in California.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, Mr. Klein’s partner in leading an alliance
that is attempting to electrify the cause of making radical changes in
education, criticized those who opposed their efforts.
“There are no sacred cows in this,” Mr. Sharpton said to the
audience of 200 education leaders at the press club.
Arne Duncan, the federal secretary of education, told the audience
that the report showed the need for robust data systems to track
student and teacher performance; for alignment of American standards
with those in other countries; and for incentives to keep good
teachers and principals.
“In many situations, our schools are perpetuating poverty and are
perpetuating social failure,” he said, adding that the federal
education bureaucracy had often hindered past efforts.
He expressed support for the idea of radically restructuring the
bottom 1 percent of schools in the country, possibly by closing and
The writers of the study pointed to signs of optimism amid the
dreary numbers. Byron G. Auguste, the director of the social sector
office at McKinsey, which produced the study, said there was evidence
that two dozen countries over the past two decades had significantly
overhauled their educational systems and closed achievement gaps. He
also pointed to high-performing systems in the United States, like
those in Massachusetts and Texas. The trick, he said, would be to
share effective strategies.
Re: "Study Cites Dire Economic Impact of Poor Schools," April 22.
Stephen Krashen response:
Contrary to NY Schools chancellor Joel Klein's statement, the
McKinsey report on achievement in American schools did not show that
the "root cause" of the achievement gap was "subpar teachers and
principals" rather than poverty. Rather, the report showed that some
high-poverty schools might be doing better than others. The authors of
the report did not dismiss the impact of "out of school factors."
Klein might want to review the vast research showing the negative
effects of poverty on children's learning, including lack of proper
food, high levels of stress and violence, toxic environments,
inadequate medical care, and the lack of reading material at home and
in the community.
A good place is start is David Berliner's recent paper, "Poverty and
Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success," available for
free on the internet at