Someone asked me the other day why I don’t share the general perception that, because of poverty, little can be done to improve student achievement in the St. Louis public schools. I don’t share the perception, because the facts just don’t bear out the conclusion.
In every urban area in the country, there are successful public school students and high quality public schools that provide children with the opportunities they need to be successful. Two St. Louis public schools are good examples. The students at Laclede and Peabody come from some of the City’s poorest families. Nearly all of them qualify for free or reduced price lunches. In 2001, only a third of the students at Laclede and no students at Peabody tested in the top two categories of proficiency in math. Yet, in 2005 (the last year for which I have numbers), 87.1 percent of the 4th graders at Peabody and 88.2 percent of the 4th graders at Laclede tested ’advanced’ or ’proficient’ in math. Their improvement is proof that we need not should not lower our demands of the students — or of their teachers — simply because of economic conditions.
Without a doubt, too many children suffer from the effects of poverty. Education is a solution to ending the cycle of poverty.