Helen Ladd’s recent paper: “Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence” and her Sunday New York Times op-ed “Class Matters. Why Don’t We Admit It?” that she co-authored with Edward Fiske argue that national educational policy initiatives, including No Child Left Behind, disregard the correlation between family background and student achievement. Because policymakers have not taken this factor into account, on average, low-income students continue to perform at lower levels than their more advantaged counterparts.
Ladd and Fiske point out that denying the relationship between academic performance and income can only result in either continuing school failures or a significant reduction of state standards. Rather, effective educational policy should address the distinct challenges that disadvantaged students face with a “broader and bolder approach” to education policy.
In addition to providing high quality schools for disadvantaged students, three examples of more promising policy interventions are provided in Ladd’s piece: early childhood and pre-school programs, school-based health clinics and social services, and after-school and summer programs. In fact, Ladd and Fiske believe that only when poor students are provided with the social support and experiences that middle and high income students receive, will the quality of student learning improve.