Other countries already pursue such strategies. In Finland, with its famously high-performing schools, schools provide food and free health care for students. Developmental needs are addressed early. Counseling services are abundant.
But in the United States over the past decade, it became fashionable among supporters of the “no excuses” approach to school improvement to accuse anyone raising the poverty issue of letting schools off the hook — or what Mr. Bush famously called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Such accusations may afford the illusion of a moral high ground, but they stand in the way of serious efforts to improve education and, for that matter, go a long way toward explaining why No Child Left Behind has not worked.
Yes, we need to make sure that all children, and particularly disadvantaged children, have access to good schools, as defined by the quality of teachers and principals and of internal policies and practices.
But let’s not pretend that family background does not matter and can be overlooked. Let’s agree that we know a lot about how to address the ways in which poverty undermines student learning. Whether we choose to face up to that reality is ultimately a moral question.To say that poverty is not an excuse for why children have trouble learning is to make excuses for not doing something about poverty. A "no excuses" attitude towards poverty is ultimately nothing more than a lack of commitment towards making things more equitable for children.