• There is very good evidence that our international tests scores are "low" because of poverty. Studies show that middle-class American students in well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests. Our overall average is less than spectacular because we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty, at least 20%, the highest among all industrialized countries (Berliner, 2011). In urban areas, where test scores are the lowest, the poverty level is much higher: 51% in Cleveland and Detroit, 37% in Miami, and 35% in Dallas and New Orleans. (These figures are based on the federal poverty level. If we consider the percentage of children eligible for free and reduced lunch, between 130 and 185% of the federal level, the figure is much higher, with 81% of children in Detroit and 68% in Miami living in poverty. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (see e.g. here), families need an income of twice (200%) the official federal level to meet basic needs. Nearly 40% of children in the US live in families with incomes of less than 200% of the official federal level.)...
• Studies show that children living in poverty suffer from conditions shown to impact educational attainment and school performance, such as "food insecurity," environmental toxins, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. The impact of these factors is enormous: No matter how good teaching is or how carefully a curriculum is put together, it will be of little value when students are hungry, malnourished, in poor health, and when they have little or no access to reading material.
• When these conditions are dealt with and alleviated, school performance improves. Providing food for hungry children has been shown to produce dramatic differences in behavior and performance in school (Berliner, 2009), having medical insurance improves school performance (Berliner, 2009), and increasing access to books as well as providing time to read for pleasure results in better literacy development (Shin and Krashen, 2009).
The obvious cure for poverty is full employment, with a living wage paid for honest work. Our society today provides neither of these, with unemployment high and with wages low: As of this writing, the average pay for a retail sales position, about $20,000 per year, is well below the federal poverty line for a family of four (Gibson, 2011).
via Living In Dialogue