As former state Teachers of the Year, we were excited to see the May 20 news article “Family stress thwarts students, top teachers say,” about a recent survey of 2015 Teachers of the Year, which concluded that “family stress, . . . poverty, and learning and psychological problems” are the greatest barriers to school success. While we found some interesting insights, we were totally perplexed by what was missing.
Is it possible to speak honestly about barriers to student achievement and ignore all school factors when doing so? No, it isn’t. Everything we do in school matters, but the survey didn’t ask about that. Yes, poverty and family stress are major factors. So is what is (and isn’t) happening inside our classrooms and school buildings. What about school funding, teacher and principal effectiveness or institutional racism?
We all know that poverty is a factor, and, despite trillions of dollars in anti-poverty investments at the federal, state and local level, it has not gone away. The challenge is to educate kids despite poverty, rather than lament factors teachers don’t control.
Jessica Waters, Cumberland R.I.
Lee-Ann Stephens, St. Louis Park, Minn.
Tom Rademacher, Minneapolis
The writers are, respectively, the 2013 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, 2006 Minnesota Teacher of the Year and the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.