Tag Archives: poverty and stress

President Obama’s Failure of Leadership

Recently, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing reported on the release of a dozen years of 12th grade NAEP scores revealing the test-based accountability era of G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top with its seriously flawed and Machiavellian Common Core Standards has had no discernible effect on the test scores of seniors.

“How much more evidence do federal and state policy-makers need that driving schooling through standardized exams does not increase educational quality?” asked Fair Test Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “It is time to abandon failed test-and-punish policies and adopt assessments that have been shown to improve teaching and learning.”

Second, I read What, Me Worry? By Kristin Sainani writing for a Publication of the Stanford Alumni Association.  The Stanford piece discussed two kinds of stress:  Good Stress vs. Bad Stress, and how chronic stress shrinks the hippocampus (one of the brain’s key memory centers), impairs cognitive function and increases risk of mental illness.

Sainani quotes Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist, author and Stanford Lecturer who says, “I’ve become even more convinced that the type of ‘stress’ that is toxic has more to do with social status, social isolation and social rejections. It’s not just having a hard life that seems to be toxic, but it’s some of the social poisons that can go alone with stigma or poverty.”

Echoing McGonigal, Robert Sapolsky—the Stanford John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and of Neurosurgery—adds: “I’d say that, overall, the most corrosive type of social stress in our Western world is low socioeconomic status—i.e., poverty.”

At this point, you might be scratching your head wondering what Sainani’s Stanford piece has to do with President Obama’s “Failure of Leadership”.  For an answer, I’ll refer you to Chapter 10 in Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error”. The title of that chapter is: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement.

Ravitch’s chapter starts with: “Reformers often say that poverty is an excuse for ‘bad teachers.’ If all teachers were great, then all children would score well on tests, and there would be no achievement gaps between children of different groups.”

Sainani’s Stanford piece based on highly reputable scientific studies of stress and its effects on the brain proves beyond a doubt that Ravitch was right and the fake education reformers were wrong.  Children who live in poverty are already under “Bad Stress” and long days of test prep followed by flawed and stressful Common Core testing only adds more stress to children living in poverty and there are 16 million of them in the United States.

Third: there is a popular myth—due to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the fake education reformers promoting the Charter school sector with (cherry picked) misleading facts—that Charter schools are superior to public schools, but the second study out of Stanford (the 1st was in 2009) proved that myth wrong. Stanford’s Credo Center for Research and Education Outcomes National Charter School Study of 2013 revealed that for reading, 19% of Charters were worse than the public schools; 56% were no different and only 25% were better. For math, 31% were worse; 40% were no different and only 29% were better. It was mentioned that this was an improvement over the 2009 study but that improvement was—in part—because of the bad Charters that were closed after the results of the 2009 Stanford study was released.

How long has this Charter movement been with us?  longer than twenty years

In addition, The Public School Advantage Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools by Christopher A. Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski published by University of Chicago Press (2013) used sophisticated analytical tools to discover that even though private school children arrive in kindergarten a little bit more academically prepared than their public school peers, public school students make up the difference over the course of elementary school.” The Lubienskis also revealed that traditional public schools hold a slight edge over the Charter sector.

Last, there’s the fact that private sector Charter schools supported by the same tax revenue used to support the public schools may be opaque with their finances while public schools must be transparent with every penny spent, and Bill Moyers and Company reported Charter Schools Gone Wild: Study Finds Widespread Fraud, Mismanagement and Waste.

Sabrina Joy Stevens, executive director of Integrity in Education, told, “Our report shows that over $100 million has been lost to fraud and abuse in the charter industry, because there is virtually no proactive oversight system in place to thwart unscrupulous or incompetent charter operators before they cheat the public.” The actual amount of fraud and abuse the report uncovered totaled $136 million, and that was just in the 15 states they studied.

In addition, an NBC4 investigation reported: “In 2013, 17 charter schools in Columbus (Ohio) closed, joining 150 other charter schools around Ohio. It’s a failure rate of 29 percent. $1.4 billion has been spent since 2005 through school year 2012-2013 on charter schools that have never gotten any higher grade than an F or a D.”

What does all this show us?  It reveals that both Presidents G. W. Bush and Barack Obama’s fake education reform movement through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core Standards have failed miserably, but President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, continue to ignore the mountain of growing evidence while promoting the corporate, for profit Charter school sector.

In conclusion, this is more than a failure of leadership. It’s a Constitutional crime.

The oath of office of the President of the United States: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The White House is not a platform for pushing the agenda of a few powerful and wealthy oligarchs while ignoring overwhelming evidence that proves that agenda wrong. The President’s job is to serve all the people by defending the Constitution and not ignoring it.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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