March 14, 2021

Valerie Strauss: Biden’s American Rescue Plan is actually a huge new school reform

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It is beginning to sink in that Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan may be a game-changer in some respects. For education, in particular, there is a marked shift from the old familiar theme of “it’s up to educators to fix poverty” to the idea that maybe, just maybe, if we reduce some of the effects of poverty in other ways, education might benefit.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post breaks down some of the critical pieces of the new plan.

Biden himself tweeted recently: “No child should grow up in poverty. The American Rescue Plan will expand the child tax credit and cut the child poverty rate in half.”

Outside estimates on its impact have come to the same conclusion, including one from the nonprofit Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which said that two key tax credit provisions could “together lift more children above the poverty line, 5.5 million, than any other economic support program.” An Urban Institute analysis of the plan said the child poverty rate in 2021 will fall by more than 52 percent, largely from changes in tax law and the $1,400 stimulus checks that are part of the relief package.

Strauss points out that we have been watching the wrong things:

Policymakers have been focused for decades on improving public schools with a culture based on standardized testing, the expansion of charter schools and other “school choice” measures, and, in some places, the demonization of teachers. Child poverty, they said, was an excuse for poor performance by adults.

But the testing/choice/big data approach has not closed the achievement gap, and on some measures, it has barely moved.

Critics say research clearly shows that standardized test scores are fundamentally a metric of the state of child poverty in America, not of school quality. Students who live in low-income Zip codes virtually always have lower test scores than those who don’t.

Read the whole piece here.

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