NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Experiment Demonstrates Poor Children Can Perform

April 28, 2000

The Heritage Foundation has identified 21 schools serving high-poverty children and eliciting high performances from them, despite the prevailing wisdom that you can't teach poor children.

In a study entitled "No Excuses," author Samuel Casey Carter set out to prove that low-income students can achieve at the level of high-income students if their schools relentlessly focus on academic achievement.

  • Carter found that No Excuses schools have strong leaders who regularly skirt or ignore rules that often tie the hands of public school principals.
  • Principals scour the country in search of excellent teachers -- sometimes interviewing 100 to 150 applicants before hiring anyone, while avoiding those who are negative on the possibilities.
  • Teachers that are hired do not necessarily have to have the standard teaching credentials -- indeed, a film producer and a former engineer were accepted.
  • Of the 21 schools, only two are public high schools and only four are public middle schools that aren't programs for gifted students or schools students must choose to attend.

Experts say the study demonstrates that the reason for low student performance does not lie with children from low-income backgrounds. Rather, the fault lies with poor principals and poor teachers.

Source: Tyce Palmaffy, "'No Excuses' Schools Undercut Claim that Children in Poverty Can't Learn," Investor's Business Daily, April 28, 2000.


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