Press Release: For Immediate Release
  • Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, is available to discuss the role of poverty in student achievement.



    Poverty, not teachers, is single greatest factor


    TRENTON, N.J. Feb. 18, 2011 — Educational reforms proposed by the state, from teacher merit pay to charter schools, do not address the root cause of low achievement, which is poverty, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Until measures are put into place to address the educational disadvantages in underserved areas, even the most progressive reforms will not have the intended effect.


     “If you look at the research, going back as many as 50 years, there is a direct correlation between socioeconomic level and educational achievement,” said Richard Bozza, Ed.D., executive director of the NJASA. “The most consistent link in education and social science research is between family income and standardized test scores. The lower the socioeconomic level, the lower the achievement.”


    Researchers for a University of Kansas study1that followed families at various socioeconomic levels during the 1980s found that the average child in a welfare home heard 600 words per hour, while the average child in a professional home heard 2,100 words during the same time period. The study concluded that by the time these children reached kindergarten, it was difficult for the underserved population to catch up. Researchers at Arizona State University also have identified out-of-school factors that are common among the poor and affect how children learn.


    “These findings speak to the need for early childhood education intervention in underserved areas,” said Dr. Bozza. “High-quality preschools will help to even out achievement results as those students enter elementary school.”


    Bozza indicated that reforms focusing on teacher employment alone do not necessarily benefit students in a significant way. “Merit pay, shorter contracts or removal of tenure are not the answers. That’s like saying, ‘I expect you to improve your golf game and won’t let you play the full round if you don’t get better quickly enough,’ but you don’t provide the training and support that is necessary to see that improvement. Even where high-performing charter schools are found, we must ask about the efforts being made to assist the low-income students who remain in their original schools. They will need support.”


    Fortunately, most of New Jersey’s 1,600 schools are either meeting or exceeding testing requirements, according to the NJASA. “That means we particularly need to focus improvement efforts in the schools with the most challenges,” said Bozza. “Let’s shift the solitary focus from the employment and evaluation of teachers and administrators to the programs and services for families and students who are most in need of our help.”


    About NJASA

    The New Jersey Association of School Administrators is an organization of chief education officers and school administrators who lead school districts in New Jersey’s 21 counties. The association’s mission is to ensure a superior statewide system of education. Through ongoing professional training and education, the association shares knowledge among its members about best practices from both educational and administrative perspectives. Its goal is to move education forward by ensuring the highest quality of instruction for all New Jersey children.



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    1“Talk to your children to help them succeed,” Mary Jane Dunlap, University of Kansas, 1995: http://www.oread.ku.edu/Oread95/OreadNov3/page5/babytalk.html.