In my last post, I wrote about how education reformers basically dodge the poverty question altogether. Here is a more technical way to think about that discussion. Thus far the entire education reform debate has been centered on arguing for and against this claim: poverty reduction is a necessary condition for improving educational achievement among poor kids. That is, nothing will improve educational achievement among poor kids unless poverty reduction is achieved. The education reformers reject this claim. The critics of education reformers largely accept this claim.

Wherever one falls on that debate however, there is a second claim that deserves at least equal consideration: poverty reduction is a sufficient condition for improving educational achievement among poor kids. That is, whatever else might also improve educational achievement, poverty reduction will certainly do so. I know there is debate about the claim of necessity, but is there any serious debate about the claim of sufficiency? With the exception of certain extreme right wing ideas, I assume that almost everyone agrees that poverty reduction is a sufficient condition for improving educational achievement among poor kids. The evidence for the sufficiency claim is overwhelming.

It’s bizarre then to have a movement focused on improving the educational achievement of poor kids that completely ignores the poverty reduction route. Even if you think poverty reduction is not necessary to improve educational achievement, so long as you think it is sufficient to do so, it is still something worth pursuing. But the educational reformers do not pursue it at all, and in some ways almost seem proud of that fact.