One frequently hears arguments that redirect blame from failing schools (and their teachers and principals) to ubiquitous social monsters that are bigger and hairier (poverty, broken families, crime) but also impossible to hold accountable.  I get this. There are undeniable correlations between student achievement and socioeconomic status. When I taught in Camden, New Jersey (then the second poorest city in the US) I could empathize when my colleagues said—in so many words—that a student’s failure simply wasn’t their fault. Having been schooled in Teach For America’s no excuses curriculum, this abdication of blame was foreign to me. But seeing up close the level of poverty that ravaged our school’s neighborhood, and the kinds of unspeakable problems that come with that, I couldn’t help but make peace (if not always agreeing) with the tendency for educators in persistently failing schools to point to the outside social forces that make their work so difficult. (Read the rest here.)

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