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Good Teaching, Poverty & Socio-Economic Status and Education, SOSNZ

How To Raise Student Achievement


You clicked on here expecting a miracle one-liner, the answer to everyone’s problems?

What did you want me to say?

That the teacher has a very important job?  The classroom must be engaging and interesting, warm and welcoming, and a good place to learn?  It should be well resourced? That the teacher should be well-trained and supported in furthering their own learning? The school should be well engaged with its community and have a positive ethos that promotes real-life learning for the students?  There, does that cover it?

Well, no.

Because as well as all that,  a student’s achievement is affected by myriad other very complex factors.

When a students of any age walks into a classroom, you have also to ask yourself:

– are they fed?

– are they worrying?

– are they sick?

– are they tired?

Because all of those things will impact on his ability to concentrate.  How easy is it to think about fractions when your tummy is aching and you know you are going home to a cold house?  How much would you care about spelling tests if you had been up until the wee small hours playing games or watching TV?

And don’t fool yourself it is only in poorer families that these problems arise.  Family arguments, staying up far too late, and so on happen across all parts of our community and affect many children.  But when they happen as a rule rather than an exception, just imagine the stresses on that child.

It’s also important to think about how education is seen in that student’s circles:

– do they get help at home?

– do their  peers believe that learning is valuable?

– does their wider community believe that a good education matters?

If not, then just imagine the mindset that child arrives at school with and imagine the job of the teacher to engage that student.

All day.

All week.

All year.

Every year.

So how do we raise student achievement?

We give them good teachers, supportive schools, learning that relates to their world, we try to involve parents and grandparents, aunties and the wider community – things we already do very well in New Zealand.

We make sure special needs are properly catered for with trained specialists and adequate resources, we have links with specialist services for those children in really deep poverty or troubled home lives, we listen, we care, and we keep fighting for all of our kids to get the best chance possible.

We get good adult literacy provision for those who get the urge to learn in later years.

And we fight for the right of all children to have basic  food, warmth, and access to medical care.

There is no easy answer.

But there are ways to move forward, if only people would grasp them.


Further reading:

An excellent article covering many good points:

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


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