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Outside factors key to success in school

Buffalo schools have plenty of room for improvement, there’s no question about that. But recent comments by Commissioner of Education John B. King Jr. are off-target. I’m not connected to the district in any way, but I pay attention.

King claims Buffalo educational leaders say students impacted by poverty or language barriers cannot achieve at high levels. This is insulting and wrong. What he is actually hearing is educators speaking candidly; all students can succeed at high levels, but not without quality outside support. A mountain of research shows that the greatest factors impacting student success exist outside schools.

When we as a culture begin emphasizing educational equality over choice, eliminate overdependence on testing and offer universal birth-to-kindergarten day care and preschool, we will start to see a real difference. When we respect teachers as autonomous professionals, when the poor have proper health care and nutrition, when schools with immigrant students and high poverty levels receive the financial support they need beyond full funding, then things will change. When all parents support education in the homes, then things will get better.

Buffalo educators are improving things at their end, and they must do much more, but there are limits to what they can accomplish alone. Other districts may readily spout the feel-good “every child can learn” rhetoric that the commissioner finds so reassuring. Rochester’s leadership apparently says exactly what the commissioner wants to hear, even as it racks up the poorest test results in the state. In fact, that may be precisely why it so proudly touts its commitment to performing the impossible.

Bruce Adams

Buffalo