One of the most unrealistic underlying assumptions of No Child Left Behind is that the school is totally responsible for a student receiving a good education (ie. passes the standardized tests).

However, any educator knows that there are many other factors in a child’s life outside of the classroom that influence their learning. And now a growing body of research is providing evidence to back up those suspicions.

In his 2004 book, “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap,” Richard Rothstein, a former writer of this column, argues that reforms aimed at education alone are doomed to come up short, unless they are tied to changes in economic and social policies to lessen the gaps children face outside the classroom.

A lack of affordable housing makes poorer children more transient, and so more prone to switch schools midyear, losing progress. Higher rates of lead poisoning, asthma and inadequate pediatric care also fuel low achievement, along with something as basic as the lack of eyeglasses. Even the way middle- and lower-class parents read to their children is different, he writes, making learning more fun and creative for wealthier children.

Maybe some of our “leaders” can learn this lesson before they rubber stamp the renewal of NCLB next year.

nclb, poverty, education