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ERIC Number: EJ825992
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 35
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1467-9620
Miseducating Teachers about the Poor: A Critical Analysis of Ruby Payne's Claims about Poverty
Bomer, Randy; Dworin, Joel E.; May, Laura; Semingson, Peggy
Teachers College Record, v110 n12 p2497-2531 2008
Background/Context: This is the first research study to examine the content basis of Payne's in-service teacher education program, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, though others who have reviewed the book have agreed with our analysis. The study took place within a policy context in which the federal government, with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), created a new category of students (economically disadvantaged) whose test scores would be monitored by officials in the U. S. Department of Education. This law ensures that the improvement of poor children's test scores becomes a major concern of every public school in the country. These federal requirements have fueled the demand for professional development programs such as that offered by Ruby Payne and her Aha! Process, Inc. Purpose: This article reports on an examination of the content of Ruby Payne's professional development offerings, as represented in A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Given the immense popularity of the program, an assessment of its representations of poor people is warranted and significant. We analyzed the relationship between Payne's claims and the existing research about low-income individuals and families. This study of Payne's work provides administrators and teachers with an evaluation of the reliability of Payne's claims. It also provides scholars in education, anthropology, sociology, and related fields with a description and critique of one of the more common conversations that is engaging teachers about the nature of the lives of many of their students, and the struggle to identify directions in which to improve schooling for the most vulnerable students in the education system. Research Design: This is a qualitative research study whose data were derived from an analysis of A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Conclusions/Recommendations: Our critical analysis of Payne's characterizations of people living in poverty indicates that her work represents a classic example of what has been identified as deficit thinking. We found that her truth claims, offered without any supporting evidence, are contradicted by anthropological, sociological and other research on poverty. We have demonstrated through our analysis that teachers may be misinformed by Payne's claims. As a consequence of low teacher expectations, poor students are more likely to be in lower tracks or lower ability groups and their educational experience is more often dominated by rote drill and practice.
Teachers College, Columbia University. P.O. Box 103, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Tel: 212-678-3774; Fax: 212-678-6619; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001