In what can hardly be considered a stop-the-presses moment, a report issued last week by the New York Zero-to-Three Network found that children in New York have "vastly different access to health care, good nutrition, and child care based on their socioeconomic status." Infant mortality and obesity is higher while access to regular medical care is lower for kids from poorer families. It seems pretty obvious once you see it in print, but I guess it's good to have some real data backing up the claims.
What sets this report apart from other studies on the topic (though it doesn't make the results any more unexpected) is that this study focuses entirely on the three and under crowd, a younger sample than is usually considered.
This is study also highlights one of the challenges set before teachers and principals in high poverty schools. The first three years of life are a critical time for developing a general awareness of the world and starting to build skills that will eventually be used in school. However, children who don't have access to good medical care (including all-important nutrition) are at an immediate disadvantage. That disadvantage starts way before the first day of school. By the time they get to school, the kids are ill-prepared to begin the process of formal learning and the results are pretty apparent.
What I'm getting at here is that school reform is good and necessary. But it's not the end. Education reform - the process of making sure that all children are ready and able to learn - takes more than just focusing on the schools. It means looking at the neighborhoods in which the schools exist and working to improve them as well. Otherwise, it's always going to be a ridiculously uphill battle for teachers.