A study out of the University of California - Davis has found that students - particularly boys - who face abusive situations at home are more likely to score lower on standardized tests and get in trouble than those who come from more stable home environments. This is one of those things that everyone kind of knows in their hearts, but it's nice to have some solid research to back it up. The other interesting bit of information is that having one of those students in class affects the whole class, not just the individual. Again, anyone who's taught can see how one kid causing trouble can affect everyone, but it's nice to have research to prove what we already know.
The bottom line here is something I come back to over and over again. We know that student achievement isn't defined entirely by their school. Kids don't arrive at school as blank slates and reforms that seem to expect them to are simply not going to be successful. That doesn't mean that schools are off the hook and that we should just give up on kids from the projects or from abusive households. It does mean that we need to do more than just say that we're ending social promotion.
Any effort to really reform the lives of the students who attend school in poor, underserved areas needs to focus on schools and on what happens outside of schools. We need to make sure that social services are in place, that parents have the tools and knowledge to be effective, and that family values conducive to success are in place. Yes, the schools are important and they need to be good. But that alone won't get the job done.