Today I add a new link to what I believe is an important organization for early childhood education. CLEAR Corps: Protecting the Potential of Children (CC) addresses the serious issue, which I write about in Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students, addressing the harmful effects of high blood levels of lead in children and the relationship to student achievement. They also look at other health related issues concerning young children.
As far as the lead issue, CC claims “Current state and federal policies require blood lead testing for children on Medicaid; however, compliance with this requirement continues to be an issue. Many uninsured and commercially insured children are equally at risk for lead poisoning and thousands of them go untested each year.” They list barriers involved with testing, and they suggest Mobile Community Lead Screening that takes testing to the community. http://www.clearcorps.org/what-we-do/mobile-blood-lead-testing.
Several years ago Michael T. Martin wrote “A Strange Ignorance: The Role of Lead Poisoning in Failing Schools.” Martin’s lead concerns for one school district in particular, were questioned by Jay P. Greene, University of Arkansas’s poly sci. major turned education expert and school reformer, http://jaypgreene.com/2011/01/21/has-the-washington-post-lost-their-bs-detector/. Greene never mentioned, that I know of, studies that have found a connection between high Blood Lead Levels (BLL) and school problems.
In 2009, Detroit’s Department of Health and Wellness Promotion and Detroit Public Schools were involved in a study that found more students with higher lead levels were in special education and also dropped out of school more often. BLLs could also put students behind on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) achievement testing. The University of Michigan reported “Students with blood levels of 2-5 micrograms/decileter (ug/dl), a level currently not deemed dangerous, had a 33% higher likelihood of a poor MEAP performance. Students whose BLLs were over 5 ug/dl as children had a 50% higher likelihood of doing poorly on the MEAP. Currently, the federal government deems levels of 10 ug/dl and above to be dangerous, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a level of 5 ug/dl should be the poisoning threshold.” http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21235-lead-exposure-negatively-impacts-meap-scores-of-detroit-schoolchildren.
Another study by Duke University and North Carolina Central University, examined 35,000 children and also indicated children below age seven are still vulnerable to even small amounts of ingested lead. “Exposure to lead in early childhood significantly contributes to lower performances on end-of-grade (EOG) reading tests among minority and low-income children, who historically are at higher risk for lead exposure….” http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/dukenvironment/sp10/children2019s-blood-lead-levels-linked-to-lower-scores-on-end-of-grade-tests. Mothers who receive inadequate prenatal care also risk having children who later exhibit high BLLs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17278408.
Why has the lead issue been pushed aside in the discussion of school achievement? In my last correspondence with Martin, he informed me that the CDC was in the process of shutting down the Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in August of 2012. The memo he’d received stated that no longer would there be a national push for lead poisoning surveillance or blood lab oversight, monitoring or data analysis. Staff would be reassigned, or those in a vital staff capacity would just “go away.”
Lead poisoning is still an issue and parents and children should be helped with prevention and information. High BLL is also one of many variables that should be considered when a child tests poorly in school. It is especially frustrating when high stakes tests are used to fail students, fire teachers, and close schools without considering a wide variety of outside variables, such as lead poisoning. It is still, after all these years, a very strange ignorance….