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The Best Critiques Of Ruby Payne

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Ruby Payne is a popular consultant to school districts around the United States and, perhaps, the world. I have major concerns about her “deficit” view of low-income students and their families — it smacks of a “blaming the victim” mentality.

I’ve written extensively about the concept of “blame,” and you might be interested in The Best Resources For Helping Students (& The Rest Of Us) Learn The Concept Of Not Blaming Others.

I thought it might also be important, though, to create a “The Best…” list specifically related to Ms. Payne. Her popularity is a fact (you can read this fawning New York Times Magazine article about her to confirm that statement).

There have been some good critiques written about her, though there have also been ones that are not particularly accessible and written in “academic-ese” and others which I think have been overly ideological. Here’s a comment I left on Scott McLeod’s blog a few years ago during a conversation about Payne:

I agree that the most effective long-term strategy for dealing with many of the problems facing low-income communities (and the children who live in them) is to organize for better housing, employment, health, etc.). I would also add that schools and their staff should work as partners with parents and other local neighborhood institutions to push for those changes.

At the same time, though, I don’t necessarily believe that this kind of strategy is the only avenue to pursue, just as I don’t believe that most teachers are attracted to Ruby Payne’s deficit model because it’s “comfortable.”

I believe that there is much that can be done day-and-day-out in the classroom by teachers. And that many of these teachers are desperate to learn any kind of instructional strategies and classroom management tactics that they can apply effectively to respond to the many challenging situations that can be found in inner-city schools.

Saul Alinsky, the father of modern-day community organizing and the founder of the organization that I worked for during my organizing career, once said, “The price of criticism is a constructive alternative.”

I believe that those of us who are critics of Ruby Payne need to do a far better job of offering constructive alternatives that teachers can use today and tomorrow — right in their classroom — if we want more to see the fallacies of Payne’s approach.

One of the things I try to do in this blog and in my books is to offer practical strategies for teachers to use instead of getting sucked into “blaming the victim.”

But there have been some good accessible critiques written, and I thought I’d share a few of what I think are the best ones:

The Myth of the Culture of Poverty by Paul Gorski at Educational Leadership.

A Framework for Understanding Ruby Payne by Anita Bohn at Rethinking Schools.

Savage Unrealities by Paul Gorski at Rethinking Schools.

Revisiting Ruby Payne by Anita Bohn at Rethinking Schools.

Poverty and Payne: Supporting Teachers to Work with Children of Poverty is by Mistilina Sato and Timothy J. Lensmir.

Shifting from Deficit to Generative Practices: Addressing Impoverished and All Students is by Paul Thomas. And thanks to Paul for helping me find some of the articles on this list.

The Corrosive Power of Stereotypes in Politics and Education is also by Paul Thomas.

Return of the Deficit is by Curt Dudley-Marling.

More resources can be found at Debunking Ruby Payne’s Framework of Poverty.

Feedback and/or Additional suggestions are always welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the over 800 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

126 Comments

  1. I agree with your comment to Scott McLeod. There are too many teachers who say they have been helped by Payne trainings–that they were able to help their students with more understanding and compassion–for me to spend time trying to attack Payne from a critical theorist perspective.

    Here’s my take, from a couple of years ago:
    http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2008/06/pagan-babies.html

    • Nancy,

      Your piece is a very thoughtful one. Thanks for sharing it.

      Larry

    • Nancy,
      Thank you for your comments. I read A Framework for Understanding Poverty and found myself wishing that I had read it a year earlier. It would have helped me tremendously in my job this past year. Things clicked for me and put issues into perspective as far as my students and their lives were concerned. Once I began reading her critics, I felt like I had missed the boat and was a horrible educator because I found value in Payne writing. I know that not all poor people drink and take drugs. I know that many poor people value education, but have to work to survive and therefore cannot make it to school events.
      I do not teach in the inner city. Our schools are new. Our teachers are certified in the areas they teach, the field of play isn’t perfect, but it isn’t the picture many of her critics have painted. I take offense that because I agree with her on many points that I am giving blame to my students and their families. I don’t, but Payne’s book has helped me to understand these students much better.
      Payne’s book is not the end-all-be-all, but it is a beginning dialogue from someone who has taught children and dealt with their sometimes tragic lives. I would like to give credit to teachers who read her book and then go on to read more and learn more so that they can continue to help the students who are in the classroom.
      I didn’t read Payne’s book feeling that it is the student or families fault…I don’t place blame and didn’t get the impression that their was finger pointing. We need to help these students to do their best to be productive citizens of the world.

      • Angela,
        I agree with your perspective. I just changed school districts this year. My former district was very well off and this district has a high rate of poverty. As I was reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty I also agreed with many of the situations Payne described. I do not think she was stereotyping every child or adult from poverty or placing blame. I think she was providing general views or situations educators may see in the school setting. I like how you stated that Payne’s book is “a beginning dialogue.” I think that is an excellent way to describe her book.

      • Angela, I agree with you and you should not feel bad for finding value in her book. Her book does bring a perspective to the debate that needs to be heard. I think you as an individual has to further research for yourself a position of what you feel is the best for your students. Many schools have different issues and need to be dealt with differently. I think it is a healthy debate and hopefully the focus will stay on the education of all students.

    • Nancy,

      I definitely agree with what you had to say. After reading “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” I came away with some very helpful and useful strategies I will use in my classroom. I teach at a low-income high school and I grew up and currently live in an upper-middle class family, so it was interesting to see her perspective on behaviors related to poverty and interventions to help these students through these behaviors.

      Everyone is entitled to their opinions and there are going to be critics, but if you can walk away with a strategy on how to approach a student of poverty, an understanding why a student is acting they way they are, or realize how much of an impact you have on students of poverty, I believe Payne did her job.

  2. Hi Larry, thanks for the post. We are working on various strategies here with our teachers’ union support – a true social justice union! We produced a really cool poster ( I think) to help teachers to a self analysis on this issue.
    http://www.bctf.ca/SocialJustice.aspx?id=21360&libID=21350
    You need to click on “just an average classroom” to download the poster.
    I have been interested also to read Donna Beegle – she has a skills and survival based concept – although not marxist enough for my thinking, still, I think she is very inspiring. Her book is here:
    https://combarriers.com/node/49
    Hope that helps contribute to the conversation. Cheers.

  3. I am a teacher in Ohio, but live in West Virginia. The comment you left on Scott McLeod’s blog a few years ago about Payne offered great advice for low income communities to work with schools to push for change. As a public school educator in a small community dealing with students living in poverty I find that this is something that would work and is feasible. I am desperate to learn any kind of instructional strategy and classroom management skill that will help in my daily school life. Thank you for your blog and advice. I continue to research, read, and learn all I can to understand students and their families living in poverty.

    • Kimberly,

      You find my last book on Helping Students Motivate Themselves useful. Click on the book cover on my blog’s sidebar and that will lead you to a number of free excerpts.

      Larry

  4. Hi Larry,

    I was a low income student living with a disabled single mother of three children. I am now a teacher living in Pennsylvania and I have to think that if it wasn’t for my mother’s commitment I don’t think I would be in the position I’m in. I have some questions about parenting. Do you feel that school districts should have a right to make parents more accountable for their student’s education? Should parents have to pay a fine when their child misses school or should parents be involved in counseling sessions when their child misbehaves in school. I believe we have to start putting the pressure on the caregivers and pushing them to be the role models that they must be to their child. These problems with low income students stem from the lack of parental control to maintain a foundation of success. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

    – Joe

  5. Hello everyone!

    I read Payne’s book for a class I am taking and thought “WOW!” Then as I read the other required texts and have read some more of the debate I find myself thinking “where is her solid data??”
    I teach in a fairly “well off” district, that seems to almost ignore the fact that we have people living in poverty and attending our schools! My district is making a huge push in technology, but it is creating a bigger gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” I love the idea of every student having an iPad, but what do they do at home with it if they don’t have wireless internet?
    I think the most positive thing in reading all of the different sources, Payne’s and her critics, is it gets people thinking about poverty and discussing it. Somehow we need to make sure people realize there is no definitive line that defines the classes and shouldn’t be! All peoples life situations, whether poverty or wealthy, are living their own lives and making their own decisions. Yes there are people who give each class a “bad name” and that happens everywhere, even in corporate America. We need to focus on how to get the best out of every single student that comes across our path, teacher or not.
    ~Michelle

    • I agree! We cannot deny that there is something going on socially in our educational world. Denying the obvious differences will only regress the movement forward. Call it sterotypes or call it difference, yes it is not nice to label, but look around…there is something going on and Payne is just doing her best to describe it. I found it helpful and positive to consider that there may be a way to understand and then help to teach these students. All with love, understanding and compassion they deserve because they are worthwhile and wonderful people above anything else.

      The first way to help students is to accept that there is something that needs attention. No, we do not need to ‘fix’ these students, but they deserve our understanding and acceptance so we can continue to teach them in the best possible way. I do not think all of her class generalizations were meant to fit each family and label them in a black and white category. But there may be a few theories (or stereotypes, sigh) that I may notice with some of my students but at least noticing this difference (not deficiency) can help me relate to the students and then teach them where they need to go. Many of Payne’s ideas would be good teaching practices for any student. We would give them the proper tools regardless of their class or socioeconomic status. To me, this debate is all just semantics; different names for the same things Payne is trying to describe in her book.

      • When reading everyone’s posts, it seems to me that we have some dedicated people who want to change the lives of all our students. I had posted previously to ask Larry a question, but I did not receive a response from him. So here is my question to everyone reading. If teachers are trying their very best to help these children living in poverty, should there be a fine handed out to those parents who are not living up to their side of supporting their children? I have read about a school district that has the parents, students, and teachers all come together at the beginning of the year to sign a contract. In the contract, they ask parents to play supporting role in their child’s work, respect the school and the rules, and find at least two times in the school year where they can come in a volunteer in the classroom. The school is basically asking the parents to stay involved. If we do not have parents that are willing to support their children, in any class their in, then shouldn’t the law come into play here. I feel there should be a law that says parents need to make sure their child is in school, and parents should be accountable if the student does not meet the expectations of the school district. I would love to hear your responses.

    • I could really relate to your post. I previously taught in an affluent area and this past year taught in an inner city school where the percentage of students living in poverty was very high. I read Ruby Payne’s book this summer, and I, too, thought “Wow!” Her book really helped to shed some light on why some of my students were behaving in certain ways in the classroom. I believe I will have greater empathy for parents and students dealing with poverty in the future because of reading her book. However, I did find myself thinking “OK now what?” In my opinion, there were no real applicable suggestions offered about what to do this new information. As I read on about this topic and came across many of Payne’s critics, I thought that their criticisms of her generalizations and stereotypes were somewhat warranted. I don’t think we should assume that all people living in poverty behave or make choices in exactly the same way, and we all need to be careful to build relationships with individuals not stereotypes. In my opinion, Payne’s book wasn’t intended to provide all the answers but instead to give us a foundation on which to build deeper discussions. She seems to be trying to describe the reality in which we live and teach and to give us some common vocabulary to use as we work hard to meet the needs of all our students.

      • As I read through these great messages from educators discussing the work of Payne and her critics I am encouraged, and a little relieved, to see that many of you shared similar feelings. Many of you shared that you liked her book; but understood that it was not a complete answer to your question. It was just the tip of the iceberg.
        Payne’s book was my first introduction to the topic of understanding students in poverty. I found the book easy to digest. However, I understood that her suggestions of class separations were generalizations. There are no two people exactly alike in this world which means there is no way to create social class terms without misrepresenting some people that fall in each class. I took information away from her book that could help assist me in better understanding a child and their family who may fit into some of those social characteristics. But I understand that the information presented was not a representation of all people.
        I think it is important for people to challenge perspectives and offer their own takes on the same topics. It allows people to better question their own beliefs and create the best possible solution. I think some critics can overanalyze Payne’s intentions but I believe that most well educated people researching this topic would conclude that Payne’s book is just the beginning of an ongoing quest to better understand our students.

    • Thank you Michelle, I was thinking the exact same thing as you. Let me explain; I am also taking a class about poverty and it’s effects on students. I have read Ruby Payne’s book, as well as other people’s books and articles. While I understand her idea that there may be some similarities among people in poverty, I don’t think it’s fair to say that they are all exactly the same and all act the same because family circumstances do vary.

      I live in a small city where the poverty rate in our school district is about 60%. Our district is also testing the idea of giving each student an iPad and I thought the exact same thing as you, they take it home but have no access, so then what?

      I also agree with what you said about Reading Payne and her critics works and getting people thinking about poverty. We need to stop stereotyping and putting people in neat little boxes and figure out how to best help our students.

    • Michelle,

      I would have to agree with you on the fact that there isn’t solid data. Although there isn’t solid data, I do feel that Ruby Payne provides a good understanding of what it is like to be living in poverty. I think the best solution is to take little pieces from all of the resources and put them together to develop what we think is best for our students who are living in poverty. I agree with the fact that there should not be rules that define what class you are. There are many people who are living in poverty that work really hard to make ends meet at the end of the day. These stereotypes do not hold true for all. I believe that the main focus is to develop strategies to help these students since the number of SES students in school are on the rise. I currently teach in a building that is only 34% economically disadvantaged but each year these numbers continue to grow and the faculty and staff of this building are not use to work with cliental of this type. My hope out off all of this is that we use the information to help our children impoverished or not succeed.

    • I am also reading Payne’s book for a class. It was an easy read and it helped me to start understanding what some of my students go through. I teach in a middle class community, but I would say the poverty rate is increasing. I agree with a lot of people on this blog that the book didn’t have all the answers, but I know that it helped get me to start thinking of different aspects of my teaching and how it relates to students in poverty. Our district has been thinking about how to make things equal for every student and give everyone the same opportunities for learning. We have gone one to one laptops at the middle school. They have found really low cost internet, but they have also opened computer labs before and after school to give students the chance to do work at school. I like the fact that maybe their ideas aren’t perfect, but they are thinking about all students.

      I have read some of the critics of Payne about how they write about that she wants to “fix” everyone to fit into the middle class instead of changing views of teachers to accept students as they are. I don’t think that was what she was getting at all. But as someone who has come from the middle class and teaches in the middle class, I am not as familiar with students that are living in poverty. I am more comfortable trying to get a student to fit into my world. However I think Payne’s book helped me realize some characteristics of students in poverty. I don’t think it is important to get them to conform. I think I have a better understanding and can help them be better students.

  6. I have just finished reading Ruby Payne’s book A Framework for Poverty.
    I was left with mixed feelings. As an ELL teacher, I have worked with poverty students for 20 years. She did give me additional insight into my students but I believe that students must be treated as individuals first. I do believe that they
    have to have certain “middle class” values such as education and Formal Register
    for success in greater society. However, simply removing them from their current social class will not fix all of their “deficits.” Teachers must work hard to know and
    meet the needs of all students regardless of their social class.

  7. I am an ESOL teacher who has been teaching children in poverty for the past nine years. After reading Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, I felt as though I was missing her point of how her theory was going to help me teach my students. I felt that her ideas about poverty were very narrow minded and at times offensive. She seemed to have lumped the term “poverty” into all people with a low income. She did not take into consideration the differences that exist among people in poverty, whether it be race, religion, or ethnic background. As an ESOL teacher, I have children from all over the world in my class. They are all living in poverty, yet I do not see them all the same. They definitely do not share all the “hidden rules of poverty” that Payne suggests will help me be a better teacher if I do know them. In response to the others, I agree that Payne’s book was useful in making me aware of the theories that exist when teaching children in poverty. It has made take a closer look at myself, and it has made me reflect on how I teach my students and what I can do to become a more effective teacher in my classroom.

  8. Larry,
    Thank you for your thought provoking blog. I am taking a graduate class that requires the reading of Ruby Payne’s Book. I have been pondering this question, “Why do we have to label students that come from poverty?” If we find ways to motivate students to learn, create relationships within our school community, and build trust in the school classroom won’t we focus on all students instead of putting a label on a student. I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Thank you for taking time to share, enlighten, and enrich our classrooms with your experience and ideas.
    Beth

  9. Larry,
    I appreciate your blog. I came across it doing research for a graduate class which required reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne.
    Reading Payne’s book along with a multitude of articles and blogs led me to this question: didn’t President Johnson and Congress declare war on poverty back in the 1960′s? If so, clearly we have lost this war big time.
    It seems to me that a lot of time and money has been spent and is being spent to fix the problem of poverty, including its educational, economic, societal etc. problems with barely a percent change for the better. Actually, it looks much worse today.
    As a now retired colleague use to say, “We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” I love teaching and I teach everyday with hope in my heart. I do not think the ocean floor awaits. I once heard a graduation speech by Tony Campolo in which he illustrated one of his points with a teacher story. In this story the teacher treated an ill kempt student poorly. The child did not fit in; he was poor and he had a hard home life. He performed poorly in school. His mom, who was sick, died. At Christmas time the little boy gave the teacher a used bottle of perfume and a bracelet. She put the bracelet on and sprayed on some perfume. The little boy said she smelled like his mother used to. The teacher’s heart was touched. She saw how she had treated this child. She changed her attitude toward him and he began to shine. Campolo relates how he went on to become a doctor. He credits the teacher’s love.
    I cannot solve the whole problem of people’s poverty but I can show love to my students and be the best teacher I can be and maybe, in some mysterious way, that might be enough light for them to take another step forward.
    Peter Birney

  10. I just read “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a grad class that I am taking this summer and I while I do believe Payne has some valid points about social class rules and priorities, as well as the struggles that those living in poverty face, I do not know that I agree with her completely. My family was by no means wealthy or middle class as a small child, and my parents had nothing above an associate’s degree from a community college and a high school diploma. Education was stressed. School came first. Expectations of academic performance were an unspoken rule and rarely were my parents disappointed in my brothers’ & my grades. Which makes me question Payne’s broad label that education is not important to the impoverished. Many parents that I have worked with throughout the past ten years who are raising their families in an impoverished home DO value education and DO push their children in school.

    I think Payne has some valid points with the struggles of making ends meet and how simple things (to those of us in the middle class) like running to the library or back to the school to pick up a forgotten book, etc puts an added strain/drain on the wallet of poor families. But, I feel we should be more cautionary before blanketing an entire socio-economic group with the belief that they do not prioritize or value education.

    I agree with Michelle’s comment above…if nothing else Payne and her critics are getting people across America to look at poverty and to see how poverty is impacting our children and our future as a nation.
    Dee

  11. Larry,

    Thanks for compiling this list. Good stuff. I want to point out though that the criticisms of her work have been written purposefully for different audiences. You play into Payne’s common defense when you criticize some of the critiques as overly ideological or just academese. That doesn’t make them less important. It just means they were written to a specific audience or publication. I of course have been conscious to write about this in a lot of different types of publications.

    Nancy–I read yor linked piece. The critical thing you (and most people who minimize critiques of Payne’s work don’t mention is that regardless of anyone’s opinions or intentions, her work is just plain inaccurate. One study found hundreds of factual inaccuracies in her work many of which painted a false deficit view of poor people. You also miss that Payne knows that her model is inaccurate. At the basest level we have known since the early 1970s that there is no such thing as a culture of poverty and her whole model is based on that framework. She identifies as a culture of poverty attributes that are truer of wealthy people than poor people. Why would you or anybody support the spread of misinformation regardless of what you think her motivations are? More importantly, what do you imagine it means that you as an individual either didn’t notice or chose to ignore the inaccuracies? Why not use a model or presenter that is just as engaging but also ACCURATE?

    I am always perplexed that in every response to criticism of Payne I have read this little issue of hundreds of inaccuracies in her work is simply ignored, which is not something any of us would do if she were a supposed expert on history pedagogy or science curriculum or even racial equity.

    Paul

  12. Hi all
    Have any of you checked out Donna Beegle? As a contrast to Ruby Payne she is a person who grew up in extreme generational poverty and knows what that really means. She spoke to our conference this year and touched many teachers- she has a way of telling an anecdote which really reveals the truth that is plain to see once she points it out. We also had Ruby Payne last year, and I found some of her comments down right offensive as well as bizarre & very patronizing.
    http://www.combarriers.com/about

  13. Hi Larry,
    As an elementary art teacher recently reassigned to a Title 1 school, I was interested in learning about children of poverty to better understand my students. For the past two years I have been dealing with behaviors that I haven’t encountered in a long while. I was looking for some insight on what my students are dealing with, how they learn, and why they act certain ways. These questions lead me to a graduate class in which Ruby Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty was assigned. I found the book entertaining to read. I do feel generalizations were made regarding the hidden rules among classes and language. But, some of what she said makes sense. Are others angry that Payne is making money off of generalizations about classes, or that districts are buying into it, or both? I agree with you that there are other ways besides Payne’s to reach children of poverty. And I don’t feel Payne’s book will solve all teachers’ problems in dealing with poverty, but perhaps it provides some hope. Hope to teachers and to challenged school districts. Hope in that we can reach all our students and offer them our best selves regardless of our or their economic status.
    Thanks,
    Penny

  14. Penny –

    Yes, a lot of people are frustrated that districts are in some cases paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Payne’s for-profit company.

    I have to say, I struggle with the “selling hope” argument or the argument that some of what she says “makes sense.” The fact that it makes sense is more an indication of the prejudices and assumptions and biases we carry with us into the workshop or book, because although what she says might “make sense,” it’s completely inaccurate. Just about all of it.

    Take, for instance, her claims about poor students using “informal register.” Her whole section on language goes against decades of linguistics research. First of all, all people have a whole range of registers within their language variety. She’s not just generalizing there — that’s letting her off the hook. She’s in fact making an argument about a field in which she has no experience (linguistics) that is completely contrary to what the field has been saying since at least the late 1960s. Not just generalization, inaccuracy.

    Take, for instance, her claim that poor families don’t value education. Forty years of research shows that poor families have the EXACT same attitudes about school as wealthy families. Not just generalization, inaccuracy.

    Look at the case studies in her book and how they paint poor people, and especially poor people of color, as violent criminals and substance abusers. Wealthy people are more likely to be substance abusers than poor people. Not just generalization, inaccuracy, not to mention racism.

    Her central argument, that there is a “culture of poverty” is completely false–something we (people who study poverty) have known since the early 1970s, so her entire premise is off-base, drawing more on stereotype than reality. Inaccuracy.

    So if this rings true for you, it probably has more to do with your prejudices and biases (we all have them, of course) than with the value of Payne’s work.

    Also, there are people and resources out there that, not only are ACCURATE and DON’T MAKE GENERALIZATIONS, but actually base what they have to say in fact and research. Why would we keep leaning on Payne when she has demonstrated (by ignoring pleas for her to take the inaccuracies out of her book, which actually would require her to rewrite the entire thing) that she doesn’t really care that she’s selling inaccuracies, as long as schools and districts keep buying what she’s selling?

    Consider this: If you were an architect asked to build a bridge and somebody suggested a model for the bridge that sort of looked interesting and made sense to you, but that decades of research had shown that it was faulty, and that NO research ever had shown that it was effective, would you use that model to build the bridge? Would you raise kids through methods that made sense to you even though those methods have been shown through decades of research to do damage to children? Payne’s work has been shown to do damage to children, to INCREASE stereotypes in teachers who are subject to it, and to be completely inaccurate. So now that we know that, any decision we make to stand by it really says more about us than it does about Payne.

    Paul

    • I have been assigned this reading for a class I am taking. As I began reading it I thought to myself that something is terribly wrong here. Payne’s book is horrible stuff and doesn’t describe my students at all! They KNOW they are poor, they just don’t go around saying, “Hi, how are you? By the way, did I mention I am poor?” Also, how many of her “resources” does one have to lack to be considered “impoverished” instead of plain old “poor?” So, if I don’t have money, and I choose not to be “spiritual” and I happen to be a single mom, I am “impoverished” and it’s all my fault because these conditions can be choices, probably the best I could make at the time. It isn’t lack of a religious or civil union that is the issue as a “resource”, it’s the lack of a second income which can be fulfilled by a relative, or a roommate, etc. I could go on.

      Ruby Payne is the opiate of the teaching masses. Now I have to figure out how to get through my class when my professor just LOVES this book and I have to tell her, and my class mates, that is just pure poo.

  15. Paul-
    Thank you for your response and the bridge analogy. It helps make sense of the buying in principle. After I posted the article I thought about Payne’s book again. I thought about how she wrote the book quickly and based her information on personal experience, not facts. Perhaps it did ring true because of my bias, and I am trying to overcome that. What I don’t understand is why districts, who rely heavily on factual data when assessing students, buy into her framework? If she doesn’t support her findings, what is it that draws people in? I’m guessing it is the ease of delivery and the need for districts to do something.
    Penny

  16. Hey Penny,

    First and foremost, I think people buy in because it is simple, because it is practical, and because it doesn’t require any real institutional shifts. It “rings true” for a lot of people. Also, Payne is very engaging as a speaker for a lot of people. That helps a lot, because many people who do professional development are not engaging at all.

    What it comes down to, though, is that the fact-based reality is very difficult to hear and pushes against a lot of what is going on in schools today. And it’s BIG and stretches beyond the sphere of influence of many teachers. It’s about access to healthcare and living wage work. And, quite frankly, it’s about mass biases about poverty, what causes it, what sustains it, who benefits from it. (This is another odd thing about Payne’s book–that it’s titled A Framework for Understanding Poverty, but it really has nothing to do with understanding poverty at all–what causes it, what sustains it, who benefits from it. She doesn’t even acknowledge the inequitable distribution of school funding, a very basic component, I would think, in any conversation about poverty and education.)

    My experience going into schools and talking about poverty and education is that at first a lot of people bristle at having the conversation at that level, and understandably so, because most don’t feel empowered to create change at that level. However, when it starts becoming clear that understanding students in poverty requires us to understand poverty, so that we’re less likely to apply deficit thinking to poor people based on a misunderstanding of poverty (like all the chatter about “THOSE people don’t care about education” because they don’t show up to parent-teacher conferences or other on-site family involvement things while we ignore the fact that low-income parents work more evening jobs, often can’t afford childcare, often don’t have transportation, usually have wage jobs and no “paid leave,” so that the reality is that schools do an awful job making these opportunities accessible to low-income families, then we blame those families for not caring about school).

    Most people in the U.S. believe that poor people are poor because of their own deficiencies. This is a change that happened around the mid-1970s, before which most people in the U.S. believed poor people were poor because of inequitable social structures. So if I begin with that bad assumption, even if it’s implicit and not something I would say aloud, it is really easy to buy into Payne’s work because she lists all those deficits for me: they’re linguistically deficient, they don’t value education, they’re loud, they’re violent. And better, she tells me I can fix them, which gives me a sort of missionary responsibility, reaffirms that I’m culturally whole, and gives me the moral high ground. That’s a lot easier to hear than the truth, which is that poor people’s deficits are not the problem at all, that societal and institutional changes need to occur (rather than changes to the fictitious “cultures” of poor people), and that many of us perpetuate class inequities without even realizing we’re doing it. Payne, of course, speaks nothing to any of this and doesn’t even mention the long list of class inequities that low-income students must endure in and out of schools.

    So I think it’s very complex.

    What is most disturbing to me is that the big, national, school administrator organizations love her and always have her for keynotes and that sort of thing, so school leaders are being trained in this mess, and then pass it on to the rest of the school. Again, though, this says more about us than about Payne. And it tells us how far we still need to go just to get to a rudimentary understanding of what it means to create equitable and just schools.

    Paul

    • Paul,
      I have read some of your articles and I do agree with you on some levels. I am a teacher and personally take great offense to some of your comments about schools doing a terrible job of including people in poverty. I understand some people work evenings, long hours and multiple jobs, but what exactly do you recommend schools do to improve? We have the children for a very limited time, and are spending precious hours teaching those children. If we hold meetings during the day, then our students are being taught by a substitute or a para professional. There are only 24 hours in a day, and people in education have families of their own. Do we take time away from the teaching day, time away from our own families? What are your suggestions?

  17. Hello,
    I am currently a special education teacher at a high school in a middle class community. I recently read “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” for a graduate course I took this summer. I had not done any previous studying of poverty before this class. What I really wanted from this class was to learn how to teach those students living in poverty and to gain a better understanding of what living in “poverty” truly means. I am ashamed to admit it, but I did stereotype many families who are living in poverty and assumed that they had the power and ability to get themselves out of poverty, but they were making a personal choice to not change (my view has certainly changed)! I along with colleagues have discussed some of these families and repeatedly asked, “Why are they not involved in their children’s education?” We, again, assumed it was because they didn’t want to be…What Payne’s book did for me was open my eyes to what poverty really looks like and that many of my assumptions and stereotypes were inaccurate. Learning about the “hidden rules” of each class did clarify things for me and I do understand the importance of “formal register.” Some of Payne’s teaching strategies could be useful in our classrooms and I think it is important to understand how the use of a formal register plays such an important role in our student’s academic lives. I also think that educators do need to have a better understanding of poverty to be a better teacher. We need to know how to reach each of our students and understand that this cannot be done in the same way for each student. I feel Payne did a good job of describing how we could do that.

    There were some theories and ideas I did not necessarily buy into but overall, I enjoyed Payne’s book and I felt liked I gained some useful information from it. I think to fully understand poverty additional resources need to be read and examined. I know there are many criticisms of Payne’s work out there, but I think we need to individually take what we want from it and hopefully in the end it will help us be better, understanding, more caring educators.
    Meagan

  18. I am currently finishing a course call “In the Face of Poverty.” As a teacher, I feel this course has given me a much better understanding of what people in poverty face on a daily basis. I used to teach in a high-poverty urban school district. Students of poverty are usually seen as unmotivated, disrespectful, and having absentee parents. The book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” was a huge eye opener for me. I don’t agree with everything in Payne’s book but I do believe that her work, along with Jensen and Gorski, has drawn some much needed attention to a topic that we all need to address.

  19. I am also taking a graduate course on poverty right now and I have read a couple of different texts one being “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. I learned a lot from my class and I am taking many new ideas from Payne, as well as other authors, with me. I struggle with some of Payne’s critics, I guess I just didn’t take away that what other people did from her text. I may not have agreed with everything that she said, but I did think she had a lot to offer. It made me think about my school and where we are going in terms of helping our students who are living in poverty. And how can we start to bridge this huge gap that exists between middle class and those in poverty. This is something my school faces every day. So I was interested in her findings and her ideas and I plan to take some with me, when I start this school year. As for her critics, I just feel as a teacher, I am sometimes so sick of data that is nice just to be given ideas to help struggling students. It’s not always about where the research came from for us, sometimes its just about the ideas and how to better ourselves as educators.

  20. I too am taking a class on poverty this summer that required the reading of the Payne text as well as several other resources. I have taught for 20 years and currently teach in an urban school with a 96% poverty rate and see many of the characteristics Payne described in her book in the areas of behavior and discipline. Her book and the critics of her really make me think about how to best serve the children and families we work with and I agree the texts really start the conversation about poverty and how to address it. After so many years in education, I also think we are handed too much data but we also are handed many quick fix approaches with no research and this makes me question Payne’s credibility. Really makes you think.

  21. A few years back our school district adopted Ruby Payne’s book about poverty for all staff. Currently I’m in a class where this book is part of the curriculum. I feel that instead of criticizing Ruby, the “experts” need to offer a better way for teachers to deal with students in poverty. Before our district adopted this book many teachers would take a student’s misbehavior as just plain old defiance. They never thought that the child could be hungry or worried about where they would sleep that night. For students in these types of situations learning about fractions or probability is not important. Payne’s book helps us to see the “whole” child and not just a body sitting at a desk.

  22. I have read several books this summer relating to property and education. Jensen to me provides so many strategies that are classroom ready and I feel I could use tomorrow in my class. Payne provides a tremendous variety of research about the factors that lead to poverty, but not as many working strategies as Jensen.

  23. Payne touches on a wide variety of points but I feel she needs to go deeper with her strategies to help students. Maybe this is just her approach and other authors like Jensen are the ones that give a more complete look at the school and classroom strategies? Our biggest goal my school is challenging students to do their best regardless of their station in life. We have implemented the AVID notebook system for all students, which has provided them a great tool for organization. We have a saying,”One team, One goal, Do YOUR best”!

  24. The biggest complaints about Payne seem to be that her beliefs are based on stereotypes and her approach ignores the idea that those in poverty suffer from our social ills (lack of quality schools, wage-earning jobs, affordable housing). Largely I agree with these complaints. I believe that she makes grand sweeping statements and states her opinions on the topic versus utilizing substantiated research. In Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, she spends a great deal of time supporting her definition of poverty rife with deficits of one sort or another with little focus on good teaching.

    When I consulted the New York Times article referred to on this website, my beliefs were substantiated. The following is a quote from the article: “She had already explained why rich people don’t eat casseroles, why poor people hang their pictures high up on the wall, why middle-class people pretend to like people they can’t stand. She had gone through the difference between generational poverty and situational poverty and the difference between new money and old money, and she had done a riff on how middle-class people are so self-satisfied that they think everyone wants to be middle class.” (The New York Times, The Class-Consciousness Raiser, June 10, 2007) This statement is full of her opinion and stereotypes, and is not based on research. This says nothing about how we can be better teachers for a diverse group of students.

    Another statement from the article states: “Your class, Payne says, determines everything: your eating habits, your speech patterns, your family relations.” This is just another broad sweeping statement that is her opinion and is again rife with stereotypical thought.

    This New York Times article goes on to say that she has been giving the same presentation for 10 years. Hence, new research has not been taken into account. I think it is fine for Payne to speak to people and write books regarding her personal experience with knowing people who are in poverty. That is where her claims should begin and end. I am looking at the topic from the point of view of an educator. I would like to see research based findings and then would like to see how the findings can improve my teaching. I have not garnered much of that that kind of information from her experiences.

    The New York Times article summarizes Payne in this way: “Payne believes that teachers can’t help their poor students unless they first understand them, and that means understanding the hidden rules of poverty. The second step, Payne says, is to teach poor students explicitly about the hidden rules of the middle class. She emphasizes that the goal should not be to change students’ behavior outside of school: you don’t teach your students never to fight if fighting is an important survival skill in the housing project where they live. But you do tell them that in order to succeed at school or later on in a white-collar job, they need to master certain skills: how to speak in ‘formal register,’ how to restrain themselves from physical retaliation, how to keep a schedule, how to exist in what Payne calls the ‘abstract world of paper’ “. In response to this quote: There is nothing new in the thought that teachers need to understand their students. There is also nothing new in the idea that we need to explicitly teach community rules (Refer to programs such as Responsive Classroom). I believe that Ruby Payne’s ideas of “hidden rules” are nothing different than the rules of communities (classroom, school, community, state, region, etc.) except that Payne has generalized and stereotyped hidden rules. Hidden rules change from one classroom to another within a school. There is nothing new in the idea of teaching hidden rules (e.g. Responsive Classroom). I don’t think we can generalize on a set of rules such as middle class rules. This is a stereotype. Each community is unique. From an educator’s point of view, we don’t try to change students’ behavior outside of school. There is nothing new in the idea that we teach students to master certain skills.

    I had a great deal of difficulty with Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty.

    I do not agree with Payne’s definition of poverty. (Payne p. 7) “a working definition of poverty is ‘the extent to which an individual does without [the following] resources”: … financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationships / role models, and knowledge of hidden rules. I thought there were significant holes in all of her scenarios – parts of her analysis of the scenarios with which I did not agree; thus I thought the scenarios did not support her definition of poverty. For example, in scenario 3 Payne says that Opie has the support system resource. However, Opie cannot access the opportunity to be in a state-sponsored competition – thus the support system may be there but not to the level required to open typical opportunities. I have examples from each scenario such as this.

    I felt that the language used in Payne’s book was not professional and was abrasive / offensive, and that a lot of the content was her opinion and based on stereotypes.
    For examples:
    - “Because there is such a direct link between achievement and language, it must be addressed.” (Payne, 34) This is a poorly written sentence. What does it mean?
    - She says that “Many times the fists are used in poverty because the words are neither available nor respected.” (Payne, p 41)
    - “Most of the students that I have talked to in poverty do not believe they are poor, even when they are on welfare. Most of the wealthy adults I have talked to do not believe they are wealthy; they will usually cite someone who has more than they do.” (Payne, p. 45) Firstly, this is poor unprofessional writing; and secondly I don’t really care about with whom she has talked.
    - “Almost always the TV is on, no matter what the circumstance.” (Payne, p. 51) How does Payne know this?

    I did not feel that the there was any logical structure to her book and her ideas. Some of her ideas that did come through, in a general way, however, do not conflict with Eric Jensen (author, Teaching with Poverty in Mind) or other general beliefs. Examples include:
    - Formal register needs to be directly taught.
    - Students need to be taught the “hidden rules” (as mentioned in another question response I believe this is more an explicit teaching of the school / classroom culture).
    - Students learn from appropriate role models.
    - We can explicitly teach how to access and utilize emotional resources.
    - Providing support systems is essential.
    - using an adult voice when disciplining is effective.
    - Forming positive relationships with students (and allowing them to see a community of positive relationships) contributes to students’ achievements.
    But none of these ideas are new.

    I do not foresee reconciliation between Payne and her critics. Their premises are dramatically different. In the final impact on how teachers teach, I don’t think Payne offers much that is new; however, from a general point of view, her suggestions on how to teach children do little harm (once you weed out the big ideas and discard opinion and stereotypes).

  25. As others have posted, I, too, am taking a graduate course that requires reading the Ruby Payne book. I have actually read all three of her books in the series, albeit several years ago. Re-reading the first book, I had some questions that I didn’t have the first time about her methodology and the sweeping genralizations she sometimes uses.

    That said, I did find things of value in her book. I work in an urban, high-poverty, high mobility high school in cross-cat Special Ed. So my students are coming In with deficits over and above just those from growing up in generational poverty. Focusing on the use of language resisters, while not necessarily linguistically perfect, has helped my focus on whether or not students can understand some of the language they run into on standardized tests. When you ask the question in a different way, they know the answer, but when they have to read instructions they often don’t follow them correctly. Even something as basic as the Driver’s Ed tests can prove difficult. Being conscious of overusing formal register and “educationese” in parent communication has made me look at letters and materials that I send home, as well. Do I think that all parents are incapable of using and understanding formal register? Of course not. But my goal is to ensure parents have timely and accurate information about their students and their school.

    We have actually talked about the infamous “hidden rules” in class. My students have taught me things about surviving in poverty; in turn, I inform them about middle class rules they will need to survive and thrive. One is not better or worse but, effectively, the middle class values are most used in the workplace.

    I think a lot of people’s problems with Payne come from the issue of generalizing about entire classes of people. No group is monolithic, and certainly people in poverty as a group suffer from inequalities of opportunity that is beyond their ability to overcome without external policies and programs geared toward dealing with the root causes of poverty in the United States. But I believe there is some value in Payne’s work for those of us who work every day with students in poverty.

    Just my two cents.

  26. I agree with MaryFran. I found merit in some of the tips in Payne’s book. I don’t need to believe that ALL people in poverty have the same needs to know that SOME students of poverty (and some outside of poverty too) can benefit from some of Payne’s classroom suggestions. For example, using the behavior analysis approach of discipline where a student must list not only what they did wrong, but other choices they could have made has been useful in my classroom for helping teach students alternatives to their poor choices. Teaching students that expectations can be different in school than outside is just as useful for my middle class students as for my student of poverty.

    I wonder if instead of calling it the “hidden rules” of poverty, Payne had a listing of “effects of poverty” people would be less indignant. Use of the term rules implies that the conditions of poverty are self imposed. It doesn’t surprise me that someone stuck at the most basic physiological and safety level of Maslow’s heirarchy of needs would be more concerned about the present than the future. It is not a rule, rather a result of circumstance.

    I agree with Gorski’s assertion that we need to deal with the causes of poverty in the long run, however, I find some of the strategies in Paynes book usesful in the short term.

  27. As an educator I am usually the first to debunk any politically correct teaching philosophy or any ideological thoughts about my students. However, there is merit with many points made by Ruby Payne. After reading Ruby Payne’s book, Eric Jensen’s book, and articles by Paul Gorski I do not agree that Payne is “blaming the victim”. I learned many new teaching ideas from her that would benefit not only students of poverty, but students from all backgrounds. I learned the importance of explicitly teaching students how to converse with each other, learned the importance of explicitly teaching students to write in formal register, learned the importance of teaching goal-setting, and learned the importance of teaching the value of an education. Teaching ideas such as these serve to benefit all students in a classroom. Payne’s “hidden rules” should not be viewed as stereotypes. These hidden rules know no boundaries. They exist amongst the middle class and the wealthy. “Hidden rules’” have more to do with ones’ beliefs and value system than with one’s income level. Payne’s teaching strategies prove to be beneficial to all students.

  28. I, like many others, read Dr. Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” among other texts and articles for a continuing education course. I agree that the book was very informative and I was eager to take in all of her information without hesitation. I do feel however that the critiques for Dr. Payne also have merit. Although I believe Dr. Payne’s work and efforts have had a positive influence on the educational system and has opened up people’s eyes into looking at poverty with a more empathetic point-of-view, there isn’t enough solid evidence to back up her methods nor specific strategies that teachers can implement. I appreciated Larry Fezallo’s commentary on the educator’s response to Dr. Payne’s work. He doesn’t find any fault with the educators who believe in Dr. Payne’s ideas, rather he understands that they are grasping onto any tangible method to help explain why certain students and families act the way they do. Teachers simply want to know the best instructional strategies and behavior management systems so that they can see the same improvement in all of their students.

    I believe that there can be some reconciliation between the critics and Dr. Payne, the major one being that change does need to occur at a community level. All people should have access to affordable healthcare, equal educational opportunities and appropriate housing, something that Dr. Payne, Eric Jensen and all critics can probably agree upon. Another area of reconciliation is that everyone involved is invested in making positive changes for those struggling in poverty. We certainly don’t want to increase and perpetuate negative stereotypes and steps need to take place to ensure that this doesn’t happen, however the driving force among educators and educational decision makers should be that success is equally accessible to all learners. More strategies, backed by research, need to be made available to educators to help all students achieve.

  29. After reading Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, I feel as though she provided insightful information on the topic. I found her chapter on Role Models and Emotional Resources to be most enlightening as I have had the most success with this concept both in my school and my own personal classroom. I am currently looking at starting/facilitating a peer tutoring program within my school. Does anyone else have something similar at their school? If so I would love to hear thoughts.

  30. I also read Payne’s book, Jensen’s book and some of Gorski’s information. I did feel as though Payne’s book allowed me to look at students and their lives through a different lens. I did not feel as though I was engaging in stereotyping when I shared what I read in the book with peers. I do think that Jensen has more of a “research-based” approach. A common theme in some of the blogs is that teachers want all students to succeed, and would like help, tools, and resources to reach those students that are struggling or lack motivation to succeed. I think you can take away positives from all perspectives that will help your students. In my opinion, until policy changes to have more resources available to people living in poverty we are going to keep encountering hurdles with children that are considered to be in the low SES group succeeding in classroom. Use best practices, build relationships with students, and partner with parents as much as you can.

  31. Larry,
    Thank you for providing a space to enter into a dialogue about the Payne, Jense, and Gorski findings on students in poverty. I am taking a graduate level class myself and feel that one of the most important results of their findings is that teachers are entering into the discussion too. I’ve heard Eric Jensen speak at a 2 day conference here in Wisconsin and I think that he is the most research-based author of the three. I believe with Wendy (above) that in order for us to provide equal resources for students in poverty, there are going to have to be policy changes at the federal level that help all students, regardless of income and SES status, succeed. I am really left wondering where I stand in the whole debate…I was wondering if you knew if either one of them had been a classroom teacher before…

    Also, I would love to hear if Payne, Jensen and Gorski have ever entered into a dialogue and what the results of this discussion were. If all of their knowledge could be channeled into some type of symposium where we could all benefit from their expertise, I wonder if we could further support our students living in poverty. Could they collaborate in some way or are their views too dramatically different? Lastly, what is Obama and the “Race to the Top” opinion on these author’s findings? Does the Obama administration have a leaning toward either Payne or Gorski?

  32. I am reading the authors that Jen mentions and agree with the consensus that research lends credibility to anybody who writes a book for educators. That said, I propose that Payne makes some statements that are “politically incorrect” in the sense that she contributes to certain stereotypes about poor people; yet if one chooses to overlook her lack of scholarship, it is apparent, from the many posts on this website and others, that Payne’s argument supporting teaching the unspoken rules of the middle class gives hope for poor students to enter into the workforce and higher education. I wonder if we would be having this conversation if our educational system embraced “old school” teaching of spelling, grammar, syntax, etc. from the very beginning….and if educators were truly prepared to teach that.
    Lucy

  33. After reading the condensed version of Paul Gorski’s “Savage Unrealities: Uncovering Classism in Ruby Payne’s Framework,” the first thing that struck me was the tone of his article. While Gorski correctly points out certain areas that should have been addressed in Payne’s work, such as class inequities among schools, and the shortcomings inherent in her solidly conservative frame of reference, I couldn’t help but notice the number of times he mentions the financial gain Payne receives for her workshops, and the number of educators who have heard and adopted her message. It’s almost as if Gorski is jealous of the attention and compensation she has received!

  34. I too am taking a grad class on understanding poverty and read Ruby Payne’s book as well as “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” by Eric Jensen. Of the two texts I found more value in Jensen’s with many useful ideas that I could apply right away. I found myself marking up the book and getting excited about trying some new strategies with my students. I had always heard so much about Ruby Payne’s work but had never read her material or heard her speak. I found her book much harder to follow, less useful to my everyday work, but full of some intriguing ideas. The one thing I would like to learn more about is “rural poverty”. When I read materials on urban poverty, it seems some of the ideas are out of touch with what I see living in a rural area. There is certainly some overlap, but much of what we see of students living in poverty is very different than what is referred to in many of these books. It did open my eyes to some of my biases as someone who has lived a very “middle class” life. Although I don’t subscribe to all of her “theories” about poverty as I tend to look at people as individuals that are all unique and have the potential for a variety of outcomes, I agree that her work opens up the discussion on how best to work with students and families living in poverty. I do agree that poverty is a much bigger societal issue and that equal access to healthcare and earning a living wage are critical factors in winning the “war on poverty”.

  35. It seems as if ruby Payne believes we need to spoon people in Poverty. That it is not their fault so we must help with hand outs and such. But now is the time for all to see that the helplessness must be dealt with in different ways such as helping and giving of themselves.

  36. I recently read Ruby Payne’s book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”, and I along with others feel that she does segregate the social classes. I do however feel that she does have the student’s best interests at heart. Like all educators we want our students to succeed and I feel that Ruby Payne is no different.

  37. I agree that it is important to be a critical reader, especially when doing reading about how to improve education. I do not believe that Ruby Payne is solely a ‘deficit’ view. I found her book to be based on strengths and weaknesses of all people of various socioeconomic standings. And by knowing these strengths and weaknesses, a focus can be given on how to address the specific weaknesses of children coming from families in poverty. I found the book to be educational and helpful. It gave specific ways to assist and work with children coming from families in poverty. It would be beneficial for all educators to read Ruby Payne’s book, along with other books and articles as they research how to positively impact the lives of children in poverty.

    • I agree with your comment about being a critical reader. I found Payne’s book to be helpful in getting one to reflect upon one’s own biases and stereotypes. The quizzes illustrated how “we know what we know” in that most educators have always existed in the middle class and sometimes forget (or never realized) that some of the abilities and behavioral responses from those living in poverty are necessary for survival. That being said, I also found Jensen’s work much more hopeful and useful in identifying ways to work with all students in the classroom. Good, solid instruction is key to helping all students.

  38. For the past seven years, I have been employed in a small rural school district in Pennsylvania. While we have very little cultural diversity, about 40% of our student body qualifies for Free and Reduced Lunch. It has been common knowledge that individuals from low SES experience less access to health care and often decreased levels of wellness. However, I had questions how poverty also affected students in my school district academically. These questions lead me to a graduate class in which Ruby Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” was assigned. Payne states that there are two things that can help one move out of poverty—education and relationships. One area that I do agree with Payne is the importance of RELATIONSHIPS. As a nurse, I follow certain standards of school nursing practice. The nurse-client relationship has always been the “heart” of nursing practice as we assess, diagnosis, treat and evaluate our nursing care for our clients. As school nurses, we promote, facilitate, support and advocate for children within the school system. We recognize the needs for quality and comprehensive care that are community-based, family-centered, and culturally dependent. My philosophy is also similar to Payne’s in that we look to the importance of personal relationships. According to Payne, a successful relationship occurs when emotional deposits are made to the student, emotional withdrawals are avoided, and students are respected. In nursing, we see this emotional investment as an important factor in assisting client’s reach their optimum level of wellness.

  39. I have personally read some of Ruby Payne’s work and some of Paul Gorski’s work and I felt they both have the same goal in mind. We need to somehow put an end to poverty. I think they both just have different viewpoints and ideas how to get there. I feel as if Payne is offering ways to help those in poverty whereas Gorski wants to put an end to it. Payne is looking at poverty from the educational standpoint and Gorski is looking at it more from a cultural standpoint. I personally think Payne’s work has merit. She offers up practical advice for educators to implement and better the educational setting for all children. She also acknowledges the fact that people in poverty have inadequate access to medical services, counseling, housing etc. I understand Payne to say that the school setting needs to be understanding of their situation but also we need to offer as many of these services as possible through the school system. After all, educators are only allowed to do so much with limited funding. So my question is: Exactly how are educators suppose to tackle the issue of inadequate housing? We are already addressing the issues of food, medical services, counseling, etc. I do think there is always room for improvement, but are school’s responsible for parents, children, and all family members? To tackle the issue of poverty, we as a society need to work as a team. I personally think the children should be the first priority of the schools, after all they are our next generation.

  40. I have just finished reading Payne’s book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and I have to say I too found the book unbalanced. I taught in a urban school for close to ten years and that has over a 90% poverty rate. I did see some of the qualities that were mentioned in the book, but they didn’t paint a picture of every student that I have worked with. I feel this book was an overgeneralization of people in poverty that painted a negative depressing picture of what they are capable of. As a teacher with experience in working with a variety of students who live in this situation that the book missed on the positive and individual qualities that all of our students have.

  41. I am an educator in school district where children are surrounded with urban decay and blight. Resources are limited for the girls and boys and within our school. I can understand the various points of view that critique Ruby Payne—no hard scientific research and so forth. However, I did not find her work to blame the “victim” nor to overgeneralize. The way that I looked at it was that she is a highly educated person with a wealth of experience in education who has made some very valuable observations over the course of her career and she is sharing that insight with others. I found A Framework For Understanding Poverty to be quite interesting and worthwhile.

  42. The goal of both Payne and her critics is to assist schools in helping students in poverty. Understanding where each student comes from, the circumstances in which they live, and the people and things that are important to them helps teachers connect to students. This connection enables teachers to be more effective when instructing and teaching discipline to every student. Both Payne and her critics feel the importance of that, but disagree on what that looks like.
    I agree with Larry Ferlazzo’s comment that schools, teachers, and every community member should work toward better employment, housing, health care, and other resources for children and adults in poverty. While that may be a start toward improving society, it will do little or nothing to improve my current students’ situations. We can not simply rely on working toward social change. It is an important change, but not direct enough for my students.
    I want to prepare my high school students to become a successful adult and give them the tools that they need to be the person that they want to be. I can not afford to waste my thoughts on wishing other skills or resources were supplied to them when they were younger. It does no good to curse society and dwell on what is wrong with it. I, instead, must utilize strategies to empower my students to create goals and continue to work toward them without losing hope. To give them anything less would be wrong.
    A weakness of both Payne and her critics is that neither give many specific, detailed strategies that I can use to empower every high school student to work toward their successful life while working to provide equal access to resources for everyone. The research and debate are interesting, but they do little for my students in poverty.

  43. I am a 55 year old upper-middleclass church lady who runs a mentoring program at a Title I school. I read Ruby Payne’s books because my mentors frequently asked me questions about the parents of our mentees that didn’t make sense in the context of the environment of the local. I know I can’t speak for a whole culture (and, yes, generational poverty is a separate culture in the Houston area) but, I grew up in poverty in a Houston suburb. Most of Dr Payne’s observations and generalizations rang true for my family of origin and the neighborhood in which I was raised.
    My parents both worked full time as do the parents of most of the children we mentor but, they could never get ahead. To speak of them as victems is rather insulting. They were products of their upbringing and participated in patterns of behavior that perpetuated their socio-economic status.
    It’s not that being poor is bad, it’s that being poor in a State that prides itself on it’s lack of safety nets, high rate of incarceration and open distain for education make poverty a little slice of Hell.
    Ruby Payne put in to words the difference between my childhood and my adulthood and the dificulty of changing classes and cultures. It was like moving to England where we spoke a similar language but, the customs were very different.
    I’ve seen poverty from both sides, Ruby Payne has important thing to say and should be heard with an open mind.

  44. I am just researching Payne and others for the first time taking a class on understanding poverty. I think you make some good critiques of Payne’s book. for me, I think that Payne gives me another window into the world of poverty to help me empathize. I’ve seen several theories that explain the difficulties in truly understanding survival in different socio-economic statuses. The fact of the matter is I need to give students in all SES’s the best chance and the most access to learning I can. The more I can understand about their world the better. I think understanding will create the transformation in schools and in our community that we are seeking, and ultimately be better for all involved. Thanks for the discussion, this has been very interesting!

  45. I am also taking a graduate course on poverty right now and I have read a couple of different texts one being “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”. I learned a lot from my class and I am taking many new ideas from Payne, as well as other authors, with me. I struggle with some of Payne’s critics, I guess I just didn’t take away that what other people did from her text. I may not have agreed with everything that she said, but I did think she had a lot to offer. It made me think about my school and where we are going in terms of helping our students who are living in poverty. And how can we start to bridge this huge gap that exists between middle class and those in poverty. This is something my school faces every day. So I was interested in her findings and her ideas and I plan to take some with me, when I start this school year. As for her critics, I just feel as a teacher, I am sometimes so sick of data that is nice just to be given ideas to help struggling students. It’s not always about where the research came from for us, sometimes its just about the ideas and how to better ourselves as educators.

  46. I agree that everyone should work together to build a sound community and improve the basic conditions of life- health care, housing and employment opportunities. Teachers are a part of that yes, but they are not the government who can definitively makes these changes for poverty stricken people.

    I work in a district where we have quite a mix of socioeconomics statuses. In terms of the students of poverty, I feel, teachers need a better understanding of the vicious cycle of generational poverty. I know that teachers generally want (and do) to aid in improving students’ social and emotions states, but unfornately high stakes testing and the need to spit out “little robots” impedes this.

    And now, with the omplementation of “Common Core” standards, the rigor has been increased for students who developmentally not ready for such, as well as schools in povery stricken areas may be unable to provide the appropriate tools to meet these standards. I know our district is not in shambles, and we don’t have the appropriate tools.

    So when we analyze Payne’s “hidden rules” of poverty, as Mark previously stated, they are not anything new that educators know or do. Also, as Mark pointed out, each community, family and situation is unique. Yes, there are generalizations, but not every poverty stricken family has the same wants or needs. However, on the flip side, I do have a better understanding of the importance of formal register for ALL. Additionally, “hidden rules” for each socioeconomic class should be understood by all students and teachers. ALL students should feel they have something to strive for and feel successful at their level of ability, interest, and expertise.

  47. After reading a Framework for Understanding Poverty, I agree with what you’re saying about this being an introduction to the topic of poverty, but not providing information about what we do next. I work in a title one building, and I can see some similarities to what Payne describes as living in poverty, but many families don’t fit in the category. Education is important to many of my families, and they want their children to have a better life than they had. The problem is the parents don’t know how to do this. The parents seem to work long hours to pay the bills while the kids are home alone, without parental supervision. There is a lack of relationship between parent and child. I see that the “hidden rules” are evident, and there is a need for “formal register” to be able to move out of poverty. After reading Payne’s book, I understand that I can’t judge these families, but I do want to help my children be successful and have the confidence to reach for their dreams. I have an understanding why they do some things they do, like living in the moment and focused on entertainment. I need to keep reading about studies on poverty so I can do the best I can for my students. Wanting the best for them is a huge reason I’ll keep researching.

  48. I would love to see Payne, Jensen, and Gorski in a round table discussion. They all have incredibly helpful information for those in the teaching profession. Payne identifies the problem, Jensen gives us a prescription to help fix it, and Gorski is like the insurance company saying that prescription isn’t covered. Until our state and federal governments help lift people out of poverty, this problem is only going to get worse. Our social programs which were designed to be safety nets, in case people fell, are more like fishing nets, trapping people in the cycle of poverty. What can we do in the meantime? Keep going, keep teaching, keep caring about our students. Get involved in politics…help educate everyone…knowledge is power.

  49. I agree with many of the situations Payne describes in her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I do not think Payne stereotypies every child or adult from poverty, or that she is placing blame. I think Payne provides educators with situations that they may see in the school setting on a day to day basis. Payne gives us strategies to use when working with children in poverty. She gives us a starting spot, a place to begin to help/understand children in poverty and assist us in helping students deal with the issues they face everyday.

  50. I did find value in Payne’s book. It gave me an insight into what the new students this year in my classroom were going through. I knew that I needed to adjust my approach and my teaching style but I wasn’t sure how and what I could really do. I know that Payne doesn’t give all of the answers and that some of her critics are right about stereotyping people in poverty, but what she did write made my rethink many of the false conceptions I had. I think that by reading the book, I can go back to my school and at least start the conversation of changes that can be made on a classroom and school level.

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