Thinkstock

Lynne Varner, in her Seattle Times opinion blog, weighs in on the pressing debate about poverty's effects on how well students learn.

For teachers, the question is not only a mechanical one guiding the kinds of tools and techniques they'll use in the classroom but a question that can impact their careers. As school districts move to evaluate teachers based on the achievement of their students, some teachers fear they're being blamed for things they cannot control. Poverty is at the top of that list.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, in a speech to the National Urban League this summer, called poverty a terrible obstacle, but one that couldn't become an excuse. I suspect he was preaching to the choir. The history of racism and unequal opportunity in this country means most African Americans can still look back a generation or two and find abject poverty. My parents were middle-class thanks to the U.S. military. But my grandparents were day laborers and their parents sharecroppers. It took a huge leap past the obstacles to reach the days of homeownership and professional jobs.

Read Lynne Varner's entire blog entry at the Seattle Times.