Many schools are simply a microcosm of our poor neighborhoods where lack of food, clothing, housing, and health care as well as drugs and violence walk in with the students. Is it fair or even logical to ask schools to bear all of the responsibility for improving the lives of children, especially poor children? From my own experiences both as a student and a teacher, I truly believe that teachers can make a difference in children's lives, but the results don't necessarily come in test scores.
Often, teachers are asked to be "super-teachers" and take on the role of social worker, counselor, and doctor, but the reality of the situation is that it takes more than teachers to improve the lives of our poorest children. As a community, we need to make sure that there are decent, meaningful jobs that allow parents to be home when kids get out of school to nurture them and give them personal attention rather than shuffling them from a large class to after care. We need to make sure that families have enough money to keep the gas and electric on so kids can do their homework and we need to make sure that our kids have good health care so that their physical needs are met.
Teachers can't work on these things alone, although we are often asked to. Let's start by shifting the enormous military budget to the school budget and see what happens.