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Inner City Kids need to be educated, not separated
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Subj:      [Mpls] Inner city kids need to be educated, not separated
Date:     11/15/2002 11:52:01 AM Central Standard Time

During the past two years I must have talked to dozens of teachers
who said to me "you don't know what these inner city kids are
like, you can't expect them to keep up with the rest of the kids."
Parents who say the same thing about 'those' kids (pick any 'at-risk'
ethnic group) usually go on to say that 'they' should go to their own
schools (or classrooms) because they are holding 'our' kids back.  
And the failure of the district to see that all children get effective
instruction reinforces the belief that 'those children' can't learn,
aren't college material, etc.

I happen to know what those inner city kids are like.  I know what
happens to the kids (and their parents) when they are identified
as 'low-ability' learners and put in separate groups and classrooms
for reading instruction. 'Low-ability' learners generally do not
receive effective reading instruction in grades K through 4.  If they were
receiving effective instruction they would be catching up, not falling
behind.  Somehow the kids who are designated as 'low-ability
learners' get the idea that they are stupid, and quickly give up. Some
withdraw and others act out.  The answer is not to put those kids
in their own classrooms or schools.  They need to be educated, not

Subj:      Re: [Mpls] Inner city kids need to be educated, not separated
Date:     11/16/2002 2:12:51 AM Central Standard Time

The district's reading curriculum and preferred methods of instruction are
either ineffective (not best practices) or those inner city kids just can't

K-6 teachers are generally expected to differentiate the reading / English
Language Arts curriculum by assigning students to instructional groups
within the classroom [and to separate classrooms] according to perceived
ability. The teacher's edition Grade Level Expectations manuals for grades
K-6 recommend ability-grouping and a guided reading strategy. And the
districtwide reading curriculum is based on the so-called "whole language"
(look-say / whole word recognition) method.

About half of the public school districts in Minnesota consider instruction
based on individualized educational planning to be consistent with best
practices, discourage ability-grouping / curriculum differentiation
in elementary grades, and don't take money from the state of Minnesota
that is specifically earmarked for gifted programs and the identification
of 'gifted children.'  Some school districts (and most private schools) have
an undifferentiated, college-bound curriculum for the general student
population at all grade levels.  

Ability-grouping / curriculum differentiation has been done in secondary
grades in the US and just about everywhere else for about 100 years or
so. But ability-grouping in the elementary grades is a unique feature of
the public school system in the US.  Public schools in the US began
to ability-group elementary school students in the late 1950s and
early 1960s, especially in the Deep South.  Black students were
generally put into low-ability instructional groups when integrated
into white schools through small scale "voluntary desegregation"
programs of the 1960s. Ability-grouping was widely rejected in 1970s
and early 1980s, but has been widely reintroduced since the mid-1980s.

I think that it is not coincidental that on National Assessment
of Educational Progress exams the difference in average reading
scores between black & white 13 year olds declined by about
50% between 1971 & 1988. This test score gap has increased
by about 75% from where it was at in 1988. [The New Crisis
(NAACP magazine), Sept/Oct 2001, "Long Division," p. 25-31,
graph on page 28]
The 1983 report commissioned by the Reagan-Bush administration about
the status of America's public schools, A Nation at Risk complained
of a "rising tide of mediocrity," i.e., that the educational establishment
was closing the gap at the expense of high-achievers. However, data from
National Assessment of Educational Progress exams from the 1970s
to late 1980s contradict that claim. [The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud,
and the Attack on America's Public Schools, 1995, by David C.
Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle, page 26-27]

Also see: "Evidence that school policies matter"