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Topic: [Fwd: Consider other points of view]
Replies: 2   Last Post: Aug 29, 2000 11:33 AM

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Victor Steinbok

Posts: 858
Registered: 12/3/04
[Fwd: Consider other points of view]
Posted: Aug 29, 2000 1:54 AM
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One of the self-styled educator's favorite authors contributes on his
favorite subject on another list. Let's take another look at those data.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Consider other points of view
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 22:00:54 -0700
From: Stephen Krashen <krashen@USC.EDU>

Sent to the Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2000.

Consider other points of view

The Times editorial on August 28 ("Poverty is no excuse") accepts a
Heritage Foundation Report on high-performing high-poverty schools as
fact. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank, "whose
mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies" (from It has, in other words, a clear bias and an openly
stated conservative agenda. The Times needs to consider other points of view.

A good start would be the response to the Heritage Report, "No excuses,
lots of reasons," published by the Education Policy Project
( The authors of this report argue that the
high-performing high-poverty schools that the Heritage Foundation
reports on often had substantial supplementary sources of funding, and
that data on poverty levels, test scores, and staffing is incomplete.

It should also be pointed out that the Bennett-Kew school, praised by
the Times as a high-performing low-poverty school, has a policy of
retaining low achieving kindergarten children for an extra year.
According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on February 9, 2000,
18% of Bennett-Kew first graders are in this category and attend a
special all-day "junior first" program "designed to shore up their basic
skills." Exam preparation is intense at Bennett-Kew. Bennett-Kew
children, according to the Sentinel, are tested constantly on
small-scale versions of the fill-in-the-bubble standardized exams. One
wonders if they are really increasing the temperature in the room, or
simply lighting a match under the thermometer.

The Education Policy Project critique also notes that most of the
schools studied by the Heritage Foundation do not extend beyond grade
six. This is true of Bennett-Kew and is of concern. Scores in
Bennett-Kew drop regularly with each year. Second graders in 1998 scored
60 on SAT9 reading, then fell to 58 the next year, and to 52 the next.
Third graders in 1998 also scored 60 on SAT9 reading, and fell to 57 the
next year and 49 the next. This pattern is true for all of Bennett-Kew's
test results since the SAT9 was introduced.

Stephen Krashen

Professor of Education

University of Southern California

Original editorial:

Monday, August 28, 2000

Schools: Poverty Is No Excuse

Americans have not cared so much about education since 1957, when Russia
beat the United States into space with Sputnik. School reform tops every
major public opinion poll, and the increased scrutiny is paying off with
somewhat encouraging trends in math and reading skills among 9-year-old
students. But older students' scores stalled on the National Assessment
of Education Progress tests during the past decade in two key subjects,
reading and science, while the achievement gap between black and white
students widened.

Of particular import to California is the fact that the
gap between Latino and white students has narrowed since the tests were
first given 30 years ago. But there has been slippage in that long-term
trend in the last decade.

Black and Latino students consistently post lower group
scores than white students. The difference remains pronounced even for
minority students with college-educated parents, prompting educators to
ask whether minority children are being taught by the best teachers.

Lifting scores requires, among other things, excellent principals and
teachers, who are often in short supply at high-poverty schools with
predominantly Latino or black enrollments. Even so, these demographics
need not automatically spell failure.

"No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools,"
published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank,
showcases campuses that educate low-income children well. Similarly, the
nonprofit Education Trust cites great improvement at
numerous schools in "Dispelling the Myth: High-Poverty Schools Exceeding
Expectations." These results provide guides for low-performing campuses
with similar populations.

Bennett-Kew Elementary School in Inglewood, featured in the Heritage
Foundation publication, is often touted nationally as an example of what
works with poor, minority students. Its students excel in reading, and
their math scores in some cases surpass those of affluent schools in
Beverly Hills, Malibu and Irvine.

The school's longtime principal, Nancy Ichinaga, leads a stable corps of
well-trained teachers who concentrate on basic reading skills, emphasize
math fundamentals, assess students frequently and intervene early when
problems develop.

In California, where one in four students is not fluent in English and
nearly half of all students are poor, the lesson of Bennett-Kew and
schools like it is important to remember: Circumstances of birth, and
even poverty, do not negate a child's ability to learn.

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