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 www.heritage.org). 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 (www.uwm.edu/Dept/CERIA). 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.
Professor of Education
University of Southern California ==================================================
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.