Friday, November 16, 2007

Achievement Gap Summit ; limits

The Achievement Gap Summit has spurred some media commentary on the problems of the schools. The letters to the Sacramento Bee were mostly people responding with their solutions without listening to the problems. This was a pattern at the summit also.
I have a solution, now where is the problem.
I attended the event and went to a number of presentations.
In a Morning Report on Capitol Public Radio this morning I heard Jack O’Connel say that perhaps the first step forward might be racial sensitivity training for all California teachers. This is another example of applying the solution without knowing what is the problem.
Perhaps for the hundreds of superintendents and associate superintendents and principals, racial sensitivity training would help. They need to learn to pay attention to the real problems.
However, for teachers, this is poor direction. California teachers since at least the early 1990’s have taken one or more courses in multicultural education and one or more courses in assisting English Language learners. Of course the quality of the courses varied. I have taught these and other courses.
A basic truth is future teachers want to do well, they want to teach kids and be successful. And then the data on NAEP, state tests, etc. show an achievement gap.
As pointed out by Russylnn Ali at the conference, most California kids do poorly. We rank at the bottom of the states in reading and near the bottom in math. This data was widely shared at the conference and accepted by almost all. It is up on the web sites of the conference.
Teachers, particularly new teachers, need a support in creating a positive productive classroom environment. This requires resources, time, support networks, and sufficient counselors in the schools. And, they need coaches who are successful teachers and experts in helping kids such as English Language learners. New teachers have non of these. Instead they enter a failing system, try to do well, get frustrated, fail more, and become less effective and more defensive. Richard Rothstein spoke to the resources failure. Lack of resources is a political failure. Sensitivity training for teachers will not resolve any of these issues.
Next post: some limits to the white privilege argument.
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