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April 12, 2013

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<<< the contemporary standards-and-accountability school reform movement is based, in part, on the assumption that disadvantaged children need more structure, stricter discipline, and more back-to-basics instruction than many affluent kids do.

I'm going to take a mild exception to this formulation, Dana. There's a subtle implication here that the different approach is because the reform movement views low-SES kids and kids of color as "different" or holds them do a lower standard. Not quite right. It is quite evident (cf. yesterday's piece in the New York Times) that children of poverty tend to grow up in homes that are not as language-rich as their more affluent peers. "Back to basics" implies (does it not?) a bare-bones, not-terribly-enriching brand of education designed to get low-achieving kids over the next hurdle and no further. Where this is occurring it should be rightfully called out as deplorable. But if what we mean by "back-to-basics" is a systematic, rigorous and coherent attempt to build the background knowledge and vocabulary kids need to catch up to their more affluent peers, then it is to be encouraged and celebrated, not dismissed as somehow second-rate.

Robert, agree with you thoroughly. My previous post mentions the vocab research and Providence Talks.

Overall, it is a fairly marginal issue, but I think the reformer-side hypocrisy is more comprehensive than you suggest. The private schools these reform advocates send their kids to not only have smaller class sizes, different cultures, and a wide variety of different cultures and curricula, they're just entirely outside the whole testing and accountability system.

Apparently some people can choose the best school for their kid in the traditional way, without letter grades for the schools, AYP, value-added, etc., etc. It is a repudiation of every aspect of their own agenda, aside from "choice" and no organized labor.

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