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September 1, 2006
Vol. 64
No. 1

The Best of the Blog

This past summer, the ASCD blog featured several articles from Educational Leadership Online (Summer 2006) and posted questions for educators to respond to. In this new column in Educational Leadership, we publish a few of the comments that caught our eye. To join in the conversation, go to www.ascd.org/blog.

On Being Responsive to Students' Cultures

(In response to “The Violence You Don't See,” by Grace Sussman)

The author's example of the cultural bias of standardized tests and her careful unraveling of the cultural meaning of her students' behavior illustrate the failings of NCLB and our current approach to education in urban America. Rather than wasting time—and lives—by assuming that content knowledge makes “highly qualified” teachers, we need to allow educators to explore topics that are meaningful to students.Posted by Sam L. Rothman
I thought I was reading my story. I'm white, I operated a daycare center in a previous life, and I've been teaching in a Philadelphia elementary school for the past four years. To have someone put into print the feelings and frustrations I've experienced is so freeing somehow. I'm not alone.Posted by Kathy Wagner
The strategies [in Sussman's article] can be applied to a predominantly white upper middle-class suburban school like mine. Our challenge is embracing and connecting with minority and lower socioeconomic students or any students who enter our school feeling different, outcast, and disconnected. Discovering students' lives and culture through their stories seems common sense. We need to remove the barriers that prevent our faculty from achieving that goal.Posted by Larry Katzif
I commend Grace Sussman on her great fortitude in thinking and acting outside the box. How many of us would have given in to pressure from peers, principals, and administration to keep teaching with worksheets—especially those designed and guaranteed to help students pass state tests?Posted by Lori Camerer
If you look at the breakdown in scoring [in standardized tests], you'll see a huge gap in achievement. But is it an achievement gap, or is it a biased test? I remember a state writing prompt a few years back that was (thankfully) thrown out. It asked students what they would like to do on their next “snow day.” My daughter is a typical 6th grader—but we live in the middle of the desert! The people that design these types of tests need to be more culturally sensitive to all students.Posted by Michelle Bergey
It is difficult to learn the realities of our students' lives because they are often unpleasant, far from ideal, and can seem hopeless. That is why it is crucial for teachers to help students build communication and confidence so they can feel hope about their future. Getting to know my students and building relationships with them have proven more successful than any “discipline” plan I have encountered.Posted by Julie Israelson

Middle Schools or K–8?

(In response to articles by Cheri Pearson Yecke and Rick Wormeli)

[Transitioning to middle school] has clearly been the best change that we have made. I have seen students progress from sitting in straight rows and completing worksheets, workbooks, and tests daily while filling up their free time with numerous discipline problems...to gathering at tables, in communities of learning that excel in higher-level thinking, and in differentiated activities, [with] an incredible drop in discipline problems. Middle school is a time for growth and finding an identity—many middle schoolers would not be able to do this in a K–8 configuration.Posted by Kim Caldwell
No matter which model is taught [the middle school model or K–8], middle schoolers must be treated with respect and [teachers should have] a good pedagogical understanding of how young adolescents learn. Laying the blame on how a school is organized and not on how a student is taught is shortsighted at best and destructive if unchallenged.Posted by Dennis Caron
I believe public schools are designed to create a fringe population of students. Those at the bottom—the ones who do poorly on achievement tests—have many behavior referrals and don't attend school regularly. Failure is promoted because of the misguided emphasis placed on “academic achievement.” We have to change the perception that this is the most important thing in education. It isn't. We must “blend” all children so that everyone will be successful. Initially, we must meet them where they are. This can't be done if we continue to ignore the fact that diverse populations bring diverse values with them to school. The focus should be removed from “academic achievement” and placed on educating the total child.Posted by Mike Carte

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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