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Dangerously Irrelevant: Beware outside consultants? – Part 2, Ruby Payne started a whole slew of arguments about poverty. Can education “fix” poverty? Can eduction be effective without addressing the underlying poverty of the poor? There were a lot of assumptions, especially among those with a deficit view, that I’ll sum up as “poor folks, have poor habits”. The lefties in the bunch had arguments that seemed divorced from the reality of teaching in high poverty because their answer was, you need to address poverty first, which most teachers do not feel they are in a super position to address. I just think they don’t know how, and that school leaders have not yet recognized that the importance of schools to do just that.

Here is an example of that vagueness:

“The best possible thing we can do for low-income students is to fight for their basic human rights, such as equitable access to fully-equipped schools, healthcare, safe and affordable housing, and the sorts of things their wealthier peers take for granted.”– Paul Gorski

I’ve decided to do a series on poverty. The posts will start with theory, look at an anecdote from my or another teachers experience, and last, will finish with approaches that can be used in those situations. While the “solutions” may not always work, but they are more helpful than talking about how lacking poor parents are, or saying the answer is to fight poverty. This first post will be on the overall theories of poverty, next up will be on choice, and the third will be on parents and communities…

“Conservatives say if you don’t give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they’ve lost all incentive because we’ve given them too much money. “– George Carlin in brain droppings

32 Responses to “Why not “cure” poverty instead?”

  1. Doug Noon says:

    Alice, this is a great discussion piece. Here’s a quick reaction:

    Where I get stuck in this is when the “We have to fight for their human rights” people are dismissed as pie-in-the-sky dreamers by people who argue that educational equity is a right as well, and we can’t do anything about that other stuff, so forget about it. Teachers are left to carry the whole weight of the problem by “raising expectations.” But does anyone really believe that’s enough?

    If we can’t fix that other stuff, then what’s the point of doing anything? The whole thing is utterly discouraging to me, a person who went into teaching with a lot of hope that education WOULD be a kind of magic pill for resolving social inequity. If we’re going to use social equity as a reason to raise the bar, then it seems to me we should be up for the whole program.

    I find myself with parents, moving to sit on the same side of the conference table as they are, helping them to navigate a system that doesn’t recognize who they are or what they want, and which doesn’t flex very well to accommodate their unique sets of circumstances.

    The principals who see their job as working with the families are great assets, and you are lucky to have such an administrator, especially if he or she is good at doing that. I’m lucky to be in a place like that now. I’m not second guessed, or nitpicked, or challenged to worry about test scores. I do all that in my own head, and don’t need anyone else’s help with it.

    Mostly, from a policy point of view, I see this whole business as coming from a middle class disdain for people who are less fortunate, and want someone to “take care of it” for them. So, teachers, teach ‘em! My brother is learning disabled, and would never have survived school in this era.

    Thanks for posting this. We need to talk more about race and class with the whole school reform project.

  2. alicemercer says:

    You are right about the way we’ve gotten ourselves backed against the wall, and part of it is because we have such cruddy relations with some of our communities.

    I do think that those saying we need to cure poverty, and teachers need to organize parents have to offer some concrete ways to do that, otherwise we’re just waiting for “come the revolution” and you know what that means…we’re just partying and passing ’round baloney sandwiches.

  3. [...] Mercer has written a absolutely great post at our group blog, In Practice. It’s titled “Why Not Cure Poverty Instead?” and is outgrowth of the recent conversation about Ruby [...]

  4. Poverty and education – a complex problem. But one on which I have a lot to say. I am looking forward to your promised series on the topic, and, if you wish, I will comment where appropriate from an African perspective. We are masters in both poverty and poor education!

    An initial observation: poverty is a barrier to education (eg provisioning of resources) but good education can happen in spite of poverty. Cultural issues and political agendas pose far greater challenges than poverty. Sometimes poverty is used as the scapegoat, to cloak other problems.

  5. alicemercer says:

    And Kobus, I guess I would say, the culture and other barriers, are sometimes a reaction to coping with poverty, and if the needs they are trying to address with that behavior are met, that may change their culture.

  6. PeonInChief says:

    Carlin’s point with respect to the efficacy of subsidies for rich and poor respectively has been made many times (see for example http://peoninchief.blogspot.com/2008/03/cat-tax.html), but I wonder if the schools can, or should, take responsibility for housing, health care and employment problems. Do the schools have the resources to do these things?

  7. alicemercer says:

    Yeah, that Carlin quote was a nice find from the spousal unit. Should we be responsible completely for this, I would say no. But I think what I’ve suggested doing here, building relationships with parents and the community is not to much for educators to do. I’m going to tell you why. If you don’t then you are reduced by the reality of the situation to banging your head against the wall trying to teach kids that may not be in a great position to learn, and wondering why things don’t work. If you build relationships with the kids and parents, then you have a better chance of getting their attention for services that are available to them that they need.

    Also, in most of my teaching situations, 50-75% of the kids were pretty teachable, but I’ll hit on that more in the next post.

  8. I have dysgraphia and some dyslexic tendencies. I’m also a successful adult, who uses technology extensively. Sometimes I speak to the parents of children we suspect of having LD, who are resisting having their children tested.

    I speak about the frustration I felt for a long time before I was diagnosed. How I felt I was going nuts. How I resisted people helping me because I felt they were calling me stupid – and how their frustration with me came through. Then of the relief of being diagnosed. How knowing there was a reason for the things I did or couldn’t do, gave me the power to find a way around the road blocks.

    For example spelling. I tackle one word at a time. The time worn method of writing out the word 5 or 10 times, doesn’t work for me. I’m fighting against 2 problems my problem with language and poor fine motor skills. I type the word several times. Then I can memorize the word.

    Once they see we aren’t saying their child is less intelligent or giving the child an excuse for not working, they are more accepting of testing and the results.

  9. Paul Gorski says:

    Hope I’m not intruding. People keep sending me these discussions in which my name comes up.

    I’d like to share a couple thoughts.

    First, I find the general premise of this blog troubling. First, it draws a false distinction between theory and practice that I find dangerous. But worse, it suggests that people who work purposefully in the theoretical end of things aren’t also practitioners who are basing their theory and the testing of that theory on lifetimes of their own practice. I’ve been an educator my entire career, not to mention an activist who does, among other things, anti-poverty work. A good majority of folks who write about these issues–especially if they’re not just writing for academic journals–are involved deeply in the practice of equitable education. It’s a gross injustice to attempt, as Ruby Payne does, to dismiss this lot of folks simply because they write articles or don’t address solely the obsession in education over immediate, practical solutions. (This obsession, by the way, is what hampers educational progress, because it drives us to find solutions to problems before we understand the problems themselves. This, of course, is what’s happening in relation to poverty and education–and its why we’ve been working for a few decades on the socioeconomic achievement gap and continue moving backward instead of forward on that front.)

    But on to the topic of this particular blog post…

    I do make the point that the most important thing any of us can do to support low-income people is to fight for their basic human rights. To nod that off as “vague” both takes it out of context and leads to exactly what Ruby Payne does: simplifying an incredibly complex reality. I make that particular point about basic human rights for two reasons: (1) because teachers should not be held responsible for larger societal injustices (although they also shouldn’t use those injustices as a reason not to hold high expectations for all students), and (2) because if I, as a teacher, want to have any real understanding of my low-income students, I have to understand that they come from a society which largely despises them, and this has some implications for their education.

    But what I find astonishing is this: In every single article that I’ve written on poverty and education, I have included a very extensive, very practical discussion of what can be done immediately. So again, a false distinction is drawn by the blog author: if eliminating poverty altogether is part of my goal, she seems to suggest, I must have nothing substantive to contribute to a more immediate discussion. This is ludicrous.

    See my recent articles in Educational Leadership, Teaching Tolerance, and Rethinking Schools, for examples of the very practice-based recommendations I make (all available online for free). (And notice, these are all practitioner magazines, not overly-scholarly academic journals.)

    Finally, it is critical to remember this: there is no set of pedagogical strategies that have been shown to work with ALL low-income students, MOST low-income students, or even A MAJORITY OF low-income students. None. And this is why theory is important. As we, in education, continue working primarily with the “culture of poverty” model (which Ruby Payne pawns on us as a “theory” even though it was merely a hypothesis in the 1960s that was immediately proven incorrect), we are led to believe that there are practical curricular or pedagogical solutions for low-income people. But the range of ways in which low-income people learn is exactly the same as the range of ways in which wealthy people learn. Of course, we never discuss the pedagogical strategies to use with ALL wealthy kids or ALL white kids or other privileged groups because we know it’s silly to think that all wealthy kids have the same learning needs. Why is that?

    Paul

  10. alicemercer says:

    Paul, you are not intruding since this is a “public forum” subject only to limitations on slander, libel, and obscenity. I appreciate your willingness to engage.

    I’m sorry you don’t like the purpose of the blog. We all found it necessary because in most of the discussion about education technology folks like Brain, Larry, and myself were some of the few Title One teachers implementing technology in the classroom, and blogging about it. We had a sense that most of the folks called “edubloggers” were on a different planet. They could assume things like, kids being able to access blogs at home, etc. You’ll have to trust me when I say, this blog and its particular focus were necessary. The fact that it has had a bigger readership than my “plain old” technology blog seems to bear that out as well.

    You seem to assume it was named In Practice as a ding to the Social Justice theory folks like yourself. It wasn’t, I’ll get to my problems with you and what you’ve said in a moment. The theories that I had in mind when the blog started were more from the “scientifically-based” instructional methods end of things that has had the government telling us we can “fix” these kids if only our districts buy the right curriculum. I hope you can understand how ANNOYING that would be. Frankly, they are a much bigger pain to those of us in Title One schools than you will ever be.

    Dr. Gorski, I am not aware of your specific articles, but I have read Rethinking Education. The prof in my cultural diversity class who had studied/worked with Marcuse’s widow assigned it. I may not know your specific oeuvre, but I’m pretty familiar with the general theory, and writings of that type. Larry Ferlazzo indicated that he was familiar with your writing. What we were looking for was a bone, something for the other readers at Dangerously Irrelevant who were “clinging” to Ruby Payne as at least offering something actionable. You had a PERFECT opportunity to propagandize, and you missed it. This is the Internet, you can’t refer people to books/print magazines. Drop a link AND more importantly, give your “elevator speech” a quick anecdote with an example. That’s what I was originally trying to get from JYP, and what Larry was asking for from you.

    Dangerously Irrelevant has a HUGE following for an education blog, you missed a golden opportunity. Frankly, this article is an attempt to fix that. Am I being polemical about what you said, you betcha, it may be rhetorical sophistry, but it’ll get people reading. I don’t do this for my own ego or technorati rating, but to push my agenda, which is not that far removed from yours. For more on propaganda: Marketing Monkeys | Reflections on Teaching.

    Speaking of my agenda, you did not seem to disagree with my points except the over generalization of the poor as homogenous. Frankly I was waiting for someone to make that point, I’m glad you picked it up. Talking about differences among the poor fit better in the second part of this series, where I’ll discuss choice. If I don’t adequately address it there or you feel it was left until too late at that point, I’ll take that criticism.

    Thanks for writing, you’re welcome to leave another comment with tips if you’d like to add those to the mix. I’ll be summing up what others submit when the series finishes.

  11. alicemercer says:

    Kimberly, thank you for sharing this. I’m sure it is very helpful for parents to see someone who is successful. We may have a post, or series coming up on LD and accommodations. Please consider participating in this. I think you could add to the discussion.

  12. Doug Noon says:

    I hope none of us expects to have the last word on this subject. It’s too big and complicated an issue, and with plenty of history, to resolve in any simple way.

    I’m in sympathy with Paul Gorski’s point of view, and consider him an ally for teachers who are being used to slide a political agenda onto the plates of people who want a seat at the table hoping for even a taste of that social mobility we all want.

    There is, however, a wide gulf between theory and practice. Even in my own classroom, I find myself compromising, and feeling compromised, all the time. High expectations, unless they’re tempered by common sense AND structural adjustments to the school program, almost inevitably leaves the neediest kids behind. There is a real need for teachers who work with kids who don’t fit the mold to learn how to accommodate them.

    It’s true, also, that it isn’t just poor kids who need that kind of attention. There are innumerable causes for academic underachievement. This fall, when we looked at our testing data at my school, the Economically Disadvantaged and African American subgroups did better than Caucasians. From a purely technical point of view, the exercise we were working on demanded that we design an intervention to help the priveleged White kids. I threw up my hands and told the principal to figure out what he needed to tell the central office admins.

    I’m looking forward to more of these discussions. And I’m grateful for the participation of everyone else here.

  13. I think Paul Gorski has done more than just about anyone to alerting teachers and the world to the damage Ruby Payne’s methods can do to students, and appreciate and respect that accomplishment.

    I do, though, think his comment demonstrates how some academics define the world “practical” and how many teachers would define the same word.

    For example, in his Teaching Tolerance article (http://www.tolerance.org/teach/magazine/features.jsp?cid=777), one recommendation he suggests is:

    “give students from poverty access to the same high-level curricular and pedagogical opportunities and high expectations as their wealthy peers.”

    I suspect that there are very few, if any, people in the education world who would disagree with that suggestion. What many teachers want and need, however, are practical instructional strategies they can use in their classroom today to achieve that goal.

    This illustrates, I believe, the reason that many of us might be skeptical of educational theories and theorists — sort of like the song lyric that goes, “You say tomahto and and I say tomato.” There is similar tension between scholars and community organizers (which I was for nineteen years).

    Theories are indeed important in understanding problems. In fact, I believe that Alice’s blending of two — the affective filter and Karelis’ — is a brilliant act of scholarship that can help school staff develop a greater understanding of parent engagement.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more of her practical suggestions on how implement it.

  14. PeonInChief says:

    It’s interesting that one of the reasons that the schools in California are forced to deal with the problems of poverty is that education is a constitutional right here. That means that the society doesn’t have to deal with the problems of housing or employment or health care or transportation at all. Californians do not have a right to decent housing or a job or health care. But because California children do have a right to education, the schools can be held responsible for all of these issues as they have an impact on school children.

  15. Ken says:

    Loved reading this. Your points are well taken and it is unfortunate more schools do not take your approach in addressing and assisting parents. Your approach does not require any additional money or in many cases effort. It just requires a slightly different approach and the recognition that not all cases will be solved and not all parents will want that level of involvement.

  16. Brian Crosby says:

    Alice – Great conversation – I hope to jump in here with a post, but want to wait until your part2. Like Doug (and others) I see this as a jumping off point for a spate of posts on this subject.
    I also ask and hope and encourage Paul Gorski to come back and continue the conversation. It seems we probably have quite a bit of common ground, and talking through the differences should be very enlightening for all.
    Thanks,
    Brian

  17. alicemercer says:

    Paul Gorski is WELCOME to continue posting comments, and I hope he does. I hope he understands this is to make his work better, and more accessible to others, not tear down what he is doing.

    So here is another question, Kimberly and I talk about using our personal experience to reach out. What if you aren’t a parent, or have an LD, what can you do?

  18. alicemercer says:

    Peon, that is a MARVELOUS point about the right to education. I hope you don’t mind my sharing that Peon worked with one of the organizations that pressed the “Williams” suit which was based on that right. Peon and I have discussed the shortcomings of that settlement. She felt it was too little, I felt is was too focused on text books.

    I wonder what’s going to happen to that settlement in light of the recent budget? It sounds like the state money to settle the violate of Prop 98 levels is going to disappear from the governor’s budget.

  19. [...] Mercer has started a great conversation over at “In Practice” called “Why not “cure” poverty instead?” Jump in and add your [...]

  20. James Sigler says:

    Alice,
    This is a great discussion. In this high-stakes testing environment, I keep waiting to here someone talk about the highest correlation with standardized test scores…Socio-Economic Status. The kids who live in poverty often have the lowest test scores. I have found that true in my classroom. This makes the educational problem of low test scores also a societal problem. However, politicians are now willing to address this when they talk about school reform.
    Peon raises an excellent point that education is a right and thus held accountable, but problems of housing, employment, health care, or transportation are not. These issues make the job of helping poor kids school much more complex, but not addressing them only slaps a band aid on wounds that need some serious TLC.
    You are tackling a big discussion complex issues that strikes deep into the heart of public education. I hope this discussion spreads far across the edublogosphere. I really look forward to reading more posts in your series.

  21. PeonInChief says:

    Teachers have to be brave enough to say, “look, we cannot teach children whose parents are moving every three months because they can’t keep their housing, where the households are facing utility shutoffs every month, where the parents have unstable employment and no unemployment insurance, where getting medical services requires an entire day at a clinic, where our excuse for childcare is the mother’s sketchy boyfriend because she’s exhausted her CalWorks benefits or there isn’t any available childcare in her community.” And then say, “we’re teachers, and we can teach children who are ordinarily poor, but what we have now is more kin to destitution than poverty, and California has CHOSEN this. California should take responsibility for those choices.”

    And yes, MizMercer, it’s fine that you talk about Williams. I cried when they accepted that deal–so little result for so much work. And we’ve have been better off with a court decision that said it was okay to provide crappy conditions for the majority of the state’s kids. Then you can talk about everything, rather than just the textbooks and rodents.

  22. alicemercer says:

    Okay Peon third rail time, do we undermine social welfare budgets with Prop 98 funding mandates? By doing 20-1 for ALL schools, rather than focusing on those in most need, are we robbing Peter (the welfare budget), to pay Paul (the teachers)?

    When I finish this up you’ll see my point which is not, “hey, if you do these things, you will end up with every child succeeding and leave none of them behind.” That’s part 3 at the end of the week.

  23. Paul Gorski says:

    Hello again, all.

    First, I want to re-clarify something. I don’t see myself as a “theorist.” I am a practicing educator and activist who does some writing. This illustrates one of the points I’m making–simply because I do some writing among the myriad other things I do, including formal and informal forms of education, I’m called a “theorist,” which, in education, seems to suggest I have nothing to say about practice.

    All of us are, ultimately, theorists and practitioners. Every time any of us has a conversation about something that is working in our classrooms, we’re contributing to theory–we’re providing evidence that something is working.

    I think some folks are using “theory” to mean “philosophy.” And certainly there are a LOT of people who introduce various philosophies about education that have no support in actual practice.

    But I digress…

    Larry — you pulled one example out of one of several lists of practical strategies. I’m not sure why you did that, specifically. Yes, most (not all) educators would agree with my point philosophically. But what is very clear from decades of research is that low-income students do not have access to the same sorts of higher-order thinking curricula and pedagogies as their wealthier counterparts.

    And the strategy here has nothing at all to do with poverty. It has to do with best practice in general. There are certain things we know pedagogically: (1) students learn best when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum; (2) students learn best when their teachers teach in ways that reflect their learning styles; (3) students learn best when their learning is connected somehow to their lives; (4) students learn best when teachers demonstrate high expectations of them consistently. We also know that all of these things happen with more consistency in predominantly wealthy schools than predominantly low-income schools. So this may sound like loftiness or theory, but it’s a very practical concern. And it has nothing to do with poverty per se. In other words, the “problem” isn’t that the students are from low-income backgrounds. The “problem” is manifold: (1) that low-income kids are segregated into schools (or within schools, into classes) that in which they don’t have the same opportunities; (2) that we–U.S. citizens–are socialized, generally, to think that low-income people are incapable of achieving to the extent their wealthier counterparts achieve; and so on. The “problem”, in other words, is inequity, not poverty.

    If we can’t begin with that, then the practical ideas, or what people are calling the “alternatives” will make little difference.

    And all of this, unfortunately, is a serious shift in consciousness for most people, despite Larry’s point that this sort of thing is agreed upon by most educators. It may be agreed upon philosophically, but it’s certainly not understood by the average person in the U.S. In fact, Larry, my sense is that you might be looking for a set of pedagogical strategies, and this is something that simply does not exist. The lingering belief that it does exist is not a problem of practice. It’s a problem of consciousness.

    So, here’s my alternative:

    Stop now with the idea that there is “a way” to teach low-income students or female students or Latino students or any other group of students as defined by a single dimension of identity.

    For classroom teachers, refuse to make any assumption about any student based on any single dimension of her or his identity.

    Identify the preferred learning styles and gifts of every individual student and make sure that they are fed what they need to achieve–this tends to happen more readily for wealthier students, who tend to be in smaller classes.

    Continue reaching out to low-income families, even when they appear to be unresponsive. We don’t undo generations of alienation with two or three phone calls.

    Work on creating opportunities for family involvement that are accessible to parents or guardians who work multiple jobs, who work night jobs, who don’t have “leave time” from their jobs, who can’t afford childcare or transportation.

    Teach about class issues. The students who come from low-income backgrounds know they’re getting an unfair deal (just as students of color do). Part of drawing them into a system that many of them (and their parents/guardians) experience as hostile is to acknowledge the reality of their experiences.

    For more very practical solutions, see:

    http://www.tolerance.org/teach/magazine/features.jsp?p=0&is=40&ar=777

    I want to say again: there is no set of pedagogical solutions that will work with all low-income students in any context, any more than there’s a set of pedagogical solutions that will work with all wealthy students. As a practitioner, I refuse to begin the conversation there because it’s based on fallacy–and oppressive fallacy at that. If people are waiting for a list of practical solutions–if this is the “alternative” for which we’re waiting–we’re only setting ourselves up to be fooled, as many have been fooled by Ruby Payne’s work. (And as I’ve been fooled more often that I’d like to admit!)

    Paul

  24. Josh says:

    Paul-
    I just checked into this discussion, and I feel for your desire to be seen more broadly. I was also really happy to see that you included a list of ideas and thoughts (from the article you linked us to) that would be able to be directly implemented into a teacher’s practice, since I think that was the purpose of this particular blog. Also, your ideas give some places to comment and further the discussion…which I’m going to try to do.

    First, your suggestion to

    “keep stocks of school supplies, snacks, clothes and other basic necessities handy for students who may need them, but find quiet ways to distribute these resources to avoid singling anyone out”

    seems very concrete, supportive, and appropriate. As does the suggestion to “continue to reach out to parents even when we feel they are being unresponsive”…as you note, it is in the relationship building which will allow students to form a foundation for success.

    I have to agree with Larry, however, when he sees the “high-level curricular” goal as a bit squishy; what does that mean in my classroom tomorrow? I know from your previous post that the idea that tomorrow concerns me concerns you, but don’t we both have to show up there in front of them on Monday?

    I also think that your desire for equally high levels of expectations for low-income students is a bit undermined by your very first goal

    “assign work requiring computer and Internet access or other costly resources only when we can provide in-school time and materials for such work to be completed”

    because for many low-income students & the schools who serve them…particularly in urban areas…computer access is a very low bar to leap over even when there is not a machine in the home. Also, don’t low-income students need to develop the technological skills their higher-income contemporaries are already working on and possess? There isn’t time in the day to practice all the skills a teacher might teach around this subject, so the production must be done outside of the classroom. Also, I’m fairly sure the world outside the school isn’t interested in a handwritten resume…if these students don’t learn how and where to access the basic technological resources available to them in their communities, what will they do when they leave us? A better suggestion might be for all teachers to know of and possess a list of all publically available computers in the community, with hours of operation and suggestions for transportation included. It seems to me that helping students leap over the higher bar that society has set for them is our job in this case…not just ignoring that the bar might exist.

    On another note, I have a bit of a hard time teaching the “injustice” of the “dissolution of labor unions.” I would prefer to have my students form their own opinions about labor unions, big corporations, forms of economic governance, etc.. Just to lay something out as wrong because of my own viewpoint seems to rob the students of the opportunity to think critically about important subjects. While racism, classism, sexism, etc. are fairly well established as wrong headed, there is still room for thought about these issues…Gladwell’s “Blink” has a fascinating chapter about the origins of some of these “isms” and is exactly the type of higher level, interesting reading you might want students to engage with.

    For my part, I would include “Teach your students that the squeeky wheel gets the oil.” If we want our students to move out of their lower economic bracket, we need to show them that they can have power over situations and people through sheer tenacity. That power could be over the principal, the president, a CEO, or even you; it could be over their grades, their employment, or their health. Tomorrow, this could mean having student write letters to their teachers justifying their self-assigned grade in the class; it could include time in class to write, edit, and send follow-up notes for job interviews; it might include class participation points given for talking to the teacher about the class outside of class…these are just a few thoughts pounded out at 1 am. I’m sure there are better, but any work to develop ways in which their personal tenacity and persistence is developed, recognized, and rewarded would seem to be immensely valuable over the long haul of their lives. I’m sure the activist part of you is now warm all over…:)

    Looking forward to hearing others’ suggestions,
    Josh

  25. [...] my first post in this series on poverty and education, I introduced this work by economist Charles Karelis, [...]

  26. [...] There was a lively discussion in the comments on Scott’s post, and Alice Mercer, one of the women chiming in there, has continued the conversation on the In Practice blog with the first of what she promises will be a series of posts  on “Why not ‘cure’ poverty instead”. [...]

  27. alicemercer says:

    Josh, I like those ideas. I always wonder how you transition over to having the kids doing self-assigned grades. I’ve seen some folks starting this with rubrics. I haven’t done it myself, so I’m curious. Would you like to flesh that out?

  28. Josh says:

    Alice-
    When I’ve done this it has been for the class participation portion of student’s grade, and I do have a rubric in place for it, as well as a more descriptive piece that we look at a couple of times a term (beginning, mid-tri, and end). The writing the students do is based on that document; basically they follow the descriptions and structure and essay which fleshes out how they meet each criteria and to what level.
    I haven’t done it overall; I’m not that organized about all of my assignments, though I oftetn have students fill out rubrics that get handed in with the paper or project. To me the key is the repetition; in looking at the participation rubric multiple times I reinforce my expectations and I think help them see themselves in that way as well. seems
    In working with students who do not feel empowered by the educational system, whether due to poverty, race, learning differences, gender, or another factor, it seems to make sense to get them thinking that they can have some power…I just don’t do it well all the time, so I’m hoping to learn more here!
    Thanks,
    Josh

  29. PeonInChief says:

    I particularly like your suggestion that teachers reach out to parents even when they are unresponsive (overburdened, traumatized, dealing with other problems). My mother once told me that the worst thing that had happened to schools in California was the defeat of the Black Panthers. Yes, a very middle class white woman said that. She then went on to explain that the Panthers had taken schools seriously and encouraged their members to participate in the PTA, to complain about racist conduct, to demand improvements. With the demise of the Panthers, she said, parents just decided that it was hopeless and withdrew from the battle.

  30. PeonInChief says:

    Alice–

    I’m not ignoring your question, but trying to figure out a response that doesn’t just involve “we need more money.”
    Duh.

    Peon

  31. [...] Mercer wrote an absolutely great post at our group blog, In Practice. It’s titled “Why Not Cure Poverty Instead?” and is outgrowth of a conversation about Ruby [...]

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