"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Bread and Water Curriculum of the Lower Caste

From the ContaCosta Times:
The leather sleeves of his varsity jacket resting on the table, seventh-grader Brandon Wilson copied down the vocabulary words with his left hand. Formidable. Cacophony. Impenetrable.

He wrote out the pronunciation using a guide ("a, as in pad, bat"), and, with a stubby yellow pencil that had no eraser, he copied the meanings of the words from the New Webster's Student Dictionary.

This is one of three language arts classes Brandon takes every day at Adams Middle School in Richmond, and his second with teacher Deborah Brittain.

Across the room from the flat-screen computers where they take their quizzes, adjacent to the classroom's diminutive library, three massive metal pots sit on top of the fridge -- the last vestiges of the room's prior purpose: home economics.

Brandon flipped the pages of the dictionary.

"I wanted to take art or wood shop," Brandon said. "I'll get an elective next year."

Under federal pressure to increase scores on English and math tests, many low-achieving schools in the Bay Area and across the country are loading up students with two or even three periods of math and English and abandoning electives such as art, music and shop.

Most students at Crespi Middle School in Richmond take no history class, teachers say, because they are in multiple remedial math and English courses, casually known as double blocking. Nearly a third of Glenbrook Middle School in Concord takes an extra English or math class during school. . . .

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