Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Monday, April 30, 2012

Are teachers ready to teach the Common Core?

A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms. Read on...

Concern Abounds Over Teachers' Preparedness for Standards

Gretchen Highfield gives her 3rd graders instructions for their reading lesson at Robert Kerr Elementary School in Duran, Mich. The School was an early adopter of the common-core standards.
—Brian Widdis for Education Week
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A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms.
"I predict the common-core standards will fail, unless we can do massive professional development for teachers," said Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively about the common-core math standards. "There's no fast track to this."
It's a Herculean task, given the size of the public school teaching force and the difficulty educators face in creating the sustained, intensive training that research indicates is necessary to change teachers' practices. ("Professional Development at a Crossroads," November 10, 2010.)
"It is a capacity-building process, without question," said Jim Rollins, the superintendent of the Springdale, Ark., school district. "We're not at square one, but we're not at the end of the path, either. And we don't want to just bring superficial understanding of these standards, but to deepen the understanding, so we have an opportunity to deliver instruction in a way we haven't before."
In Springdale, which is fully implementing the literacy and math standards for grades K-2 this year, kindergartners in the 20,000-student district are studying fairy tales and learning about those stories' countries of origin. Their teachers have scrambled to find nonfiction texts that introduce students to the scientific method. They've discarded some of their old teaching practices, like focusing on the calendar to build initial numeracy skills.
The Durand, Mich., district is another early adopter. Gretchen Highfield, a 3rd grade teacher, has knit together core aspects of the standards—less rote learning, more vocabulary-building—to create an experience that continually builds pupils' knowledge. A story on pigs becomes an opportunity, later in the day, to introduce the vocabulary word "corral," which becomes an opportunity, still later in the day, for students to work on a math problem involving four corrals of five pigs.
"I'm always thinking about how what we talked about in social studies can be emphasized in reading," Ms. Highfield said. "And it's like that throughout the week. I'm looking across the board where I can tie in this, and this, and this."
Such pioneers of the standards can probably be found the country over. But data show that there is still much more work to be done, especially in those districts that have yet to tackle the professional-development challenge. A nationally representative surveyof school districts issued last fall by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy found that fewer than half of districts had planned professional development aligned to the standards this school year.

Cognitive Demand

By any accounting, the challenge of getting the nation's 3.2 million K-12 public school teachers ready to teach to the standards is enormous.
With new assessments aligned to the standards rapidly coming online by 2014-15, the implementation timeline is compressed. Teachers are wrestling with an absence of truly aligned curricula and lessons. Added to those factors are concerns that the standards are pitched at a level that may require teachers themselves to function on a higher cognitive plane.
When standards are more challenging for the students, "then you also raise the possibility that the content is more challenging for the teacher," said Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. "Of course, it's going to interact with what support teachers receive."

Third graders work on consonant blends and digraphs with Ms. Highfield. "I'm always thinking about how what we talked about in social studies can be emphasized in reading," the teacher says.
—Brian Widdis for Education Week
Anecdotal evidence from a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation studyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader suggests that teachers already struggle to help students engage in the higher-order, cognitively demanding tasks emphasized by the standards, such as the ability to synthesize, analyze, and apply information. (The Gates Foundation also provides support for coverage of K-12 business and innovation in Education Week.)
As part of the foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching project, trained observers scored lessons taught by some 3,000 teachers against a variety of teaching frameworks. No matter which framework was used, teachers received relatively low scores on their ability to engage students in "analysis and problem-solving," to use "investigation/problem-based approaches," to create "relevance to history, current events," or to foster "student participation in making meaning and reasoning," according to a report from the foundation.
Supporters of the common standards say the standards encourage a focus on only the most important topics at each grade level and subject, thus allowing teachers to build those skills.
"It could make things simpler and allow teachers and schools to focus on teaching fewer, coherent things very well. That's the best hope for teachers to build in-depth content knowledge," said David Coleman, one of the writers of the English/language arts standards and a founder of the New York City-based Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit working to support implementation of the standards.
"That said, the standards are necessary but not sufficient for improving professional development," he added.
Each of the two content areas in the standards poses a unique set of challenges for teacher training.
Mr. Wu, the UC-Berkeley professor, contends that current math teachers and curricula focus almost exclusively on procedures and algorithms, an approach he refers to as "textbook mathematics."
But the common core emphasizes understanding of the logical, structural concepts underpinning mathematics—the idea being that understanding how and why algorithms work is as important as crunching numbers.
Many teachers, Mr. Wu contends, will themselves need more mathematics-content preparation. But training focused at least initially on content could be especially difficult for classroom veterans to accept, he concedes.
"After 26 years of doing things only one way, the common core comes along and says, 'Let's try to do a little bit better at this,' " Mr. Wu said. "Well, suppose you've been smoking for that long, and someone says, 'Just stop raising a cigarette to your mouth.' It's difficult—it's 26 years of habit."
Some teacher educators believe that conversation will need to begin at the preservice level, especially for elementary teachers, who tend to enter with a weaker initial grasp of mathematics, said Jonathan N. Thomas, an assistant professor of mathematics education at Northern Kentucky University, in Highland Heights, Ky.
"It's a great opportunity to say, 'Let's just take some time to think about the mathematics and set the teaching strategies aside for a moment,' " Mr. Thomas said. "It's imperative we don't send people out the door with just strategies, tips, and tricks to teach fractions. We have to make sure they understand fractions deeply."

Teacher Gaps

Meanwhile, the English/language arts standards demand a focus on the "close reading" of texts, a literary-analysis skill that has been thus far mainly reserved for college English classes. And they call for expansion of nonfiction materials into even the earliest grades.
"We haven't worked deeply or strategically with informational text, and as the teachers are learning about the standards, they are finding their own instructional gaps there," said Sydnee Dixon, the director of teaching and learning for Utah's state office of education. "That's a huge area for us."
In the Springdale Ark., district, instructional coach Kaci L. Phipps said those changes are also requiring teachers to pay more attention to teaching the varied purposes behind writing—something not as emphasized when most reading materials are fictional and students are asked merely for their responses.
"We keep having to say to these kids, 'Remember, it's not what you think, it's what's in the text,' " she said. "'What is the author doing? What is his or her purpose in writing? How can you support that conclusion with details from the text?' "

Pedagogical Shifts

Pedagogical challenges lurk, too, because teachers need updated skills to teach in ways that emphasize the standards' focus on problem-solving, according to professional-development scholars.
"Teachers will teach as they were taught, and if they are going to incorporate these ideas in their teaching, they need to experience them as students," said Thomas R. Guskey, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Kentucky's college of education, in Lexington. "The PD will have to model very clearly the kinds of activities we want teachers to carry forward and use in their classrooms."
Moreover, Mr. Guskey warned, many teachers won't be inclined to actually change what they are doing until they become familiar with the assessments aligned to the new standards.
Some districts don't want to wait that long, and have found other ways to help teachers begin working with the practices outlined in the standards. In the 1,700-student Durand district, Superintendent Cindy Weber has used a state-required overhaul of teacher evaluations as a springboard.
The Michigan district's new professional growth and evaluation system, which is being implemented this spring, draws key indicators of teacher practice directly from the common core—in essence closing the often-wide gap between expectations for student and teachers.
Principals observing teachers are trained to look, for example, at whether a teacher "uses multiple sources of information" when teaching new content, and "challenges students to present and defend ideas" in the strand on applying learning.
To gauge changes in student growth across the year, as part of the new evaluation system, the district has settled on growth in academic vocabulary as an indicator. In every grade and content area, teams of teachers have come up with those words and related concepts all students must master by the end of the year.
Ms. Weber's reasoning is that teachers will feel new standards really matter if instructing to them is part of their professional expectations.
"You look back over the course of education, and there are so many things tried, yet somehow many classrooms still look the same across the country," Ms. Weber said. "I felt that with our evaluation process, we needed to look at teacher commitment to this model and type of delivery—or teachers may give us lip service and go back to doing what they've done in the past."

State Role

States, the first stop on the professional-development train, are themselves having to change their delivery systems in preparation for the standards.
"Many states are moving away from the 'train the trainer' model and trying to have more direct communications with teachers, because the message either gets diluted or changed otherwise," said Carrie Heath Phillips, the program director for the Council of Chief State School Officers' common-standards efforts.
Delaware has reached every teacher in the state directly through online lessons that lay out the core shifts in the standards from the state's previous content expectations—a process it tracked through its education data system.
Now, state officials are hard at work building an infrastructure for deeper, more intensive work.
The state has organized two separate "cadres" of specialists, one in reading and one in math, who are fleshing out the core expectations at each grade level, outlining how each standard is "vertically linked" to what will be taught in the next grade, and crafting model lessons in those subjects. They're also each constructing five professional-development "modules" for high-demand topics, such as text complexity.
"We've had other standards, but different interpretations of what they meant," said Marian Wolak, the director of curriculum, instruction, and professional development for the state. "We want this to be very clear and distinct about how the standard applies at that grade level and what the expectations are for that standard."
Based on the cadres' work, every district will have a clearinghouse of resources for professional development and be able to tap a local specialist for additional training, Ms. Wolak said.

Teela Patterson, a 3rd grader, works on a reading lesson at Robert Kerr Elementary in Durand, Mich. Teachers there have discarded some of their old practices and picked up new ones as they strive to get their students to master the standards.
—Brian Widdis
Utah doesn't have the benefits of Delaware's limited geography. Its strategy has been building the capacity of a critical mass of trained educators in each district, and then gradually shifting professional-development responsibilities to the local level.
In summer 2011, the state trained about 120 facilitators—teachers nominated from the field with a track record of high student achievement in their subject—in pedagogical content knowledge and adult-learning theory. Then, those teachers facilitated "academies" in ela and in 6th and 9th grade math for their colleagues, which were given at 14 locations in the state, according to Ms. Dixon, the state's director of teaching and learning.
All teachers attending the sessions come voluntarily and are expected to have read the standards beforehand. Afterwards, "the expectation is that both the facilitators and the attendees are back in their classrooms, using the standards, working with the standards, sharing student work, and studying it in [staff meetings], so their colleagues are getting second-hand experience," Ms. Dixon said.
Additional academies are now being set up; the state estimates about 20 percent of its teachers have attended one so far.

District Pioneers

For districts, the professional-development challenge is in finding the place to begin. Those districts apparently the furthest along in the process are integrating the training with successful efforts already in place.
In Springdale, the district has focused on providing teachers with enough time to sort through the standards and observe some of them in practice. It's given teachers up to four days off to develop units aligned to the common core and encouraged teams to discuss student work samples, or "anchors," to help inform their understanding of expectations aligned to the standards.
This year, the district is working to train teachers in grades 3-8 in math. It has spent five years using a problem-solving approach to mathematics known as Cognitively Guided Instruction that district officials say aligns well with the common standards' math expectations. With a handful of teachers now well-versed in the curriculum, it's creating opportunities for teachers new to the district to observe those "demonstration classrooms" at work.
The Durand district's new teacher-evaluation system has helped to make the common standards real, said Ms. Highfield. And while teachers are understandably a bit nervous about the system, it's also causing them to rethink long-standing practices.
"How do I show [an evaluator] that students are thinking and analyzing without a project or experiment? It's a big challenge, and I think it will take a little time to get there," she said. "Before, with the rote learning, you could create a handout, put it in your file and just use it again next year. You can't do that when you're looking at students to apply these skills."
Nevertheless, Ms. Highfield said, she's starting to see the benefits for her students.
"Durand is a fairly poor district; a lot of students don't have a lot of experiences," she said. "We ask them, 'What do you want to do in your life, with your learning? Can you imagine it? How would you get there?'
"I've seen a change in my students, and I think that is a good thing."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

NoodlesTools -- Updated & Easier to Use!

For those of you savvy technology gurus who love simplifying the process of online citations for students, check out this two-minute video of the exciting new release of NoodleTools coming early this summer: It is awesome and looks like it will be very kid-friendly as well!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easier to use writing rubric for students!

Tired of the old 5 point rubrics you have used to score students' writing? Check out this updated rubric, revised by my Department Chair. MUCH more kid-friendly!

Scoring Guide for Writing

Score of 5 (So good that you could sell it to a newspaper or magazine right now!)This paper is excellent, although it may have a just a few small errors. It:

• states a claim, shows excellent thought and uses well-chosen details.

• is well organized, focused, and makes good sense.

• uses language and vocabulary for a good purpose.

• includes a variety of different kinds of sentences. (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex)

• is generally free of errors in grammar, usage or punctuation.

Score of 4 (Need to fix the small mistakes before you can sell it!) This paper is very good with some small mistakes. It:

• states a claim, shows good thinking, and uses appropriate supporting detail.

• is generally organized, focused, and makes good sense.

• generally uses language and vocabulary for a good purpose.

• demonstrates some variety in sentence structure.

• may have some errors in grammar, usage, or punctuation.

Score of 3 (Work on this a little more!)

This paper is good, but it has one or more problems. It

• states a claim but needs better thinking and more supporting detail.

• sometimes lacks organization, focus, and, at times, might not make good sense.

• generally uses language the correct way , but some words are not chosen well and don’t make sense

• has little variety in sentence structure or has some sentence errors.

• may contain errors in grammar, usage, or punctuation.

Score of 2 (Needs more work. Keep going!)

This paper is not very ‘strong’ and has many errors. It

• has a weak claim, weak thinking, and not enough good detail.

• is poorly organized, lacking focus and sometimes doesn’t make sense.

• uses limited language and vocabulary or incorrect word choice.

• has sentences that are very simple. There is no variety in the sentences

• contains a lot of errors in grammar, usage, or punctuation that takes away from meaning.

Score of 1 (Really needs much improvement! Don’t give up!)

This paper is very weak and has many problems

• has no claim and has little, if any, supporting detail.

• is disorganized or makes no sense.

• has many errors in vocabulary and use of language.

• has serious problems in sentence structure.

• contains many errors in grammar, usage, or punctuation; enough that the reader can’t understand what you’ve written.

Score or 0 (What happened?) You never bothered to write your paper. Or, your paper makes no sense at all.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Check out Kelly Gallagher!

Happy Friday, all!

I have a favorite author/teacher for books on writing that I would like to share with you. He is Kelly Gallagher.

I have two of his books, Reading Reasons and Teaching Adolsecent Writers, and I highly recommend them!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

RMS Presents Aladdin, Jr.!

Check out clips from our awesome school musical, Aladdin, Jr.! One of my great friends at school directed the production and did a FANTASTIC job! Kudos to all!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

All it takes is one word... be misspelled!

All you English teachers out there will certainly appreciate this:

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71K   View   Share   Download  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Myth of the Culture of Poverty

This reminds me of Rudy Payne's research on poverty, which I have always found fascinating. My colleague recently shared this informative and enlightening article on poverty with me. Enjoy! 

April 2008 | Volume 65 | Number 7  
Poverty and Learning    Pages 32-36  
The Myth of the Culture of Poverty  
Paul Gorski 

As the students file out of Janet's classroom, I sit in the back corner, 
scribbling a few final notes. Defeat in her eyes, Janet drops into a 
seat next to me with a sigh. 
"I love these kids," she declares, as if trying to convince me. "I adore 
them. But my hope is fading." 
"Why's that?" I ask, stuffing my notes into a folder. 
"They're smart. I know they're smart, but . . ." 
And then the deficit floodgates open: "They don't care about school. They're unmotivated. And their 
parents—I'm lucky if two or three of them show up for conferences. No wonder the kids are unprepared to 
At Janet's invitation, I spent dozens of hours in her classroom, meeting her students, observing her 
teaching, helping her navigate the complexities of an urban midwestern elementary classroom with a 
growing percentage of students in poverty. I observed powerful moments of teaching and learning, caring 
and support. And I witnessed moments of internal conflict in Janet, when what she wanted to believe 
about her students collided with her prejudices. 
Like most educators, Janet is determined to create an environment in which each student reaches his or 
her full potential. And like many of us, despite overflowing with good intentions, Janet has bought into the 
most common and dangerous myths about poverty. 
Chief among these is the "culture of poverty" myth—the idea that poor people share more or less 
monolithic and predictable beliefs, values, and behaviors. For educators like Janet to be the best teachers 
they can be for all students, they need to challenge this myth and reach a deeper understanding of class 
and poverty. 
Roots of the Culture of Poverty Concept 
Oscar Lewis coined the term culture of poverty in his 1961 book The Children of Sanchez. Lewis based 
his thesis on his ethnographic studies of small Mexican communities. His studies uncovered 
approximately 50 attributes shared within these communities: frequent violence, a lack of a sense of 
history, a neglect of planning for the future, and so on. Despite studying very small communities, Lewis 
extrapolated his findings to suggest a universal culture of poverty. More than 45 years later, the premise of 
the culture of poverty paradigm remains the same: that people in poverty share a consistent and 
observable "culture." 
Lewis ignited a debate about the nature of poverty that continues today. But just as important—especially 
in the age of data-driven decision making—he inspired a flood of research. Researchers around the world 
tested the culture of poverty concept empirically (see Billings, 1974; Carmon, 1985; Jones & Luo, 1999). 
Others analyzed the overall body of evidence regarding the culture of poverty paradigm (see Abell & Lyon, 
1979; Ortiz & Briggs, 2003; Rodman, 1977). 
These studies raise a variety of questions and come to a variety of conclusions about poverty. But on this 

they all agree: There is no such thing as a culture of poverty. Differences in values and behaviors among 
poor people are just as great as those between poor and wealthy people. 
In actuality, the culture of poverty concept is constructed from a collection of smaller stereotypes which, 
however false, seem to have crept into mainstream thinking as unquestioned fact. Let's look at some 
MYTH: Poor people are unmotivated and have weak work ethics. 
The Reality: Poor people do not have weaker work ethics or lower levels of motivation than wealthier 
people (Iversen & Farber, 1996; Wilson, 1997). Although poor people are often stereotyped as lazy, 83 
percent of children from low-income families have at least one employed parent; close to 60 percent have 
at least one parent who works full-time and year-round (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2004). In 
fact, the severe shortage of living-wage jobs means that many poor adults must work two, three, or four 
jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute (2002), poor working adults spend more hours working 
each week than their wealthier counterparts. 
MYTH: Poor parents are uninvolved in their children's learning, largely because they do not value 
The Reality: Low-income parents hold the same attitudes about education that wealthy parents do 
(Compton-Lilly, 2003; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Leichter, 1978). Low-income parents are less likely to attend 
school functions or volunteer in their children's classrooms (National Center for Education Statistics, 
2005)—not because they care less about education, but because they have less access to school 
involvement than their wealthier peers. They are more likely to work multiple jobs, to work evenings, to 
have jobs without paid leave, and to be unable to afford child care and public transportation. It might be 
said more accurately that schools that fail to take these considerations into account do not value the 
involvement of poor families as much as they value the involvement of other families. 
MYTH: Poor people are linguistically deficient. 
The Reality: All people, regardless of the languages and language varieties they speak, use a full 
continuum of language registers (Bomer, Dworin, May, & Semingson, 2008). What's more, linguists have 
known for decades that all language varieties are highly structured with complex grammatical rules (Gee, 
2004; Hess, 1974; Miller, Cho, & Bracey, 2005). What often are assumed to be deficient varieties of 
English—Appalachian varieties, perhaps, or what some refer to as Black English Vernacular—are no less 
sophisticated than so-called "standard English." 
MYTH: Poor people tend to abuse drugs and alcohol. 
The Reality: Poor people are no more likely than their wealthier counterparts to abuse alcohol or drugs. 
Although drug sales are more visible in poor neighborhoods, drug use is equally distributed across poor, 
middle class, and wealthy communities (Saxe, Kadushin, Tighe, Rindskopf, & Beveridge, 2001). Chen, 
Sheth, Krejci, and Wallace (2003) found that alcohol consumption is significantly higher among upper 
middle class white high school students than among poor black high school students. Their finding 
supports a history of research showing that alcohol abuse is far more prevalent among wealthy people 
than among poor people (Diala, Muntaner, & Walrath, 2004; Galea, Ahern, Tracy, & Vlahov, 2007). In 
other words, considering alcohol and illicit drugs together, wealthy people are more likely than poor people 
to be substance abusers. 
The Culture of Classism 
The myth of a "culture of poverty" distracts us from a dangerous culture that does exist—the culture of 
classism. This culture continues to harden in our schools today. It leads the most well intentioned of us, 
like my friend Janet, into low expectations for low-income students. It makes teachers fear their most 
powerless pupils. And, worst of all, it diverts attention from what people in poverty do have in common: 
inequitable access to basic human rights. 
The most destructive tool of the culture of classism is deficit theory. In education, we often talk about the 
deficit perspective—defining students by their weaknesses rather than their strengths. Deficit theory takes 
this attitude a step further, suggesting that poor people are poor because of their own moral and 
intellectual deficiencies (Collins, 1988). Deficit theorists use two strategies for propagating this world view: 
(1) drawing on well-established stereotypes, and (2) ignoring systemic conditions, such as inequitable 
access to high-quality schooling, that support the cycle of poverty. 
The implications of deficit theory reach far beyond individual bias. If we convince ourselves that poverty 
results not from gross inequities (in which we might be complicit) but from poor people's own deficiencies, 
we are much less likely to support authentic antipoverty policy and programs. Further, if we believe, 
however wrongly, that poor people don't value education, then we dodge any responsibility to redress the 
gross education inequities with which they contend. This application of deficit theory establishes the idea 
of what Gans (1995) calls the undeserving poor—a segment of our society that simply does not deserve a 
fair shake. 
If the goal of deficit theory is to justify a system that privileges economically advantaged students at the 
expense of working-class and poor students, then it appears to be working marvelously. In our 
determination to "fix" the mythical culture of poor students, we ignore the ways in which our society cheats 
them out of opportunities that their wealthier peers take for granted. We ignore the fact that poor people 
suffer disproportionately the effects of nearly every major social ill. They lack access to health care, living- 
wage jobs, safe and affordable housing, clean air and water, and so on (Books, 2004)—conditions that 
limit their abilities to achieve to their full potential. 
Perhaps most of us, as educators, feel powerless to address these bigger issues. But the question is this: 
Are we willing, at the very least, to tackle the classism in our own schools and classrooms? 
This classism is plentiful and well documented (Kozol, 1992). For example, compared with their wealthier 
peers, poor students are more likely to attend schools that have less funding (Carey, 2005); lower teacher 
salaries (Karoly, 2001); more limited computer and Internet access (Gorski, 2003); larger class sizes; 
higher student-to-teacher ratios; a less-rigorous curriculum; and fewer experienced teachers (Barton, 
2004). The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (2004) also found that low-income 
schools were more likely to suffer from cockroach or rat infestation, dirty or inoperative student bathrooms, 
large numbers of teacher vacancies and substitute teachers, more teachers who are not licensed in their 
subject areas, insufficient or outdated classroom materials, and inadequate or nonexistent learning 
facilities, such as science labs. 
Here in Minnesota, several school districts offer universal half-day kindergarten but allow those families 
that can afford to do so to pay for full-day services. Our poor students scarcely make it out of early 
childhood without paying the price for our culture of classism. Deficit theory requires us to ignore these 
inequities—or worse, to see them as normal and justified. 
What does this mean? Regardless of how much students in poverty value education, they must overcome 
tremendous inequities to learn. Perhaps the greatest myth of all is the one that dubs education the "great 
equalizer." Without considerable change, it cannot be anything of the sort. 

What Can We Do? 
The socioeconomic opportunity gap can be eliminated only when we stop trying to "fix" poor students and 
start addressing the ways in which our schools perpetuate classism. This includes destroying the 
inequities listed above as well as abolishing such practices as tracking and ability grouping, segregational 
redistricting, and the privatization of public schools. We must demand the best possible education for all 
students—higher-order pedagogies, innovative learning materials, and holistic teaching and learning. But 
first, we must demand basic human rights for all people: adequate housing and health care, living-wage 
jobs, and so on. 
Of course, we ought not tell students who suffer today that, if they can wait for this education revolution, 
everything will fall into place. So as we prepare ourselves for bigger changes, we must  
 Educate ourselves about class and poverty.  
 Reject deficit theory and help students and colleagues unlearn misperceptions about 
 Make school involvement accessible to all families.  
 Follow Janet's lead, inviting colleagues to observe our teaching for signs of class 
 Continue reaching out to low-income families even when they appear unresponsive 
(and without assuming, if they are unresponsive, that we know why).  
 Respond when colleagues stereotype poor students or parents.  
 Never assume that all students have equitable access to such learning resources as 
computers and the Internet, and never assign work requiring this access without 
providing in-school time to complete it.  
 Ensure that learning materials do not stereotype poor people.  
 Fight to keep low-income students from being assigned unjustly to special education 
or low academic tracks.  
 Make curriculum relevant to poor students, drawing on and validating their 
experiences and intelligences.  
 Teach about issues related to class and poverty—including consumer culture, the 
dissolution of labor unions, and environmental injustice—and about movements for 
class equity.  
 Teach about the antipoverty work of Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, the Black 
Panthers, César Chávez, and other U.S. icons—and about why this dimension of their 
legacies has been erased from our national consciousness.  
 Fight to ensure that school meal programs offer healthy options.  
 Examine proposed corporate-school partnerships, rejecting those that require the 
adoption of specific curriculums or pedagogies.  
Most important, we must consider how our own class biases affect our interactions with and expectations 
of our students. And then we must ask ourselves, Where, in reality, does the deficit lie? Does it lie in poor 
people, the most disenfranchised people among us? Does it lie in the education system itself—in, as 
Jonathan Kozol says, the savage inequalities of our schools? Or does it lie in us—educators with 
unquestionably good intentions who too often fall to the temptation of the quick fix, the easily digestible 
framework that never requires us to consider how we comply with the culture of classism. 
Abell, T., & Lyon, L. (1979). Do the differences make a difference? An empirical 
evaluation of the culture of poverty in the United States. American Anthropologist, 
6(3), 602–621. 
Barton, P. E. (2004). Why does the gap persist? Educational Leadership, 62(3), 8– 
Billings, D. (1974). Culture and poverty in Appalachia: A theoretical discussion 
and empirical analysis. Social Forces, 53(2), 315–323. 
Bomer, R., Dworin, J. E.,May, L., & Semingson, P. (2008). Miseducating teachers 
about the poor: A critical analysis of Ruby Payne's claims about poverty. Teachers 
College Record, 110(11). Available: 
Books, S. (2004). Poverty and schooling in the U.S.: Contexts and consequences
Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum. 
Carey, K. (2005). The funding gap 2004: Many states still shortchange low- 
income and minority students. Washington, DC: Education Trust. 
Carmon, N. (1985). Poverty and culture. Sociological Perspectives, 28(4), 403– 
Chen, K., Sheth, A., Krejci, J., & Wallace, J. (2003, August). Understanding 
differences in alcohol use among high school students in two different 
communities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological 
Association, Atlanta, GA. 
Collins, J. (1988). Language and class in minority education. Anthropology and 
Education Quarterly, 19(4), 299–326. 
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Paul Gorski is Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education, Hamline University, St. Paul, 
Minnesota, and the founder of EdChange (; 651-523-2584; 

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