I agree about the combination of explicit instruction and high quality music lessons, field trips that don't eat into the already too short school time, and I would add foreign language or Latin instruction) enriching an explicit curriculum for students from poverty. With a higher proportion of effective explicit instruction in the early grades for children from poverty, the proportion of explicit instruction needed in higher grades would diminish after basic foundational skills were mastered.
As I read your comment, I have to chuckle, because I keep remembering an office mate of mine in an ed school who couldn't believe that I disagreed with his writing that poor children should have access to the same rich constructivist education that children had in the affluent suburb in which I was living. I tried to explain to him that affluent Midwestern districts had become so constructivist that at times more than a hundred parents were attending school board meetings because they wanted their children to learn "stuff" and stop wasting so much of their time in group-project oriented learning. The district’s experiential science and math, journaling, and silent reading had led to a dramatic decline in rigor and many parents were upset. Tutoring in the suburbs exploded exponentially as a more acceptable way to deal with what Milt Rosenberg in Chicago called the "dumbing down" of suburban education. It was incomprehensible to my office mate that I was sending my daughter to a blue-collar Catholic high school forty minutes away, given that I was a Unitarian, in order to get her a curriculum and teachers who expected grammatically correct writing, still assigned classic books, and had students still memorizing key information in content areas. I wasn’t surprised when my daughter went to Harvard and found that almost all of the Midwestern students were Asian and had parents who recognized the limitations of their American schools. Those parents described years of evenings teaching what hadn’t been taught during the day. I was disappointed to find out that my best attempts to get a “rich” education weren’t enough and that the science, math and classics that kids from prep schools and the best eastern schools had put them years ahead of her as a frosh at Harvard. In humanities, it’s much easier to catch up, but science and math – her science major entry switched quickly with that reality.
Once rigorous education diminished so dramatically during the surge of constructivism in the mid 80's in Midwestern suburbs, that when you discuss education for the "rich" you have to recognize you are talking almost exclusively about east coast education for the rich (and some west coast private schools). In the Midwest, as the exposure to great literature disappeared, it was replaced by making toothpick bridges, middle school popsicle stick castles, dropping eggs from spoons without breaking them, endless journal writing, and charting rollercoaster movement at amusement parks (after 2 kids and many neighbors having that experience anyone, anyone who thinks it's not a waste for anyone but the most scientifically minded students has their eyes closed to reality.) The bridges, castles, dropped eggs and roller coaster watching heralded the new creativity, rigor, and development of critical thinking skills. For the most part, what I observe in classrooms today reveals that affluent suburban education in 2009 remains essentially the same as that back then. The other day sitting in a typical affluent middle school, I observed a teacher reading to students, followed by students journaling, followed by cutting out and pasting faces on paper with students then finding synonyms in the books they were reading to write next to the pasted faces. Finally the two-hour language arts block was finished. I wouldn’t wish this “rich” schooling on any child from poverty.
When I volunteered for the Obama campaign, it was interesting to be around so many 20-year-olds and hear them discuss how “cheated” they felt about their education. Many of these kids went to fine universities and came from “affluent” backgrounds attending schools in affluent suburbs. But they knew that should they be cornered by the Leno show, all the core knowledge that they didn’t know would be exposed. A few were surprised that we “older folks” so readily could add two-digit numbers without a calculator and preferred to do that when there were only a few numbers. Others painfully discussed how their lack of phonics learning to read made law school almost impossible when the “big” words flooded so much of the text. An older volunteer who works at the local branch of a prestigious national firm confided to me that they assume that all of their new young hires need remedial writing classes and they provide them. As affluent suburbs (at least in the Midwest) attempted to design stimulating, creative, experiential classes focused on developing critical thinking, they left the road and many students in the dust.
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