In the late 1970s I taught English grammar and literature in the 7th grade. I used the same literature book that my two daughters had used when they were students in the school only two years before. It included portions of books, single stories and poems written by authors including Carl Sandburg, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway and Anne Frank. The themes were real life—loneliness, poverty, joy, broken homes, shame, pity. The first paragraph from one story included the words infatuated, distraction, periodicals and metaphorically speaking.Remember this?
The next year the school was integrated with students bused in from downtown Columbus. These literature books were put in storage and replaced with short-story books about animals with human characteristics. Animals were used so that there were no blatant stereotypes of human beings, no hint of direct bias toward a group or idea.
I retrieved the former books, so sorry was I that these students could not also get lost in their incredible prose. But it was to no avail—so many words were unfamiliar to the students that there was no meaning to the sentences. OK, I tried reading the stories to the class. That lasted about a week. A whole class time could easily be used in delving into the background of one word to get the meaning.
And we wonder why students suffer from vocabulary inequality?
Back in 1977, having watched SAT scores fall for 15 years, the College Board, which developed and administers the SAT, engaged a panel to try to identify the underlying causes of the decline. A first hypothesis to be checked was whether the test had somehow become more demanding. But, no, to the contrary, indications were that scoring had become more lenient. A second prominent hypothesis was that the decline was due to changes in the demographics of the test takers. Analyses shows this hypothesis to be largely correct, but only for a brief while. Over the early 1960s, changes in the composition of the tested population accounted for as much as three-quarters of the test score decline—and, no wonder, for during this period the number of students taking the SAT tripled. Over the 1970s, however, though the test-taking population stabilized, the scores did not. Instead, the decline continued, even steeper than before, while the extent to which it could be ascribed to demographic shifts shrank to 30 percent at most. Furthermore, the scores that dropped most were those of the strongest students, the students in the top 10 percent of their class; the scores of students toward the bottom of the distribution held steady or even increased.AND SEE:
Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts
by Marilyn Jager Adams
American Educator | Winter 2010 - 2011
stop the multiverse, I want to get off