kitchen table math, the sequel: Allison and Palisadesk on high-SES versus low-SES kids and schools

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Allison and Palisadesk on high-SES versus low-SES kids and schools

Here in the Twin Cities, we are experiencing multiple and opposing forces at the same time.

Hainish, I see some low-SES kids in private schools here that are worse off than if they were in high performing low SES schools. The rest of the school is barreling along doing discovery math, and these kids have no chance to learn. High SES kids are eventually tutored privately, but low SES kids aren't. It is more noticeable in reading, where these kids get no phonics instruction, but the high SES kids eventually get IEPs and massive services to support terrible reading comprehension.

But, they are better off than being in Minneapolis public schools, where they would get no phonics and TERC investigations.

Plenty of low SES charters here are a total disaster. they may not be quite "guide on the side" but the teachers largely have no idea content matters. So there are no drills in math, no sense of what must be known year to year. No urgency.

Another big factor I see here is the "school expects home to teach math facts, but forgets to tell home that." A typical example for me is parents are shocked to find out their 4th grader is not competent at multiplication, and teacher is recommending summer school. They come to me to ask what is going wrong, and how do they help their child. Among other things, I suggest they ask teacher "how many minutes a day is spent on math facts in class?" They do, and receive the response "none".

Meanwhile, I see other schools where the parents are involved but to negative effect. In another typical example, the parents provide a steady steam of complaints if their child is not getting an A. This encourages group work and discovery learning, rather than tests that can be graded.
HAINISH: "Palisadek, if you are correct, then low-SES students in high-SES-area schools should be worse off than those in low-SES schools."

I think this may well be true, for several reasons. As Allison explained, the low-SES kids don't have the outside tutoring/afterschooling etc. that higher-income families routinely provide, and they tend (this is a generalization) to respond poorly to unstructured learning situations, which much "group work" and "exploratory learning" seems to be. They haven't got the resources at home or school to do artsy projects, may not have access to a computer or the Internet (or even a telephone!) at home, may have other responsibilities after school, not be able to afford field trips and school clubs/sports etc.

A previous school I worked at was in a neighborhood separated by a large city park from a very wealthy area of manicured million-dollar homes. The school for that neighborhood served these very affluent families, who comprised most of the enrollment, but on the edge of the neighborhood, bordering a freeway, there was a smallish public housing project. The children there also attended this school. So you had the very poor and the extremely rich. The school got allocated some extra special education staff for the "project" kids, but both socially and academically those children were isolated and tended to be academically unsuccessful. A top teacher from my school transferred there a few years ago and tells me that the great divide is still present, and the school does not have the kind of supports low-SES kids need.

For example, at my school the library has been kept open after school for parents and children to come in and use the computers for research, skill practice, homework and so on. Even though math facts are taught, many children need much more practice than can be given in class; we recommend some online sites for practice and pay for some sites where children can practice reading skills online (about 40% of our students have internet at home). Teachers also provide tutoring and support over the lunch hour and run academic clubs like math clubs and spelling clubs to reinforce basics in an engaging way.

Upper-income schools don't, in my experience, provide this kind of thing. Their students are leaving after school for Little League, swimming, horseback riding and gymnastics. Our students are leaving to care for younger siblings or help mom and dad at the bakery.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the lower-SES parents feel uncomfortable in a milieu of affluence (less so if it is a mix of working poor and working class), so parents aren't as involved in the school as they would be in one that was more reflective of their own social station.

One benefit, we do get away with a lot of direct teaching (phonics included) even though it is less than optimal. I compared my school's test results with those of one near my home, which has a median family income of 250K (I live on the poor side of the highway, LOL). My school roundly trounced this school, despite being 60% ESL and 95% nonwhite. Test results are only one indicator, but it does show that our kids are learning and we hope they will have a chance to make their way in the world.

1 comment:

lgm said...

We're seeing the middle SES students as the losers. The wealthy tutor privately to make sure their children are ready for honors/AP, while the poor get extensive remediation and tutoring from the district. Those in the middle can't afford the tutoring and don't qualify for remediation...they are misfits and they have nothing until they fall two years behind.