I've already weighed in on Alfie Kohn's ?pedagogy of poverty? article that appeared in Ed Week last week. (See here.) The debate sparked by Kohn's article rages on?in blogs and on Twitter?and my colleague, Mike Petrilli, weighed in today, arguing:
The question of whether affluent and disadvantaged kids need a different kind of education?different instructional strategies, different curriculum, maybe even different kinds of teachers?is a serious one. This discussion is easily demagogued (particularly on Twitter). But it's not racist to say that poor kids?who generally come to school with much less vocabulary, exposure to print, and much else?might need something different?more intense, more structured?than their well-off, better-prepared peers.
On some level, we're overcomplicating this. In the end, the ?achievement gap,? as we now call it, is really little more than a practice gap. And schools that are succeeding in closing it are simply better at creating a culture that makes time for that practice.
In his bestselling book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that, across divergent fields (athletics, music, business, academia), the people who rose to the top had two things in common:
- They had been exposed to and given the opportunity to learn, and
- They had logged at least 10,000 hours of practice.
That's because extraordinary achievement is a function of extraordinary practice. Unfortunately, the sad truth for too many of America's poor children is that they are never given the opportunity to learn. ?And they are even more rarely given the space to practice.
When preparing for a professional development session, I once came across an alarming statistic: By the time s/he starts Kindergarten, the average middle class student has been exposed to 1,700 hours of one-on-one reading. Do you know how many hours of reading the average disadvantaged...