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First grade teacher

I am in complete agreement

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I am in complete agreement with your statement about put downs. You would think this would be common place but too often I have come across teachers that put students down. As an educator of students in poverty situations, we have to remember that some times they experience hard relationships at home. Not having enough (money, food, clothing, time, etc..) can be stressful. A classroom should be a safe environment for all students. If you are putting them down then they do not feel safe and will shut down. At that point all learning has stopped and may not continue until you are able to gain that student's trust again.

7th grade math teacher from Romney, WV

I teach middle school and I

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I teach middle school and I daily see how lack of an academic and social foundation effect students. I liked your point about equal seating. Sometime, unfortunately, it is really easy to place students in the back of the room if they seem uninterested or if they are a behavior problem. I also work very hard with the no put downs. Students have to give two complements if they say something negative about a classmate.

Fourth & Fifth grade teacher from Iowa

Questions...

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I work in a school where most of our students are in poverty. We offer free before and after school services as well as provide shoes, coats, hats, supplies, and food for the weekend.

I whole heartedly agree that we need to be careful how we treat students that receive services for special education. I work at a school where we have co-teaching so all the services are received in the classroom and for most subjects, the special education teacher and I have mixed groups of students. There still is some stigma about certain kids because they quickly realize each other's strengths and weaknesses.

One question I have is, once there is differentiation in place for students and they have basic needs met, do we consider their outlook on learning? Is that where creating a safe learning environment (very early) comes in to create a positive school experience?

My other big question to the post is how to create the "no put down" attitude? Especially in the upper grades?

9-12 Mathematics Teacher

I find you article very

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I find you article very interesting and relevant to education. To me education is about equity not equally. Equity between races and cultures as well as gender equity. I feel that it's all right to acknowledge difference between the students we teach. If an educator says they are "color blind" then that's not a good thing to be. Embrace our students' difference in who they are and how they learn. When we do that we can make the learning for all of our students better, but especially for our minority students and the low-income poverty level students because how they learn matters.

First Grade Teacher, Winter Garden, Florida

I think the idea of closing

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I think the idea of closing the achievement gap is something that all educators are faced with. However the complexities that cause the gap in the first place are not necessarily so easy to overcome. This post takes into consideration a small fraction of factors that contribute to the achievement gap. While I agree that all students are capable of learning, parental expectations, mobility, prior experiences and poor health care are all barriers that were not addressed in this post. Of course as educators we can't combat these things on our own and I think that explicit instructional strategies such as equitable seating and differentiated instruction are a great starting point.

I Agree

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I agree with the basics of your post. Students need to feel welcomed in their classroom, many need that stable environment they do not receive at home. I teach fifth grade in a Title I school, many of my students go home to empty houses, and do not eat until breakfast the following day. Students do not leave all their "baggage" at the door. They need to be able to trust their teacher fully. Teachers need to worry about creating a stable and trusting environment for students if they would like to see academic improvement.
My question would be, how do we improve our students reading scores? Many students are reading far below grade level. Many of my students do not have access to books at home, and their parents do not model reading for them. If we can close that achievement gap in reading, we can hopefully close the gap in many other subject areas.

I enjoyed reading your post, it has given me food for thought.

Ph.D. Student in Education (Teaching & Learning)

A Good Idea. Too Simple.

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This is an interesting read. I definitely agree that turnaround efforts for low-performing, low SES schools needs to start at the elementary level. I've seen firsthand how far away from proficient 3rd graders were in southeast D.C. and I am not surprised that by the time these students reach 8th grade they are already 3-4 grade levels behind. I also agree that impoverished students need food, clothing, shelter, health care and that is a lot to provide, especially if the school is in a poor community.

However, the students that I worked with went to home to empty apartments, without food, slept on floors, had to take care of siblings, and many times were in abused relationships. Bringing these kids to the front of the classroom and being positive and not nearly enough to help these students succeed. They need to trust you. You need to build strong relationships with them and understand their home lives. You need to realize that when you teach, they are more focused on the real world outside of school (i.e., what will I eat this weekend).

I believe it's possible to close the achievement gap, someday. But, I think it's more important that teachers build strong relationships with students and meet students at their own level, allow them to open up, and then challenge them to an appropriate level.

I am so in agreement with the

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I am so in agreement with the idea that differentiated instruction can make all students an integral part of their class. This puts all the responsibility on the classroom teacher. It involves a teaching style that is not lecture based or involves the teacher as the only expert. Teachers need to open the classroom to the thinkers, movers and shakers and carefully orchestrate the learning into many different "parts" as in music. My heartbreaking moments in my school are when the gen ed teacher refers to the resource students as Mrs. Stock's kids or has them leave the room with a paraeducator during work time. I have a shirt with the logo "All children have gifts, they just open them at different times."

teacher researcher entrepreneur

While I agree that all

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While I agree that all student can learn, I believe that differentiated curriculum, instruction, and assessment is one of the best ways to close the achievement gap. Tomlinson, Brighton, and Hertberg (2003) suggest differentiated instruction involves understanding each students' interests, readiness, and learning profile. The issue of poverty is very real and I believe special consideration needs to be made for those from that background. As you rightly suggest, "providing the basics" is essential and "no put downs" is important for establishing a safe learning environment.

However, Paul D. Slocumb (2000) says "Treating all students equally, however, results in singular
identification processes." I believe educators need to read what Ruby Payne and Paul Slocumb (2000) say about giftedness in poverty and "Poverty does not restrict a student's ability to learn" (2009), educators need to understand that the formal school classroom has many built-in, often middle class, barriers to learning for those coming from poverty; however, if educators know what they are, they can help students overcome them.

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