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eheller's picture

inquiry project proposal

For my project, I would like to look at the issue of culurally-biased questions on standardized tests and how they affect the scores of minority students. This question was sparked when I observed the 3rd-graders at my placement reading the book "100 Dresses", a book I had read in my own 3rd grade class. This book was written in the 1940's and is about a white girl being teased by her classmates because she is poor and wears the same dress to class everyday. The students had trouble remembering the old-fashioned, traditionally white names, such as Peggy and Maddie and struggled with words in the book that had no relevance to their lives. I then called my sister about this and she told me that her urban students struggled with the questions on standardized tests because of their cultural bias. She gave an example of the question "What color is a banana?". Though the answer may seem obvious, some students who are poor may not have access to fresh fruit or what they do have is not ripe, so they may say a banana is partially brown. Some students may be used to plantains instead, so they would say that a banana is green. 

eheller's picture

my placement

My placement is at a public K-8 school in Philadelphia, and I have been there twice already. The first day of my placement was one of the most overwhelming mornings of my life. The school is in a nice location and I had a lovely walk from Suburban Station to the school. The school looks like any other school from the outside, but inside it is rundown and institutional-looking.The school is predominately African-American, and many of the students are low-income.

I am in a third-grade classroom. The class only has 18 students, and I was surprised at how small the class was. However, its small size does not mean that this is an easy class. Several of the students have behavioral issues and some have learning disabilities. The students that act out distract the other students from their work, and the teacher has no productive way of dealing with these kids other than yelling at them and sending them out of the room. The students who are behind in learning cannot keep up with the rest of the class, and the students who are advanced do not get any challenges or any extra attention from the teacher because she is so busy trying to help kids who are behind. Because of the PSSA and the extreme pressure on the school to raise test scores, the teacher is forced to teach to the test and teach them how to answer the specific questions instead of focusing on more general skills or creative thinking. The test has things like plot structure and poetry on it, which is way too challenging for some of the kids who are reading on about a first grade level. 

qjules's picture

"What does citizenship mean?"

In Levinson's "No Citizen Left Behind"  as the students converse about Bush's intentions, Levinson had superior doubt before realizing her students were partially correct about 9/11. Reading their sentiments did not surprise me at all, for the fact that 1. I share a neighborhood and city with the students in this piece and I did not know the New York Bourroughs or the Pentagon and as a child, and 2. I shared what seemed to be common knowledge in our community: That Bush was not fond of us. Our parents said it, Kanye said it, voting said it, Hurricane Katrina said it; so to me the students did not sound ridiculous, they sounded quite aware. Today it seems the message blacks recieved from their president in 2004 is the same message they are getting from their legal system in 2014.

eheller's picture

the privilege of a small college

In the conversation between Ira Shor and Paulo Friere, Ira brings up the point that in most college classes, teachers "didactically lecture" to students, a "'cost effective' education" with "minimum personal contact between professors and students". She goes on to day that professor-contact and dialogue is reserved "for students at the most costly universities, where money is invested in small classes for the elite." When reading this, I immediately thought of the small classes at Haverford and Bryn Mawr. I always thought of this as a perk of going to a smaller college, but after reading this, I realized that it is a privilege that few students get to experience.

Many of my friends from high school went to UMass Amherst, the flagship MA state school. Though they are still recieving a quality education, I was shocked when they told me about their lectures, which could be as big as 400 people. They can't really ask questions, have no class discussion, and their professor doesn't know their name. They were equally surprised when I told them about my 15-30 person classes, where the professor knows each person individually, classes are discussion-based, and there are no TA's. UMass is a much more affordable option for some people than an elite private school. I am lucky to be able to afford to go to a small liberal arts school, and I have taken the advantages of small classes for granted. 

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