30 Chapters
Medium 9781934009451

Appendix: Study Design

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

This study was conducted by collecting data from 34 public schools in the United States scattered across four regions (see the table on page 123). Those regions were East, Midwest, South, and West. The sample included 11 elementary schools, 14 middle schools, and 9 high schools. These schools ranged in student enrollment from small (200–400), medium (401–1,000), and large (1,001+). Student socioeconomic status spanned poor (50%+ students receiving free and reduced lunch), moderate (10%–49%), and affluent (9% or less). Student racial population ranged from diverse (more than two racial groups of 25% or more), moderate (three or more racial groups of 10% or more), and homogeneous (one racial group more than 90% of student population).

This study was an ethnography, and data was collected using three methods. The data was collected over a 3-year period from 2004–2007. Informal observations of classrooms in session during regular school hours, staff meetings, teacher team meetings, and other formal and informal gatherings of staff members were used to collect observational data. Formal interviews were conducted with each building principal and a randomly chosen group of teachers at each school. Each interviewee was asked the same questions, and his or her answers were tape-recorded. A document review was done at each site. These documents included student grade reports, student and staff attendance reports, and standardized test results. The names of staff members and students were kept confidential on all reports provided by building and district administration.

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Epilogue: A Significant Impact

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

As a former teacher and administrator, I can appreciate the challenges that educators face on a daily basis. It is not easy to work with students from diverse backgrounds and value systems and still create the harmonious school ethos and shared value system that the public expects. But if we are to be a society that mirrors this expectation we have of schools—diverse, just, and harmonious—we must transform our public school system to accomplish this end.

The purpose of this book is to stimulate conversation and inspire educators to analyze the impact of their belief systems on their practices, and how those practices impact their students. When students are nurtured in a culture where educators believe in their potential to do the extraordinary and work together to achieve this end, all children can be successful. This goal is hard to accomplish if the school staff is divided into four political groups with four different agendas. In a school culture where educators are aware of stereotypes, historical injustices, and the effects of being socialized in a class-based society, they are better prepared to create a healthy, nurturing environment for students—whether that school is located in an economically affluent suburb or in a housing project in an economically depressed inner city.

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5 The Survivors

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

During the course of this study, a small but important group of teachers emerged. This group was not large in number, and in most cases, leaders responded appropriately to their needs. I call this group the Survivors. A Survivor is an educator who has completely given up on practicing effective instruction and has focused his or her energy on a new mission: survival until the end of the school year—and in some cases, the end of the school day. The Survivors made up less than 2% of the educators observed in this study, but if gone unchecked, they can have an absolutely devastating impact on their students’ chances of receiving a quality education.

A comprehensive study conducted at the University of Tennessee showed that students assigned to ineffective teachers continue to show the effects of such teachers even when those students are subsequently assigned to very effective teachers (Sanders & Rivers, 1996). The residual effects of both very effective and ineffective teachers are measurable 2 years later, regardless of the effectiveness of teachers in later grades. The same study also found that students who have three effective teachers or three ineffective teachers in a row have vastly different achievement levels. Because of differences in teacher effectiveness, students whose achievement levels were similar in mathematics at the beginning of third grade scored 50 percentile points apart on fifth-grade achievement tests just 3 years later. Poor and ineffective instruction can completely undermine the fundamental mission of the school. This is why leaders must remove teachers who have become burnt out or depressed from the classroom and address their issues. It is what is best for the student as well as the teacher.

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Chapter 1: The Historical Context of the Achievement Gap

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

You must maintain unwavering faith that you
can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the
difficulties
, AND at the same time have the
discipline to confront the most brutal facts about
your current reality, whatever they might be
.

JIM COLLINS

There are real measurable differences among the levels of educational benefit that various groups of students receive. These differences are popularly referred to as the achievement gap. Nearly all scholars, politicians, and professionals who are upset and moved to action about the achievement gap tend to focus heavily on the racial gap. Other than race, the second most discussed and analyzed factor affecting achievement inequality has been the issue of poverty.

Harvard University is a leading authority on this issue, and it has established the Harvard Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI), led by renowned scholar Ronald Ferguson. AGI is dedicated to the study and eradication of the achievement gap, which is defined as:

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Chapter 5: The Victim Mindset

Anthony Muhammad Solution Tree Press ePub

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent
.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

If equality is to become a reality, the onus cannot lie on the shoulders of one group. Dan Lortie (1975) writes that “it is illogical to expect a group of people who have personally benefited from a system to become the catalyst for changing the system” (p. 74). I do not begrudge communities and school systems that strive for excellence for their students, but I believe that they are responsible for supporting policies and creating an atmosphere that protects their superior ranking to the detriment of other communities, schools, and students. So, what is the responsibility of the oppressed?

In a seminal 1951 work, Eric Hoffer, award-winning moral and social philosopher, sums up the dilemma of the oppressed perfectly:

Discontent by itself does not invariably create a desire for change. Other factors have to be present before discontent turns into dissatisfaction. One of these is a sense of power. Those who are awed by their surroundings do not think of change, no matter how miserable their condition. When our mode of life is so precarious as to make it patent that we cannot control the circumstances of our existence, we tend to stick to the proven and the familiar. (p. 7)

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