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Teach Inner-City Kids As If They're Gifted


Q. We hear so much about how impossible a task it is to help kids overcome poverty and rise about all their problems to do well in school. Surely someone, somewhere, is having success teaching disadvantaged children. Why can't we find out what works well, and adopt that model?


We certainly do know what works with low-income, non-English speaking kids and those with shaky home lives. Ironically, it's the same thing that works with high-income kids from intact families with highly-educated parents.


The solution: good, old-fashioned curriculum and instructional methods employed by teachers who believe in their students.


If there were a magic pill we could give educators, especially those who work in teachers' colleges, so that they would buy in to this simple truth, we could go a long way in a hurry for all kinds of children with all kinds of learning styles and needs.


Exhibit A of the truth about tried-and-true curriculum and instruction being superior to all the progressive, social engineering, politically-correct methods in vogue today:


Project Bright IDEA1, developed by Duke University and the North Carolina Department of Instruction.


Project Bright IDEA treated 900 low-income kids in K-2 in five schools as if they were gifted. The children were encouraged to be persistent, innovative, and thoughtful problem-solvers. They were treated as if they were very smart and given quality, content-based curriculum.


Result: all of the kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on the state literacy assessment, and significant gains were seen in student achievement in all three grades in both literacy and math.


The African-American and Hispanic students posted achievement that was nearly identical to white and Asian students. Not a single child scored below the national average on the tests.


At one of the test schools, the second-graders who were in the Bright IDEA1 classrooms scored in the 80th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills reading exam, while their classmates not in the program averaged in the 39th percentile. And that's even though there were three more children, on average, in the Bright IDEA1 classrooms than the regular classrooms.


Homework: Read more about Project Bright IDEA, and here's the final report.


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 11 2008


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