At-Risk Students by Bill Page
Dramatic, compelling, sobering accounts of the frustration,discomfiture, and defensive ploys of students at risk, through the eyes and from the heart of a teacher who views failure from the students' perspective. Their notorious misbehavior, ranging from incompetence and disrespect to clowning, apathy, and defiance is a cover up for embarrassment and failure. Through vignettes and essays, the author places the reader firmly in the stuedents' moccasins and presents a reality check for teachers coping with disruptive, disobedient kids.
Discrimination Against Low Achievers
A short meningful article from the London Times grabbed my attentionto this day, has never let go. The writer of the article asks, "How many of us really do try to give an equal chance
to all members of the class?"
The following is an excerpt from an article, which appeared in the Educational Supplement of the London Times, entitled "Tackling Disadvantages," by Stuart Smith:
A great deal of current research indicates that many teachers positively discriminate against students they perceive as low achievers. In four different unrelated studies, the following facts were revealed:
- The teachers give the high achiever approximately five seconds to answer a question; whereas, the low achiever gets approximately two seconds to answer the same type of question.
- Low achievers were far more likely to receive a derogatory remark from the teacher for answering incorrectly or failing to answer.
- The low achiever received less praise than did the high achiever when they knew the correct answer.
- When the high achiever experienced difficulty, the teacher repeated or rephrased the question 67 percent of the time, whereas the low achiever received such help 38 percent of the time.'
Discrimination against low achievers was found in every single classroom observation made in both England and the United States. The author's view, based on a large number of classroom observations in Britain, the United States, and Canada, is that many secondary school teachers in oral work largely ignore those students whom they perceive as low achievers. The author placed himself in this category and concludes the article by asking, "How many of us really do try to give an equal chance to all members of the class?...
In an attempt to break the pattern, Sam Kerman. a Los -Angelesresearcher with the California Office of Education, developed a teacher in-service training program, titled "Equal Opportunity in the Classroom." This project was funded under a federal grant and continues to this day. The project seeks to modify teacher techniques so that discrimination against "low achievers" would be eliminated.
Should you wish to experiment for yourself participating in the in-service program, select five "target" students in one or more of your classes for whom you hold high expectations, and five for whom your expectations are low. Then, once every two weeks for three months, another faculty member should observe you. Each observation takes thirty minutes. The observer will code the frequency with which various teaching behaviors are directed toward the students with the high and low expectations.
Many secondary schoolteachers testified that after following the i above program, they increased student self-confidence and improved their classroom teaching. They also spoke of having established a better classroom atmosphere with fewer discipline problems and improved teacher-student relationships.
In conclusion, the author indicated that Keyman's work is respected among California teachers and it is widely believed, he made an important contribution to tackling the problem of underachievement in our secondary schools. Stuart Smith is deputy head of Stamford County Second Schools, Tameside.
A Bill Page Addendum
Just the awareness of a problem's existence or its potential to exist can t) reduced by a periodic reminder of the extent of the problem. Some useful gimmicks you can try to reduce many biases described above are these:
1. Write class members' names on Popsicle sticks. Place the sticks in acup or other container. Choose names randomly (and fairly) as you
ask questions. You can substitute index cards with each student's name. Ask a student to shuffle the cards and cut, then select a card at random to be the next to answer a question.
- Use a check-off list on a class roster to ensure that every student is called on over the course of a day or two of discussion.
- A designated student with a stopwatch might ensure a five-second wait interval between asking a question and calling on a student.
- Groups of three or four students might discuss questions and take turns in giving a response from the group.
- When a student answers a question, s/he goes to the rear of that row and everyone moves forward. Over a period of time, everyone will be in a front seat or at least a different seat, changing the usual pattern.
- Share the problem of bias so that the students can be aware of it and the fact that you want help. When you turn students loose to solve the problem, there will likely be no problem left to solve.
Printed with permission from Educational Dynamics Publishing Company.
At-Risk Students Feeling Their Pain, Understanding Their Defensive Ploys by Bill Page
| Bill Page, a farm boy who graduated from a one-room school, attended a rural high school, flunked out of college, and was drafted into the Korean War. Later, with maturity, military experience and the G.I. Bill, he received his teaching credentials. He became a specialist, teaching middle-school "troublemakers." Bill went on to originate and direct a successful USOE research program for six years. Then for 26 years he taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students with his proven premise, "Failure is the choice and fault of schools--not students.