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America's Word Gap

Commenting on an NPR story on the disparity in language exposure between poor children and children in professional homes, urban educator Dan Brown questions how much individual teachers can realistically do to close student achievement gaps. He writes:

Students enter kindergarten at vastly different literacy levels. The die, for most, is cast. When I worked at P.S. 85 in the Bronx, the low-literacy kindergartners were already feeling frustrated, behaving oppositionally with teachers, and crystallizing negative attitudes about school. It's terrifying. Blaming these kids' high schools teachers for their low achievement seems way off-base.

What's needed, Brown says, is much earlier intervention ("not just when they turn 5") in at-risk children's language development. "When words are limited," he writes, "options are limited."

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