Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Children In Room E-4

I love books about education - most likely because I am a former classroom teacher turned school librarian. I also come from a family of educators. My mom taught kindergarten for over twenty five years and is now a high school resource room teacher after finishing a masters in special ed. My dad also taught and was a Lutheran school principal. A few of my aunts and uncles teach. While I was growing up I was surrounded by all things education and remember many a Sunday afternoon conversation at my grandparents' after a big lunch where schools and teaching were discussed.

The Children In Room E-4 by Susan Eaton looks at education in the state of Connecticut. While Connecticut is the focus, education around the United States can be examined after reading this book. Eaton spends time in a Hartford, CT elementary school, watching students in Ms. Luddy's class learn, work and play. This elementary school is very segregated and many children will spend their entire elementary careers never having a white child in their classroom. Eaton includes many statistics about Hartford's urban schools, comparing them to other schools in major metropolitan areas.

Despite many things working against them, Ms. Luddy tries each and every day to reach her students and help them succeed. Although extra time is required and the curriculum is scripted for them, Ms. Luddy never gives up. Eaton contrasts this with suburban schools around Hartford that present a much different picture. Students at these schools are allowed some freedom in their learning. Recess is given twice a day (unlike the urban students who rarely get to go outside). The curriculum allows for teacher individuality and creativity - and these students learn, showing growth in their knowlege and skills. Without a doubt the standardized tests the suburban students take yield high results. The urban students put in time on Saturdays, stay late each weekday and still struggle to meet standards set before them.

The school my own children attend falls neatly into the suburban school model, while the school I work at is definitely urban with many of the same issues the school Eaton writes about faced. As I was reading I could see so much of my own school in this book and so want to talk about it with my co-workers. I don't think there are any easy solutions to problems in education, but there certainly are many opinions on how we can fix them.

Although the state of Connecticut is taken to court to try and fix the problem of segregated education, the resolution to this problem does not yield any noticeable results, and at present Connecticut's urban schools are more segregated than they were when the issue first arose.

The school where I work has just been named a PLAS (Persistently Low Achieving School) and received a grant from the federal government for the next school year to help our students make academic progress. Education reform is definitely a topic at the forefront of our minds here at school, as we look at our own system and how to better it.


Karen Greenberg said...

Thank you for this review. I've put the book on my library list to check out and read. I just graduated with my teaching degree and am in the process of looking for a job for next school year. I enjoy all books about education, how education works today, and how we can improve education.

Peaceful Reader said...

I think I might enjoy reading this. It is fun to think of ways we can reform our educational system!

Katie said...

The Children in Room E-4 sounds super interesting! And a lot like my real life... In the end, did it leave you feeling hopefully about the future of urban education? I know that there are so many phenomenal teachers and administrators working to change the trajectory of our urban schools, but I often find myself wondering, "Is it enough???"