©2000 E. McAllister
Cesario accurately identifies the main issue of this case study as a teacher’s alleged differential treatment of lower income students. The evidence as presented by Gold and Quattrone could support such a claim; however, there are several underlying issues that could account for the conflicting opinions of these three teachers.
Todd is a veteran English teacher. One can assume she possesses certification in the area of teaching English or by the nature of her years of experience she is recognized as a legitimate authority in terms of teaching this subject matter. On the other hand, Gold and Quattrone are not certified to teach English. They are relatively new educators, certified in music and art respectively, teaching English only part time. Although they may possess appropriate knowledge related to educational pedagogy, their expertise in the discipline of English may be questionable. Cesario is correct in suggesting their authority in this area is interpretive in nature. A recent report published in Texas indicates that students taught by appropriately certified teachers score higher on standardized tests than students who are taught by teachers not certified in the area in which they are assigned to teach (Johnston, 1999).
Cesario suggests a third party who could resolve this dispute. Both Gold and Quattrone appear to trust Todd’s judgment. As outlined in the case study, she has provided them with much assistance as they assumed their roles as English teachers. The mentor/mentee relationship that has evolved offers Gold and Quattrone an opportunity to further explore their concerns regarding Todd’s treatment of certain students without the intervention of a third party. Perhaps with the start of the new term, Gold and Quattrone could enlist Todd’s assistance in assessing their students’ work, especially the work completed by those students considered low income. In this way, Gold and Quattrone might learn one of two things. Either they are correct in their assessment of Todd or their own grading procedures are not compatible with Todd’s; therefore, some of their students have difficulty adapting to the expectations as set forth in Todd’s class. If this is the case, Todd could assist Gold and Quattrone in developing more challenging teaching and assessment strategies to better prepare their students for the rigor of the 8th grade excellerated curriculum. Expectations for students do increase as students move closer to their high school years. It is possible that the material and work load in the accelerated 8th grade curriculum is too challenging for some students who easily achieved success in the lower grades.
If after working closely with Todd, Gold and Quattrone feel Todd is unfairly grading certain students they have a moral responsibility to bring this issue to the appropriate administrator. At that point, it becomes the administrator’s responsibility to investigate the matter and take the necessary corrective measures.
Recently designed standardized tests have begun using holistic scoring of student work. Such a technique involves at least two readers who assess student assignments. Although impractical on a daily basis, a strategy that incorporates multiple graders could control for assessment bias in this school.
To this writer, a more disturbing issue arises from this case study. Todd is considered an excellent teacher who has earned her ‘right’ to teach only the best students. This comment alone tells the reader there is a hidden curriculum in place within this school. It appears as though this school adheres to the traditional philosophy of schools as ‘selection’ mechanisms where students are assigned traditional roles with no allowances to move beyond their station in life. Such a school is aligned with the beliefs of the conflict theorists who believe schooling is a social practice supported and utilized by those in power to maintain their dominance in the social order (Fineberg & Soltis, 1998). As Perkinson (1995) point out, education for the masses, in this case the lower class students, is intended to be less intense aimed at socializing this group for their place in society.
All students deserve to be taught by master teachers. However, who more needs the expertise of a highly esteemed veteran teacher than those students with learning difficulties? In Johnston’s (1999) summary of the Texas report, he states that those students most in need of remedial services are those most likely to be taught by teachers working outside their areas of expertise. It appears from reading this case study, it is exactly those students who appear to be assigned to less able teachers in this junior high school. Perhaps the fault here lies not with Ms. Todd, but within the culture of the school, a culture she has been a part of for many years. Cesario alludes to the popularized self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps Todd has recognized that although at times the system will allow the ‘poorer’ student to enter the excellerated track, this same system within and beyond the school continues to fail the less able student. Todd, therefore, recognizing she has little control over the larger educational system, focuses her energies on teaching those selected to be successful, the ‘elite’ upper class.
Feinberg, W. & Soltis, J.F. (1998). School and society. New York: Teachers Press, Columbia University.
Johnston, R. C. (1999, May 12). Texas study links teacher certification, student success. Education Week, 19-20.
Perkinson, H. J. (1995). The imperfect panacea: American faith in education. Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.