In the border community where Jackie taught, more than 90% of the students attending Adams High School were Hispanic, with 75% of the student body eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch. The school had not met its AYP for three years, with 80% of its students scoring basic or below basic on English language arts standardized tests. There were 29 students in Jackie's class in grades 9—12, and all claimed Spanish as their first language.
Though the students in Jackie's school were predominantly ELL, she said that the students in her own class were not in need of bilingual services. Of their ability to read the ninth-grade-level biology book, she said, you can't send them home with a reading assignment, knowing that they can read the MBT Shoes On Sale words but not well enough to understand the content, so I do need to do additional things to make sure that they are reading and understanding. And a lot of times once they read and then I ask them what they read, and they have no idea.
Jefferson High School, where Charles taught ninth grade, was suburban with a student population of 50% Caucasian, 30% Hispanic, and the remaining 20% a mix of ethnicity. Fewer than 20% of the students were eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch. The school met its AYP goals for the two years prior to the study, with more than 50% of the students scoring Proficient or Advanced on English language arts standardized tests. In Charles's classroom, there were 37 students; 4 identified as ELL with one student on an IEP.
Charles did not use a standard textbook in his class. Instead, students read nonfiction texts such as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and fictional texts such as John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Charles estimated that seven or eight of his students read at or below the seventh-grade level.
Although John taught in a rural setting, he indicated that the term is misleading; the school shared many of the same problems faced by urban schools. At Madison High School 60% of the students were Caucasian, almost 30% were Hispanic, and a large proportion of the remaining 10% were Native American. Less than 50% of the students qualified for free or reduced-cost lunch. Over the past two years, the school met its AYP with approximately 45% of the students scoring Proficient or Advanced on English language arts standardized tests. The 32 students in John's tenth-grade English class were reflective of the school demographics.
Like Charles, John used a variety of literary genres, including fictional texts such as Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, John Knowles's A Separate Peace, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar as major texts. In addition, he used MBT Shoes a text focused on writing essays. John indicated that he had "plenty of problems" getting his students to read and that there was probably a correlation between the seven or eight students earning Ds and Fs and their below-grade-level reading abilities.
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