To the Editor:
I am in agreement with Carol Ann Tomlinson’s reply to James R. Delisle on differentiated instruction (Jan. 7, 2015, and Jan. 28, 2015).
Differentiated instruction has been of deep interest since I received my introduction to it in 1969 from Donald D. Durrell at Boston University.
Curriculum Associates recently introduced a K-12 reading and mathematics adaptive diagnostic, i-Ready, that determines students’ functioning at the subskill level and maps online instruction for each student accordingly.
Our related teacher professional development is focused on data-driven, differentiated instruction. Not surprisingly, we are seeing exceptional student learning gains across the ability spectrum, nationwide—gains that have been independently validated.
Ms. Tomlinson mentions poverty and lower-track classes. Poverty, per se, has very little to do with observed lower functioning. Decades ago, Betty Hart and Todd Risley found the oral-language deficit experienced by low-functioning students accounts for much of the so-called “ability” gap. Lev Vygotsky’s earlier work, Thought and Language, nailed a profound connection between oral language and cognition and foreshadowed this functioning gap.
Lower-economic-class low-functioning is, in large part, a product of the oral-language deficit in children’s early years—the impoverished oral-language environment in the home that is a major culprit. And, alas, that is too often the case in the homes of minority students. Thus, low-tracking is not caused by race, nor low socioeconomics, but the poverty of the home language environment in the early years.
A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2015 edition of Education Week as Poverty, Low-Tracking, and The Role of Differentiation