There were some good pieces in her narrative but I was looking for more. I do appreciate that this is a tough subject to tackle and can lead to a whole lot of misunderstandings. However, the reality in some urban areas such as the one I work with, is that the majority of students are minorities and the majority of the teachers/administrators are not. I do believe that this can lead to misunderstandings particularly around parental involvement and procedural school-based issues. I was hoping that Delpit would explore these topics a bit more and provide ideas as to how we can all work together to create a better system.
Her focus is primarily on African American students, which is fine, but I would have liked a meshing with other populations who are part of the growing achievement gap. I do agree with her in that children are all born fundamentally equal in ability and talents; the impact to their future can happen through systemic racism and preconceived notions about what is achievable. I know that many students are discouraged from pursuing AP courses or even college because of what educators think they can do. It is also interesting that of all the professions very little in professional development for educators focuses on urban issues, cultural differences and the impact poverty has on student lives.
I hope that her voice is added to others that standardized assessments are not the only way to value and rank students, and that the education system can return to focusing on content as well as basic skills. Although I had initially been a big fan of Teach for America, Delpit and other education leaders are shedding light for me on how this model may be causing more harm than good.
The best thing to get out of her book is that the Hart-Risely study is really examined. I have been in many meetings where this study is quoted and used as the basis for program development and policy changes. Delpit is the first writer I have read who takes a look at this work and questions its applicability across populations. The study basically states that a child's later abilities and achievement is linked to the number of words they hear in the first three years of life; however the study sample was very small and the link between quantity of words and development cannot be made so neatly.