Page 227

because of socioeconomic disadvantage, inadequate organization of instruction in the schools they attend, limited proficiency in English and in standard English, and cultural differences.

TEACHING READING TO CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY

As noted in Chapter 4, social class differences, especially measured in the aggregate, have long been recognized as creating conditions that lead to reading difficulties (Stubbs, 1980), although there is considerable variability within social strata. The conditions causing the reading difficulties are complex, however, and do not rest solely on home experiences (Baker et al., 1995; Delgado-Gaitan, 1990; Goldenberg et al., 1992). Low income level can be accompanied by other factors that place children at risk, for instance, attending a school that has chronic low academic achievement.

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was the first major federal aid specifically for children from low-income neighborhoods. There were great expectations that Title I would not only help disadvantaged children but indeed also close the large achievement gap between poor children and others. However, the original Title I was actually a funding mechanism rather than a specific program or policy for assisting students at risk; in fact, Congress mandated that all school districts should be eligible for at least some of the Title I funds. Furthermore, because little was known about which compensatory practices or interventions were effective, these federal funds were not used to fundamentally alter the educational opportunities provided to children in poverty (Mosher and Bailey, 1970).

The results of initial evaluations of Title I were quite discouraging, and national studies suggested that there was little evidence that the program had any impact on eligible children, although state and local evaluations provided some evidence of a significant positive impact (Wargo et al., 1972). There were charges that Title I funds were being misspent. Threatened with the loss of funds, states responded by separating further the education of students eligible for these funds by pulling them from their regular classes and putting



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement