In Lower Skilled Groups Essay, Research Paper
The cognitive and IQ development of children is very diversified in the United States, in the next pages I will try to provide an explanation for such diversity. Knowing that 40.8% of those in poverty are children (Blank 1997) and knowing their IQ scores and cognitive abilities are not equal to those of greater socioeconomic status, I am inclined to think that poverty and cognitive development have a correlation. My review of literature focused on why the children of poverty are over represented in the under-development of cognitive skills. My first conclusion is that children of poverty are at a disadvantage from their conception to their entrance into the American school system and throughout. Secondly, tracking, a way of ability grouping in the education system, upholds competitive learning even in light of statistical evidence that show cooperative learning is more effective.
My first conclusion, known as environment has two divisions- pre and post-natal. The prenatal refers to the stage of growth of an embryo and fetus. In the beginning stages of pre-natal teratogens which includes any disease, drug, or any other environmental agent that can harm a developing embryo or fetus by causing physical deformities, severely retarded growth, blindness, brain damage and even death. “The list of known teratogens has grown frighteningly long over the years, making many of today’s parents quite concerned about the hazards their unborn children could face” (Shaffer 1999). Exposure to these teratogens also causes low-birth-weight (experiencing slow growth as a fetus). These kids are more likely to “experience learning difficulties and behavior problems at school, and perform poorly on IQ tests (Shaffer 1999). Parents of the impoverished just do not seem to have equal medical knowledge or facilities as many of those in middle and upper-classes. Interestingly Simpson Verp found that pregnant women routinely interact with possible teratogens in their milieu, things such as organic dyes and coloring agents, food additives, artificial sweeteners, pesticides and cosmetic products?the risks associated with a large number of these common chemical additives and treatments remain to be determined (Shaffer 1999). Pregnant women of poverty are more likely to use the less expensive lower quality cosmetics, lower grade foods, and other everyday products to save money for her unborn child whom she is blindly putting into danger. There are many teratogens that are known universally like illicit drugs. But it is not only the mother who can affect the embryo via teratogens; the father is too responsible.
Not only is physical health in the pre-natal environment crucial but mental health need not be forgotten. Women expecting a child must be mentally sound. Temporarily stressful episodes such as a fall or frightening experience have few, if any harmful effects. It is when the stress is prolonged that damage to the fetus occurs. Paarlberg found low-birth weight is one of the more common birth complications, but the researcher Vaughn found more. He found children of highly stressed mothers to be highly active, irritable, and irregular in their feeding, sleeping, and bowel habits (Schaffer 1999). It is not good if you couple an already stressed mother with a child who is irritable and unresponsive, that environment does not fostering the child’s “positive” potential.
But it is not only the mother who can affect the embryo via teratogens; the father is too responsible. Men of poverty more often than not have a low paying job in a factory or other dicey work place where chemical and pollutant exposure is not uncommon. Studies show that males are also susceptible to teratogens that can cause chromosome abnormalities of the father who then passes them on to his kids.
Now, the pre-natal environment plays sizeable roles in the development of children, unfortunately children of poverty are more inherent to reap the negative effects of their pre-natal environment. Effects can be physical, mental, or behavioral.
Even though the pre-natal environment can be hindering, the environment the child is reared in (post-natal environment) can overcome many outcomes of the pre-natal. Ronald Wilson in 1985, focused on twins separated at birth, because they are usually low in birth weight but these twins studied were especially small for twins at birth. We see in chart 4.9 that the twins overall indeed did have a below average mental performance throughout the first 3 years. At the same time it also shows that twins from the middle-class eventually made up their deficits by scoring average or slightly above. Their counterparts (twins in low-income homes) remained largely below average in their intellectual performance. The physical underdevelopment of these children does have an affect on their cognitive abilities. The shortened time span for development does not allow the full amount synapse connections to be produced (Adams-Curtis 1999).
In figure 9.4 it has been found that the greater number of these risk factors affecting a child, the lower his or her IQ.
In ability grouping the track you enter into is largely determined by the result of the IQ or Achievement test scores of the child. Once again unfortunately for those children of poverty, IQ is 50% heritability and 50% environmental. There is what is known as the “Flynn Effect” which attempts to explain the worldwide rise in intelligence test performance (IQ paper). James Flynn described these gains in a systematical order in 1984 and 1987. He found that the average gain in IQ is about 3 IQ points per decade, and explored these reasons. It is easiest to just say it is an increase in population IQ, but the test is restandardized from time to time to keep up with the gains. Now since the same genes then are the same genes now in tested populations the environment had to play a major rule in this phenomenon. This shows once again how big of a role plays in the environment plays in the development of our children and so much predetermined. As for the language of those children in poverty their parents seldom have learned the standard “syntax (John and Goldstein 1964) and there for serve as poor models for their children. A lack of standard syntax could give teachers the idea that a student is less intelligent than she or he really is because of their lack of syntactical complexity.
I am also questioning the effectiveness of tracking/ability grouping as compared to other learning structures. I found that teaching others we are required to “internalize” the information and then translate it into your own words before sharing it with group members. When we discuss ideas with others, opportunities emerge for clarifying information, or elaborating on a topic, asking questions, challenging ideas and taking another’s point of view into account (Putnam 1997). Slavin found that while students should have an opportunity to learn by themselves and to compete with others, students’ master subject matter and develop great self-esteem and social skills (what is needed for good jobs) when they work cooperatively.
First I must say to those critics of cooperative learning, we all have been in a group activity for fun, money/work, or education. True not all group activities are ways cooperative learning, that is why it is important to be able to tell the difference between cooperative ways of learning and the others. Here are five defining characteristics of cooperative learning:
? positive interdependence
? individual accountability
? cooperative skills
? face-to-face interaction
? group reflection and goal setting
Cooperative learning not only helps in the retention and practical use of school knowledge but also teaches skills to help get through life and be successful in the job market.
Tracking takes away that much more of chance children in poverty have to make it out. These kids are already going against the odds when the sperm meets the egg. Then tracking is helping them to stay down; their likelihood of succeeding becomes worse. Just like me most believe tracking is better because without separation it hinders the advancement of the “smarter” students. As I stated earlier it has been shown that one learns better by “internalizing the information” and putting into your own words. We need to train teachers on how to integrate cooperative learning correctly and we can help these impoverished children immensely.
Consider, for example, that a family’s poverty status and lack of adequate income may mean that children from low-income families are undernourished, which could inhibit brain growth and therefore seem listless and inattentive. The undernourishment of even the mothers during pregnancy can lead to low-birth-weight. Further more economic hardships creates psychological distress and a strong discontentment with life’s conditions that makes lower income adults edgy and reduces their capacity to be sensitive and highly involved in their children’s activities. Then these kids go to school and are put in the lower ability tracking courses and made to feel inadequate in themselves. In lower tracks kids are shown to follow instructions carefully and be obedient, while the other class, is shown to be independent and creative thinkers (Social psychology). I would like to apply the Labeling Theory to the argument. We put the label of inadequate, inferior, and less wanted to these impoverished children and then expect them to come out differently. The names or labels we apply to people, places, and circumstances influence and direct our interaction and thus emerging the reality of the situation (Ruane 2000). These impoverished children are at a disadvantage from conception to their entrance and duration of the educational and social system.