Building School-Family Partnerships in a South Bronx Classroom

David Bensman



Meeting Sister Sara and Finding Nicole

After Nicole lost her diary, she shared one with Lisette and two other girls. The girls allowed each other to read what each wrote in the diary, which is how Lisette learned that Nicole was thinking about killing herself; how Lisette came to me about it; how I passed this information on to Mrs. Lynns and the guidance office; and how Nicole, and later Justine, received counseling from a woman who was paid by the school from funds received from a grant to prevent drug use.

By the time Lisette told me about what Nicole had written, I already had learned a great deal about Nicole’s life, so her despair did not come as a tremendous surprise. My knowledge inevitably did not arise from my observation in the classroom; indeed, had I remained in the background, the school and I would never have learned what Nicole was going through. One day in November, as the class began to line up to begin the slow, tense journey down two steep and narrow flights of stairs to the lunchroom, I noticed that Nicole was looking especially miserable. Nicole is the kind of girl whose smile can light up an entire room, but when her lips droop down in a frown instead of swooping up in a smile, she looks like she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and she’s going to drop it any minute. I tapped Nicole on the shoulder and asked her to step to the back of the girl’s line so I could talk with her. (Boys and girls lined up separately to minimize distraction during the long wait preceding trips on the staircase. Boys who misbehaved had to stand at the back of the girls’ line, and vice versa).

When I asked Nicole if something was bothering her, she shook her head. I didn’t believe her, so I asked Mrs. Lynns if she and I could take Nicole out to lunch with us, explaining that Nicole looked upset and probably would welcome our attention. Mrs. Lynns told me that was fine, and said that the previous year she had often taken children with her to lunch. Since Mrs. Lynns approved, I invited Nicole to come with us. She accepted, went upstairs to get her coat, and we walked down the hill to a nursing-home cafeteria.

Doing Lunch

Nicole and I waited in line to be served while Mrs. Lynns was washing her hands in the ladies’ room. I told Nicole to order whatever she wanted—salad, cake, Jell-O, or fruit, and one of the hot meals—either roasted chicken with rice and beans or spaghetti with green beans on the side. Nicole looked at the choices arrayed before us on the glass shelves and said to me, “You’re being nice to me?”

After Nicole made her selections, we went to the cash register. The cashier looked at the plastic dishes piled high on Nicole’s tray and told me that Nicole’s meal would be $2.00, while my more modest repast was $3.50. Mrs. Lynns whispered to me that the cashier always gave the children a break, and I thanked her. Nicole immediately began testing the limits of my generosity—when I pointed to the milk, soft drink dispenser, and water cooler asking her what she wanted to drink, Nicole pointed to a soda machine on the other side of the room. Digging in my pockets, I gave her the last of my change, three quarters, to put in the soda machine. That didn’t suffice. On her first attempt, as her quarters disappeared down the slot of a machine that wasn’t plugged in, no soda came out. Not wanting her to feel defeated, and knowing that the Federal grant would reimburse me, I gave her a dollar bill; this time, she succeeded in getting a Pepsi and change.

The Pepsi was, I think, Nicole’s favorite part of the meal, but she dutifully ate as much as she could; between bites, she began to tell us about herself and her family. Nicole said that she lived with her grandmother and six brothers and sisters. She also had a godmother with whom she would spend her weekends; however, the previous summer her godmother moved to Connecticut and Nicole had not seen her since. The previous weekend her godmother was supposed to pick her up but was unable to come. (I surmise this is the reason Nicole had been looking so glum.) The details Nicole shared with us over lunch were the first bits of information that Mrs. Lynns and I knew about Nicole’s family life. Mrs. Lynns had never met Nicole’s grandmother in the two years Nicole had been in her class. No one had ever come to any of the parent-teacher conferences, and no one had ever signed Nicole’s report cards (although guardians were required to do so).

Once we were back in the classroom, Nicole’s meal with Mr. David and Mrs. Lynns became a “hot topic”; by the end of the day, I was committed to taking everyone to lunch. I started another sign-up list, but we had to follow the rules and regulations. Mrs. Lynns insisted that each child bring in a signed permission slip from a parent. In the case of Maria, a little girl whose mother spoke only Spanish, permission did not come for months, until Maria finally asked me to write the note and send it home for her mother to sign. Most children brought in notes right away, and lunchtime became an opportunity for Mrs. Lynns and me to spend private time with each child.

While I viewed lunch as a priceless opportunity to learn about the children’s lives at home, they had other ideas. Spending their free lunch period answering questions from a strange, if sympathetic, adult wasn’t their idea of relaxing. Soon, they began asking if their friends could accompany them to lunch. I agreed, as long as both were going out with me for the first time, because I had agreed to pay for only one lunch per child. Soon the children pushed further: “If their friends brought $2.00 with them, could they come, even if it were their second time?”

Before winter was over, Mrs. Lynns and I were taking groups of four or more students to lunch, not because this was the best way to obtain information, but because the children enjoyed going out with their friends. Some children came more than once a week, and after a while they didn’t even bother to say a word to us, other than “hello, Mrs. Lynns” and “thank you, Mr. David.” Lunch outside the school was becoming a class institution.

Once the children had gotten their “second inch,” they asked for more. Most of them weren’t very happy about the nursing home’s hearty Spanish-style cuisine, although they were generally too polite to say so, and soon they began asking if they could go to nearby fast-food restaurants that served fried chicken and burgers. This was against school rules, of course, and parents certainly had not given permission for their children to walk about the neighborhood. By now, however, Mrs. Lynns could see how much fun the children were having when they went to lunch under Mr. David’s supervision, so she agreed that we could go to local shops within two blocks of the school building.

I remember walking with a group of five or six children to “Munch Time,” a shop located around the corner from the school, where the children clowned around and flirted while they waited for their bacon cheeseburgers and omelets. We were becoming a significant factor in the local economy as children convinced parents to send in lunch money despite the opportunity to receive free hot meals at school (the meals were described as “nasty”).11

On the way back to school, Shakur, a tall, round boy with a high-pitched voice, sometimes tinged with rage (over the death of his mother?), shocked me when he turned to me and said that he had never before had so much fun at school. (Officers of the Parents’ Association, whose headquarters were down the hall from Mrs. Lynns’ class, were troubled, however. Did I have permission to take children off school grounds? Was I compromising their safety?)

On other occasions, I brought food back from local bodegas to the classroom where the children waited under Mrs. Lynns’ supervision, or if Mrs. Lynns had gone to the cafeteria, they were under the supervision of my graduate assistant. The children liked staying in the classroom during lunch break rather than leaving, because they could relax, gossip, go over homework, or listen to music.

Building On Music—My Favorite Thing

Music is another story—I was learning about jazz and decided to share my new enthusiasm with the children, hoping that bringing Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington to the classroom might help them find a new way to connect to their American heritage and provide a point of pride for Nicole, Shakur, and the other African-American children in the class. At first, I brought my CD boom box to class every day, along with my laptop computer and video camera. (I must have looked a sight, walking from my car to the school loaded down with electronic gadgetry.) Soon, Mrs. Lynns gently suggested that I leave the boom box in her classroom, where she would store it in her cabinet overnight so the children could listen to music when I was at Rutgers University.

To my amazement, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and John Coltrane became a part of the classroom. (Mrs. Lynns played music softly when children were reading, relaxing, or taking tests. Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” was most popular at test-taking time.) Children asked if they could take my tapes and CDs home, and soon I was a regular lending library, again with a sign-out sheet.

As I saw how enthusiastically the children were reacting to the music, I searched out Latin titles—Gloria Estefan and Selena singing in English were most in demand. (I’ll never forget the look of delight on Maria’s face when she heard Gloria Estefan singing “Quanto Te Quiero”; finally, Spanish culture is in the classroom!) Soon I began thinking of additional ways to build on the music. I brought in the documentary film “A Great Day in Harlem,” a portrayal of Harlem’s great jazz musicians coming together on a day during the 1950s to have their photograph taken. I thought seeing Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk moving on the screen alive and mischievous might help the children relate to the music. By February, they were writing about African-American musicians for their Black History Month projects. (One child discovered that an ancestor of Mrs. Lynns was a famous blues musician). In March, the children researched the lives of women musicians for Women’s History Month. Marian Anderson, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Gloria Estefan, Dinah Washington, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, Aretha Franklin, and above all, Whitney Houston, become classroom heroines, and their biographies and pictures filled the hallway bulletin boards.

I could tell similar stories about how the video camera and the tape recorder become part of the classroom. It is enough to say, however, that the children enjoyed exploring the possibilities of each piece of equipment, recording their own and their friends’ voices, playing back observations and curses, and documenting performances and special events. Important collective moments included watching the video of one class member playing center for the boys’ basketball team in a victory over rival CES 42; the chorus perform at the headquarters of the school’s corporate sponsor, Capital Re; the cheerleaders perform, especially when Lisette’s underpants somehow are exposed for half a second; or, above all, watching the lancers duel at the class trip to Medieval Times. These were significant events that marked the growth of a consciousness that the classroom had its own culture and history, that it was a community whose members shared pride in their accomplishments, the memory of triumphant and painful experiences, and their own unique collective identity. (Lisette made me promise not to replay her embarrassing segment, however.)

My contributions to the curriculum had profound and complex effects on my work as an ethnographer. My vision of taking notes on my computer did not survive the children’s requests to use the computer for their own purposes. Eventually I brought a tape recorder with me, dictating my memory of classroom interactions into the tape recorder while driving home from school. My videotapes became less useful as documents of school practice after children began playing games with the camera, filling the expensive high-eight tape with long stretches of unwatchable confusion.

Expanding My Boundaries as Ethnographer and Teacher

Stepping out of an observers’ role allowed me to know the children in ways I could never have planned. From my field notes:

December 11, at lunch, Nicole tells me about her past weekend. Her uncle, who had promised to take her out for her birthday in October and failed to do so, took her and her cousin to see Space Jam. They also ate at Roy Rogers, and visited the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Then Nicole brings up something that’s bothering her; she doesn’t like to sit at a side desk, separate from all the other children. (Twenty students sit at four clusters of desks in the center of the room; two clusters of six desks and two clusters of four. Around the periphery of the room, ten children sit at individual desks.) Seating assignments are used as rewards and punishments. Children who misbehave are relegated to the periphery; cooperative children are allowed to sit with their friends. Mrs. Lynns later explained: “I would give them alternatives. Would you prefer to sit with the group or sit on the outside? That’s your choice.12

When I mention to Mrs. Lynns about Nicole’s wish to move, she agrees that Nicole deserves a chance because she’s been doing well. Nicole is delighted to move to an inside desk, and stays there for the remainder of the year. (The boy who’s moved out to the periphery is not happy.)

On Friday, March 7, Nicole begins to cry in class. I suggest we go to the Parents’ Association room, but once we are there, Nicole will not tell me what is bothering her. The following Monday, March 10, she explains she had been crying because her mother is sick with a kidney infection and her grandmother is also sick. She’s moved in temporarily with an aunt who has three children of her own; now there are five children in the apartment. Nicole also tells me for the first time that her mother has a drug problem. A week later, Nicole starts crying near the end of the day. I bring her to the assistant principal’s office. Nicole tells us that her aunt has confided to her that her grandmother has cancer. The assistant principal asks a counselor, Mrs. Black, to meet with Nicole. Mrs. Black tells Nicole how she lost her mother to cancer, and I tell her that my father suffered from cancer for sixteen years. Mrs. Black invites Nicole to come to her for counseling, and offers to help her find counseling outside of school. She also encourages Nicole to bring her aunt to school.

On the worst day of school, March 20, when Mrs. Lynns is absent and an unfamiliar substitute tries and fails to keep things under control, Nicole becomes so upset she begins writing “I hate myself” all over the blackboard. Miriam (another student) tries to erase the words, but Nicole keeps writing them over and over. When I rush her out of the classroom to take her downstairs to see Mrs. Black, there is no one in the office. Believing that Nicole needs help immediately, I head back upstairs to the assistant principal’s office, but she’s in the midst of an important meeting. Finally, overwhelmed by Nicole’s distress and all the tension I’ve absorbed in the “Mrs. Lynns-less” classroom, I take Nicole and Clarissa, who is trailing us, out to lunch with a neighborhood mother (Virginia Patou) as chaperone. Over ham and cheese hero sandwiches and pastry and chocolate, Clarissa chats continuously for an hour until a calmer Nicole finally asks her, “Don’t you ever stop talking?” (Needless to say, I get a stern talking to from the assistant principal for taking the girls out of the school.)

In early April, Nicole tells me that her grandmother has been released from the hospital and has received an Appreciation Day at the local church. “They rolled out a red carpet, gave her plaques, and said nice things about her.”

On a school half day following a morning of test-taking, April 22, I take several children out to lunch at a local Dominican restaurant. On the way, some of the children call their parents on my mobile phone to get permission to come along. After we eat chicharones, fritos, and salad, I notice Nicole shaking. When I ask her why, she tells me that her grandmother is going to be mad at her for coming home late. She also tells me that her grandmother could use the stipend I’m paying families for participating in my study. She asks me if I’d like to meet her grandmother. I suggest that I write a note home saying how much I like Nicole, how she is late because the restaurant took a long time getting us the meal, and how I would enjoy meeting her.

I visit Nicole and her grandmother on April 24, taking along my nine-year-old son, who is on vacation. To my amazement, I learn that Nicole’s grandmother is Sister Sara, the founder and supervisor of a Rescue Mission that houses sixty-five otherwise homeless people. Sister Sara welcomes me, tells me about her problems with diabetes that have kept her from visiting the school, and recounts the history of her Mission. By now, I learn, Sister Sara holds the deed to the two-family house where the Mission is located and raises the money, food, and clothing necessary from a wide variety of nongovernmental sources. The Appreciation Day given her by a neighboring church featured a dozen community leaders, including the local Assemblywoman.

Sister Sara is well-known, a busy manager; God has given her the mission of caring for homeless people and, with some reluctance, she’s taken in her grandchildren to prevent them from being separated from each other while in foster care. When I ask who supervises Nicole’s homework, she tells me that Nicole manages on her own—but that Xenia, one of Nicole’s older sisters, is running wild, and Sister Sara feels powerless against the Devil in her.

I want Nicole to share her pride in Sister Sara with her classmates, and even imagine bringing Sister Sara to class with me to tell the children about her work and to enlist them in helping the Mission, but Nicole won’t have any part in it. Although she does not mind my telling an appreciative Mrs. Lynns about what I have learned, she doesn’t want me to tell her fellow students. I don’t understand this reluctance, but I obey her wishes. (Mrs. Lynns is so impressed by what she hears about Sister Sara that she tells Mr. Johnson, a clergyman and fellow teacher. He says that he knows of her and that his church has donated food and money to her Mission, but he does not know that Sister Sara is Nicole’s grandmother.)

For the remainder of the year, I drive Nicole home from school whenever she asks. Sister Sara introduces me to her assistants, shows me the program for her Appreciation Day, and gives me clippings of the newspaper coverage. After we talk the second time, she accepts my offer to drive her to school to meet Mrs. Lynns.

By the end of April, my son comes with me to visit Nicole on a Saturday. I accompany them to a movie theater where they watch Anaconda and eat lots of popcorn and candy. At the Mission, my son plays Nintendo games on his Game Boy with one of Nicole’s brothers. Over time, I get to know shy, withdrawn Nicole.13

My developing relationship with Nicole and her grandmother forces me to redefine the boundaries of my role as ethnographer and assistant teacher. My own interaction with Nicole, my behavior, her reactions, my feelings, her ups and downs, our pulls and pushes became part of the story and part of my experience helping Mrs. Lynns in the classroom. This past Christmas, six months after my observation period has ended, I call Nicole to arrange to give her a Christmas present and learn from a distressed Sister Sara that Nicole and two of her siblings have been taken to foster care by the police, who are acting for the Bureau of Child Welfare. It is difficult to enjoy my family’s perfect Christmas after that, even though all three of my grandchildren are visiting.

Expanding the boundaries of my roles as both ethnographer and teacher enables me to get to know Nicole far better than I otherwise would have. At the beginning of the year, Nicole came to school armed with a resolve to keep her home life secret. No one at school knows about the role that religion plays in Nicole’s life, or about Sister Sara and the Rescue Mission. Mrs. Lynns, who had Nicole’s oldest sister, Monifa, in class several years earlier, did not realize that the two girls were related until February of the second year that Nicole was in her class. Mrs. Andrews, who had Monifa in her fifth grade class, where she was a “holy terror,” knew nothing of the girls’ background. Loretta Howton, the Assistant Principal, who had known Nicole and her sisters for several years and had met Nicole’s grandmother when she drove Nicole home on a day when the snow was too deep for walking, knows nothing about the Rescue Mission. If Nicole had not gone out to lunch with Mrs. Lynns and me, and if she had not had the computer and a diary in which to write her secrets, no one would have known that part of Nicole that she was so intent on hiding.

Developing Personal Relationships With Children and Their Families—Does This Promote Classroom Learning?

Furthermore, and here I speculate—if Nicole had not been a member of the cheerleading squad, if she had not seen prize-winning performances of that squad played back in class on the VCR, if she had not shared in the music and taken CDs of Marian Anderson and Ella Fitzgerald home with her, would she ever have come in out of the margins, lowered the veil between school and home, and become a full (active, demanding, assertive) participant in Mrs. Lynns’ fifth grade classroom?

This complex question is difficult to answer in the abstract, but my notes on daily classroom activities provide clues about how developing personal relationships affects learning:

On November 6, Mrs. Lynns is teaching the students how to do long division. After explaining the procedure step-by-step, she calls children to come up to the blackboard and has them explain their answers. After forty-five minutes, she asks which children don’t understand how to follow the steps—estimate, multiply, subtract, estimate, multiply, and subtract. Justine, Nicole, Annette, Fatai, Peter, Charisse, Hector, Richard, and Anthony all raise their hands. While Mrs. Lynns works with some of the children, I work individually, first with Clarissa, then with Richard, Nicole, Robert, and Shakur. I end up teaching more than observing. After lunch, Mrs. Lynns jokes with me that if I and a few of my students come in and work with her students on math all year, the district will “put us in charge” of math instruction. (Class size is a central issue. There were thirty-one children in Mrs. Lynns’ classroom, about twice what research indicates is ideal. When Mrs. Lynns and I each taught math to half the class, each of us found our task considerably more manageable.)14

On November 13, about two weeks after my first visit to the classroom, I compliment Nicole because Mrs. Lynns has posted her test paper on the rear bulletin board. Nicole is not easy to please, however. She complains that all the other tests on display have grades of 100 percent, while her paper, which has a grade of 100 percent on the other side, is up for all the world to see with four mistakes on it. But when I ask Nicole to come with me to Mrs. Lynns’ desk to explain the problem, she refuses. So I ask Mrs. Lynns to call Nicole over to her desk. When Nicole explains what’s bothering her, Mrs. Lynns tells her that she put up Nicole’s paper because it bears the highest grade anyone got on that part of the test! Nicole smiles.

On November 20, when Nicole walks up to me to show me her work, I tell her it is correct and I think she is a smart girl. “No,” she replies, “I got a 23 on my science test.” Later in the day, I notice that Nicole isn’t copying the spelling words. I ask her why. “I can’t see them,” she replies. “Why don’t you move up close to the board and copy the assignment down?” I suggest. She moves up to the board and starts copying the assignment. (Later in the year, she begins wearing eyeglasses.)

A few days later, Monday, December 2, is the first day Mrs. Lynns and I ask Nicole to come to lunch. The first thing I ask her is if she knew the answer to a question about pronouns that Mrs. Lynns asked earlier. She says that she did. “Why didn’t you raise your hand when you knew the answer?” I ask. “I didn’t want to make a mistake,” Nicole answers. Mrs. Lynns comments, “Aha, lack of confidence. From now on, please give the answer if you know it. And if you don’t know it, tell me.”

After lunch, Mrs. Lynns and I talk about Nicole, and review the information contained in her school records. Noting that Nicole’s reading scores improved from 32 percent to 48 percent last year, Mrs. Lynns tells me that Nicole “could be a very bright student if she had support at home.”

Four days later, Nicole shows me an essay she’s written. It’s about her plans to travel to Connecticut to visit her “guardmother” [godmother] on the day before Christmas. I tell her to show her essay to Mrs. Lynns, who praises it and says that Nicole’s will be the first paper to go up on the board because it’s the first writing assignment Nicole has finished.

At DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read), I notice that Nicole has no book. I tell her to select a book from the meager classroom library (CES 518 eventually used $1,000 from the federal grant to buy new books for Mrs. Lynns’ classroom), but she says she can’t find one she wants to read. I show her a Nancy Drew story I’d brought in from my older son’s childhood collection and ask her if she wants to read it. She says yes; then she asks why the girl on the cover is not helping the other girl who is drowning. I tell her it’s a mystery, and she’ll have to read it to get the answer. Later, in March, she selects her second book, The Incredible Journey.

Accommodating Student Differences

When I look over my notes now, I see that during the course of the year, Mrs. Lynns and I not only came to know Nicole as a whole person, but we came to see her as an individual student and learner with her own interests and learning style. Based on this knowledge, we were able to provide her with one-on-one instruction, encouragement, and advice.15

Our support enabled Nicole to bring herself into the classroom and its curriculum, making her worlds of home and school no longer so separate. Writing first in the computer and later in the diary, Nicole brought her home concerns into the classroom. She wrote her first composition—about a proposed visit to her godmother—only after we had taken her out to lunch where she told us about her family.

Participation in cheerleading was another school experience that facilitated Nicole’s learning. The cheerleading team of twenty girls practiced twice weekly after school and every Saturday morning, learning and perfecting cheers and dances to perform at school events and public competitions.

When Nicole first informed me that she was a cheerleader, I was surprised. It seemed the kind of activity that outgoing, popular girls like Jessica and Lisette join, but Nicole? It soon became clear that being part of a small community of girls and women brought Nicole friendships and an important sense of belonging. She was forever practicing her moves.

By Christmas, the cheerleaders were performing at interschool basketball games, holiday shows, and local competitions. When I visited the Gaucho Gym in the far South Bronx one Saturday morning to see CES 518’s cheerleaders compete, Squad B, which included Nicole, finished ahead of Jessica and Lisette in Squad A. (The silver medal trophy went into CES 518’s display case in the hallway next to the principal’s office.) The precision, discipline, enthusiasm, and showmanship that Nicole and her squad demonstrated were a world apart from the shyness and loneliness of the girl I’d approached before lunch just two months earlier.

My Reflections

If this were a Hollywood script, the last scene would feature a triumphant Nicole. But reality is a bit different.

The more Nicole reveals about her life, the more intractable her problems seem. Her sister, Xenia, got so “wild” that Mrs. Black, CES 518’s grant-funded drug prevention counselor, begins the process of placing Xenia in a dropout prevention program, hoping that her removal from the Mission would not only “straighten her out” before it was too late, but also make the lives of Nicole and her grandmother easier. Xenia, however, proves not to be the only source of stress; the girls’ mother begins frequenting the Mission to steal whatever she can sell and to scream epithets at her daughters.

Not surprisingly, there are times when Nicole comes to class so miserable that she can’t work. She is removed from the cheerleading squad for not following rules. Mrs. Black, who considers Xenia a more pressing problem than Nicole, provides sporadic, if warm, support.

When Nicole graduates in June, she is still vulnerable, still at risk. This year, forced into foster care with an aunt and two siblings, she is in a strange new school in Brooklyn where she knows no one outside her new family.

The difficult challenges facing Nicole should not overshadow what she has accomplished in the past year. Despite the stress she experiences in her home, Nicole comes to school every day, does her homework conscientiously on her own, learns what the school asks her to learn, passes her standardized tests, reads at least two two-hundred page books on her own, learns about Black contributions to American musical history and culture, writes expressive compositions, and masters long division, decimals, and fractions.

She develops socially as well. By the end of the year, she has formed new friendships with a group of girls with whom she is less competitive than with Jessica, she has a male admirer who takes her to the prom, and she develops a more open and trusting relationship with Mrs. Lynns and me.

These accomplishments are just a sliver of the growth Mrs. Lynns’ students experienced within the past year. The processes that help Nicole—getting to know and be known by her teachers, bringing her family to school and her school to her home, finding outlets in school for self-expression—these same processes enable some of Nicole’s classmates to make remarkable progress. Luther, for example, who was depressed and listless at the beginning of the year, won art competitions and a scholarship for private art lessons (see Chapter Three). For other students, however, barriers at home and at school interfere with cultural interchange and impede academic progress. The story of Clarissa best illustrates the pitfalls that can befall efforts to support student learning.

11All of the children at CES 518 received free lunches under a Federal subsidy program. return to text

12Interview with Mrs. Lynns, February 1998. return to text

13Eventually, I chose Nicole and Sister Sara to be one of my study families. Since I had already chosen the three families my grant proposal specified, I was only able to pay them half the amount of the regular stipend. return to text

14Elizabeth Word et al (1990). Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Tennessee’s K–3 Class Size Study. Final Summary Report, 1985–1990. ERIC Abstract ED320692. return to text

15In Lois Weiner’s book (1993), Preparing Teachers for Urban Schools: Lessons from Thirty Years of School Reform, she says that urban schools are structured and governed in ways that makes such individualization all but impossible. return to text

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