The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 31, 1998 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 31, 1998
Page 10
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A10 SUNDAY, MAY 31, 1998 NATION THE SALINA JOURNAL T EDUCATION Drilling it in Scripted teaching method credited with raising children's scores By The Associated Press HOUSTON — The sound of morning lessons echoes down the halls of Mabel B. Wesley Elementary School like cheers at a basketball game. In unison, with rising intonation, 21 kindergartners answer rapid-fire as teacher .Mary Abdelsayed reels off questions. The children repeat answers up to three times to make sure everyone speaks and soaks in the material. Abdelsayed claps a staccato 1-2-3-4 now and then to drive the pace. "Get ready," she says to cue answers in a tightly scripted teaching method known as direct instruction. It has brought national attention to this school in a poor, mostly black neighborhood. By lunchtime, the class has covered vowel sounds and prepositions, states and their capitals, oceans, multiplication, addition of double-digit numbers, verbal math problems, sentence building, thought problems requiring classification, reading in smaller groups. Educators make pilgrimages to the school, whose 1,060 pupils routinely excel in standard tests. This year, its first-graders ranked in the top 13 of 182 schools in Houston on the reading segment of the Stanford 9, a national test. Pupils in the other 12 schools hail from families generally with far more money than the kids at Mabel Wesley. The teaching method, developed during the War on Poverty of the late 1960s but largely abandoned a short time later, has been revised and spread to lagging schools in Baltimore, Chicago, Broward County, Fla., and parts of Utah. Thaddeus S. Lott, former principal at Wesley, fought the Houston school district for years to keep direct instruction. The school now is in a group of independently governed but public charter schools supervised by Lott. But the method, putting the teacher at the center while stressing practice and repetition, draws the wrath of some who say children need looser, more exploratory styles to By The Associated Press Mabel West Elementary School kindergarten teacher Mary Abdelsayed gives her students a reading lesson earlier this month In Houston. Abdelsayed uses a tightly scripted teaching method known as direct Instruction. build curiosity and confidence. Kenneth S. Goodman, professor of Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona, said the direct instruction method employs "rat psychology" on poor, minority children. "It's one that middle-class parents wouldn't stand for," he said. "Kindergarten is a chance for kids to come to school ... to be with other kids, to get socialized to school, to learn to play together, to hear stories ... ," Goodman said. "To turn it into a kind of place where you're drilled in abstract things that don't make any sense to you — it's not, in the term that the early childhood people use, developmentally appropriate." T SCHOOL PRAYER Clinton declares prayer amendment not needed President says religious expression guaranteed by the First Amendment By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — The right of the nation's children to religious expression is well protected, President Clinton said Saturday, and amending the Constitution to permit prayer in public schools would be wrong. Clinton reissued federal guidelines outlining a wide array of religious activity in which students already are permitted to engage. He used his weekly radio address to argue that authorizing voluntary school prayer by constitutional amendment would be counterproductive. "Helping communities to find common ground about religious expression is the right way," Clinton said. "There's also a wrong way: amending the Constitution." "Some people say there should be a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in our public schools," he said. "But there already is one — it's the First Amendment,' which guarantees both free speech and the separation of church and state. So long as people fully understand their religious rights and they are sensibly applied in public schools, the Constitution "does CLINTON not need to be rewritten," Clinton asserted. Without mentioning it directly, Clinton took aim at the "Religious Freedom Amendment," a measure sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla. It would amend the Constitution to make it easier for students to voluntarily participate in group prayer. The House is expected to vote on the measure soon, most likely on Thursday. T PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE High school student files suit to sit out Pledge of Allegiance Sophomore girl protests pledge's message, says government is corrupt By The Associated Press SAN DIEGO — A high school sophomore who objects to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is fighting for the right to sit quietly during the daily exercise in patriotism. "Until a few months ago, I stood and faced the flag with my hand over my heart and mechanically said the Pledge of Allegiance," MaryKait Durkee said Friday. "But I thought about what the pledge actually meant and I disagreed with message." She said she doesn't believe in God, thinks the U.S. government is corrupt and that American society is too violent, so she shouldn't have to show respect for a country that has so many problems. .After refusing to go along with the pledge, she was threatened with detention, although her mother, told officials at Fallbrook Union .High School the girl has parental DURKEE its permission to forgo the pledge. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit in behalf of the 15-year-old to protect her First Amendment free-speech rights. It all started April 1, when the girl told her world history teacher, Lutz Zastrow, that she would sit quietly at her desk while the rest of the class stood for the pledge. When the class finished, Zastrow ordered her to stand in front of the class and recite the pledge by herself. Durkee refused, raising her voice at Zastrow when he continued to demand her obedience. The teacher threatened her with detention and sent her to the principal's office, the girl said, adding that she also was subjected to ridicule by her classmates. The school, about 50 miles north of San Diego, contacted Durkee's mother, who told officials she had given her daughter permission to not salute the flag. "Hopefully, all people will real- ize that there is another way to express themselves if they want to express themselves, and that they can get support without resorting to drastic measures," Ann Durkee said, adding that she hoped a court victory might restore the girl's faith in the system. The lawsuit seeks a ruling allowing her to sit quietly as others salute. For the ensuing three weeks, Durkee sat silently in her seat during the pledge. On April 25, she was notified she had to serve four hours of detention and stand during the salute. "MaryKait has been standing during the pledge since then — under protest — in order to avoid more disciplinary action," said Linda Hills, executive director of the local ACLU chapter. Hills said it was ironic that the controversy arose in a history class, where students should be learning about the value of freedom, and the courage to fight for it. 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