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Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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Center X administers not only the Teacher Education Program but also multiple research-based professional-development and community-outreach programs intended to help children in low-income schools gain access to a quality education. One program in particular has proven highly effective in helping to boost the math scores of LAUSD students. (See "Math Proof," page 23.)

According to Center X administrators, some of the bigger roadblocks to a quality education reside most frequently in low-income, urban settings — scarce resources, cultural and economic factors that affect the learning environment, and lowered expectations that make academic excellence an afterthought.

For example, poor nutrition resulting from economic hardship or cultural mores leaves many students unprepared for classroom learning, say UCLA-prepared urban-school teachers. Absences from illness that should last two days stretch out over two weeks because a family lacks access to affordable, quality health care. Home environments without proper supervision or work areas conducive to learning prevent students from completing assignments. Violence on the street and in school — a gun that a student was carrying once went off in Morris' classroom; no one was injured — spread fear and anxiety. Earlier this year, Morris said, some students couldn't reach school because of a police investigation into a neighborhood shooting. "Attendance is our biggest problem," she says. "I never know who is going to show up."

Teachers entering this environment need a specialized set of skills, says Associate Professor of Education Megan Franke, director of Center X. "These teachers need to understand and appreciate the community in which they are teaching," she says. "They need to know who can help them solve the dilemmas they have on a daily basis."

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