That’s right, dentists. To discover why some students were not focusing on their work as much as others, the school administrators had dentists come by to check for cavities, a potential source of distraction. There is actually much more going on here than having dentists come by the school to check for cavities. The school hires reading and learning coaches for students. It focuses on testing and assessment, and it even creates songs for the students so that they can remember how to study. More interestingly, for a school that is in a mostly Spanish-speaking area of Brooklyn, the school has eliminated bilingual classes:

At P.S. 172, the focus on test material began in February. By mid-April, nearly every moment in class seemed to touch on the effort to help the children pass. Up to five special coaches and teachers were providing help to small groups of students.

While most of Erica Orlando’s 26 fourth graders sat in a cluster on the floor, learning about historical fiction — a genre tested on the exam — Anna Maria Rizzo, a special education specialist, helped a group of eight other children across the room get extra help on biography.

“What’s the first thing we do when we get a piece of text on the test? What’s our little song?” Ms. Rizzo asked her students, handing out highlighters and a passage about Babe Ruth on large sheets of paper.

“We scan the questions first,” the children chorused in a bouncy rhythm. “We scan the questions first. Then we read our story.”

While about one-third of the students are still learning English, there are no bilingual classes. They were eliminated years ago at the request of parents, who noticed that children placed directly in English-only classes, with extra help from teachers of English as a Second Language, were scoring higher.


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