Can Innovative Education Lower Incidents of Misbehavior?

After reviewing a report that showed that both black and white teachers, when expecting preschool children to misbehave, look more closely for misbehavior from black boys, I told my sister, an educator in San Francisco, about it.

“Then, why do I find that the black children are the worst behaved?” My sister, who has also taught in Chicago, Virginia, and New York, asked.

This past weekend, I saw a movie with a friend, a teacher in New York. She told me over dinner afterward, “Black girls are the worst,” describing their classroom behavior.

Thinking of what my sister had said, I asked her, “What is causing this misbehavior?”

My friend suspects a combination of American popular culture and poverty. When some kids are poor, all they do is watch videos or engage in other activities that are less than wholesome, let’s say. Wealthier kids may indulge in the same behaviors–but because they have a variety of other experiences and influences, they’re not immersed in the activities and are less likely to be as affected by them.

I think her theory may hold some water, but I also wonder if school just isn’t challenging or engaging enough for many poorly behaved kids. Maybe if school was the creative, colorful, invigorating place it’s supposed to be, fewer kids of color would act out.

Gifted Ed for All


That’s one reason I was so excited to hear about a high-poverty school in San Antonio, Texas, that is experimenting with providing gifted education to all its students. I love how the education reportedly involves getting the kids out of their classrooms and studying the creek on the school property in their science, writing, math, and other courses.

To retain teachers, the school has embarked on an innovative plan: train its own. It’s partnering with Trinity University, which has a nationally recognized education school. Teachers in Trinity’s master’s program will work alongside experienced teachers.

Advanced Classes


But innovation is stirring in Rhode Island, too. In a high-poverty middle school on Providence’s south side, a pilot program is underway that provides accelerated learning to all the students. Are the students complaining that the work is too hard? Are they clamoring for lower, easier standards and more time to goof off? Doesn’t sound like it. Providence Journal reports that sixth-grade kids enjoy saying that they’re doing eighth-grade work.

Our education secretary, John King, was kicked out of a prestigious boarding school–but not because he was “bad” or fundamentally ineducable.

I just wonder what’s behind the misbehavior in poor, black communities, and if more challenging, more inventive education approaches couldn’t be part of the solution.

To read more about advanced education in Rhode Island, go here.