Closing The Gap - In The Suburbs, Too

Mar 15, 2011

First of three parts

    WEST HARTFORD--Xavier Rosa is stuck. The fourth-grader at Braeburn Elementary School knows that five is not a factor of 57-he got the question right on his homework assignment. And he knows that any number that ends in five is divisible by five. But his teacher, Michele Cashman, presses him to remember what the other half of the rule is, asking him how many cents he would have if he had two nickels.

    "Ten," he says.

    "So, what's in the one's place?"

    "Five," he guesses, as other students impatiently wave their hands in the air for a chance to answer.

    With just a little more back and forth, Xavier lands on the right answer: Numbers ending in five or zero can be divided by five. As Cashman moves on to the next problem, Xavier kneels on his chair, props one elbow on his desk and keeps the other hand high in the air every time his teacher asks a question.

    Xavier is one of 46 students in the 438-student school who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, a widely used proxy for low-income status. Most are from the neighborhood around Braeburn; 16 of them, like Xavier, are bused in from Hartford as part of a desegregation program.

    At first glance, the school's test scores indicate that Braeburn is nothing but an excellent school. In 2010, 92 percent of students were proficient in math, while the percentages for reading and writing were 88 and 93, respectively. But Braeburn's low-income students fared less well: 79 percent reached proficiency in math, while 63 and 69 percent did so in reading and writing, respectively. Xavier was one of the many who did not hit the benchmarks.

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