QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly all other countries. “–Krashen


Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly

all other countries. But our overall scores are unspectacular because we have

such a high percentage of children living in poverty.

Increasing pressure on teachers and parents will not significantly improve

achievement, but if we can protect children from the effects of poverty,

American tests scores will be at the top of the world.

The writer is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California

Rossier School of Education.

— Stephen Krashen
http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1290

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About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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14 Responses to QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly all other countries. “–Krashen

  1. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: We need LOTS of letters flooding papers across the country with this message.]

    Published in Sacramento Bee
    10/29/2010
    To the editor

    Poverty key to school problems

    Re “To fix our schools, unions must let go of status quo” (Viewpoints, Oct. 27): Bonnie Reiss thinks that American schools have fallen behind schools in other countries.

    The basis for this statement is our low scores on international tests when compared to other countries. Our scores, however, are only low because we have such a high percentage of children in poverty, compared with other countries that participate in international tests. When we consider only middle-class children who attend well-funded schools, our math scores are near the top of the world.

    Our overall scores look low because the United States has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (well over 20 percent, compared to Denmark’s 3 percent).

    Our educational system is not “broken,” as Reiss claims. The problem is poverty.

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1284

  2. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: ]

    Submitted to New York Times but not published
    11/22/2010
    To the editor

    This letter is brilliant, pressing the point that we must press all the time: It’s the poverty, stupid.

    Tony Wagner, Arne Duncan, and Thomas Friedman (“Teaching for America,” Nov. 20) agree that Denmark, Finland, and Sweden outperform the US because their teachers graduate in top one-third of their classes

    There is another explanation: Poverty. The percentage of children living in poverty in Denmark is 2.4%, in Finland, 2.8%, and in Sweden 4.2%. In the US the percentage is 21.9. Poverty means poor nutrition, substandard health care, environmental toxins, and little access to books; all have a strong negative impact on school success.

    Middle class American children attending well-funded schools outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. Our overall scores are unspectacular because we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty.

    Increasing pressure on teacher education, teachers, and parents will not improve achievement, but if we can protect children from the effects of poverty, American tests scores will be at the top of the world.

    Sources:

    UNICEF, 2005. Child Poverty in Rich Countries, 2005. Innocenti Report Card No.6. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence. AvaIlable at: http://www.unicef.org/irc

    Malnutrition, hunger: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit; Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2).

    Health care: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.

    Environmental toxins: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit; Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in “failing schools.” http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.

    Access to books: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited; Neuman, S.B. & Celano, D. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26; Di Loreto, C., and Tse, L. 1999. Seeing is believing: Disparity in books in two Los Angeles area public libraries. School Library Quarterly 17(3): 31-36.

    — Stephen Krashen

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1288

  3. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: EVERYONE, not just folk in Rochester, should heed Stephen Krashen’s warning: US Department of Education has plans to vastly increase testing.]

    Submitted to Rochester Democrat & Chronicle but not published
    10/14/2010
    To the editor

    Testing in schools: It’s going to get worse

    The Rochester Area Coalition for Common Sense held a rally to protest the excessive amount of testing children are subjected to under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (“Group Rallies for Education Reform,” October 14). The US Department of Education has no plans to reduce testing. In fact, they have announced that they will vastly increase the amount of testing done.

    NCLB tested reading and math once a year. According to the Department of Education’s “Blueprint for Reform,” the new tests will include “interim” tests given throughout the year, and it is likely that major tests will be given in the fall and spring, in order to measure growth. The Blueprint also strongly recommends testing other subjects as well as reading and math.

    There is no evidence that increasing standardized testing improves learning. Billions will be wasted in useless efforts to measure achievement, not to improve it.

    — Stephen Krashen
    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1276

  4. eslkevin says:

    Submitted to Washington Post but not published
    10/10/2010
    To the editor

    The Manifesto got it all wrong

    The Manifesto (“How to fix our schools,” October 8) presents proposals that have no support from the research: Studies indicate that performance-based teacher evaluation based on test scores is inaccurate, that financial incentives and restructuring do not work, that charters are no more effective than non-charters, and that technological innovations, despite the hype, typically do not live up to their promise.

    The Manifesto ignores the real problem: Poverty. The best teaching cannot overcome the enormous negative influence of malnutrition and hunger, lack of health care, environmental toxins, and lack of access to books. Clear evidence that poverty is the problem is the finding that American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the US has a very high percentage of children in poverty (over 20%, compared to Denmark’s 3%).

    The first step in “reform” is to protect children from the effects of poverty: Improved health care, good food, and improved libraries and library services for children in high-poverty areas. When all American children have the advantages that middle-class children have, our international test scores will be at the top of the world.

    — Stephen Krashen

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1277

  5. eslkevin says:

    Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published
    10/02/2010
    To the editor

    Where are the education dollars going?

    Sent to the Los Angeles Times, October 3

    The Times points out that President Obama is calling for a longer school year while school districts, short of money, are reducing instruction (“Extending the school year,” Oct 2). Where are the education dollars going?

    The money will be spent on new tests. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required an unreasonable amount of testing. Education Secretary Duncan wants to increase testing far beyond NCLB levels.

    NCLB tested reading and math once a year. According to the Department of Education’s “Blueprint for Reform,” the new tests will include “interim” tests given throughout the year, and it is likely that major tests will be given in the fall and spring, in order to measure growth. The Blueprint also recommends testing other subjects as well as reading and math.

    There is no evidence that increasing standardized testing improves learning. Billions will be wasted in useless efforts to measure achievement, not to improve it.

    — Stephen Krashen

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1273

  6. eslkevin says:

    Submitted to New York Times but not published
    09/20/2010
    To the editor

    Susan Engel (“Scientifically tested tests,” September 20) is right: There is far too much testing going on in schools. There is no need to test every student to get an accurate picture of where the problems are: When you go to the doctor they don’t take all your blood, just a sample.

    Engel article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/opinion/20engel.html?emc=eta1

    — Stephen Krashen

  7. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: Once again, Stephen Krashen nails it. Use his model letter for letters of your own. Don’t let false allegations about schools go unchallenged. Stephen makes our job easy.

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1263

    ]

    Submitted to New York Times but not published
    09/13/2010
    To the editor

    Thomas Friedman (“We’re No. 1(1)!,” 9/11) asserts that American education has declined, our test scores are low, and that we must therefore demand more of our students.

    This is all wrong. American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high-poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores look low because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark’s 3%). American education has been successful; the problem is poverty.

    The solution is not to blame students for being lazy (our elders said this about us). The solution is to protect children from the damaging effects of poverty: better nutrition (Susan Ohanian suggests the motto “No Child Left Unfed”), excellent health care for all children, and universal access to reading material.

    — Stephen Krashen

  8. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: As the media keeps reporting those claims that roll off Standardisto tongues, we must be grateful to Stephen Krashen, who doesn’t let them get away with it.

    After gratitude, must come action. Use the information Stephen provides to send your own letters of refutation.]

    Published in Time Magazine
    09/11/2010
    To the editor

    “A call for action” (September 20) is based on two incorrect claims: American students are poor in reading, with 69% of 8th graders “below proficient”, and the US “trails most other rich nations” in science and math.

    The late Gerald Bracey published compelling data showing that the “proficient” level on our national reading test is set far too high: Bracey reported in 2007 that only 29% of American children scored at the proficient level or higher. According to Bracey’s analysis, only 33% of Swedish children would have scored proficient or higher on our tests, and Sweden consistently ranks at or near the top of the world in reading. Setting the proficiency level unreasonably high is an excellent way of making our students look bad.

    Our science and math test scores are unspectacular, but the problem is not science and math education. Studies show that American students from well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore all or nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores look low because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark’s 3%). Our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.

    “A call for action” is a call for tougher schools and longer school days, a painful and hopeless path. Instead, we should be focused on protecting children from the effects of poverty: Proper nutrition (no child left unfed), health care, and access to books. When this happens, all American children will have the advantages that middle class children have and our test scores will be among the best in the world.

    — Stephen Krashen

  9. eslkevin says:

    Submitted to New York Daily News but not published
    08/30/2010
    To the editor

    Education secretary Arne Duncan (“Let’s unleash all data on teachers,” August 29) is in favor of using increases (or decreases) in student test scores (known as “value-added” analyses) as a factor in teacher evaluation even though he understands that “even the best data systems won’t tell the whole story.”

    Value-added test scores shouldn’t be used at all, because they are unstable and inaccurate: Studies show that different reading tests give different ratings, and a teacher evaluation based on a value-added analysis from one year does a poor job of predicting scores for the next year. Also, value-added ratings are easy to manipulate by teaching students test-taking strategies, which raise scores without increasing learning.

    Being opposed to the use of value-added analyses for evaluating teachers does not mean being opposed to evaluating teachers. It means being opposed to inaccurate methods of evaluating teachers

    — Stephen Krashen

  10. eslkevin says:

    [Susan notes: This is a very important letter. Everyone–EVERYONE–should send a version of it to the Los Angeles Times.

    http://www.susanohanian.org/show_letter.php?id=1250

    Do this immediately.]

    Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published
    08/15/2010
    To the editor

    The LA Times (“Who’s teaching LA kids?” August 15) is practicing educational research without a license, and is practicing it poorly. The value-added analysis of teacher quality used by the Times is based on test scores. It assumes that the test scores are valid, that teachers are randomly assigned to classes, and that the results for individual teachers are stable. None of these assumptions have been validated.

    The analysis also ignores the potent influence of other factors on student achievement, such as poverty, which is typically a stronger predictor of student achievement than teaching quality.

    The Times also neglected to follow the usual procedure of sharing work with the academic community before making it public to millions of readers. They also put reporters in the role of expert observers of teachers. What’s next, a value-added analysis of brain surgery, with newspaper reporters critiquing surgical procedures?

    — Stephen Krashen

  11. eslkevin says:

    Submitted to Time Magazine but not published
    08/02/2010
    To the editor

    Time says that “well-off American students may be falling behind their peers around the world” ( The case against summer vacation, August 2). Not so.

    Studies show that American students attending well-funded schools who come from high-income families outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Only our children in high poverty schools score below the international average. Our scores are mediocre because the US has the second highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (22%, compared to Denmark’s 2.5%). This strongly suggests that our educational system has been successful; the problem is poverty.

    The summer slump in reading among children of poverty has been linked to lack of access to reading material. Children from low-income families read less because they have little access to books at home, at school and in their communities. Public libraries in high-poverty areas are not well-funded, and have fewer materials and are open fewer hours than those in low-poverty areas.

    The most obvious, important, and economical first step toward eliminating the summer slump in reading is better funding of public libraries in high-poverty areas and more support for librarians who know what children really like to read.

    — Stephen Krashen

  12. eslkevin says:

    Children of God
    At Grissom Elementary 300 of 800 kids are homeless.

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2010-12-23/news/children-of-god/

    By Margaret Downing Wednesday, Dec 22 2010

    The older kids led the way, younger siblings trailing in their wake, as they broke into a school. It wasn’t a random act of vandalism. No graffiti was painted on the walls. Computers weren’t hauled away, and the petty cash drawer was untouched.
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.
    Margaret Downing
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.
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    More About

    * Sheila Edwards
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    * Deborah Coleman
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    “All they took was food,” said Sheila Edwards, assistant principal at Grissom Elementary, a pre-K-to-fifth grade neighborhood facility off Post Oak plunked down in an area dominated by yards upon yards of metal shedding and nearby houses that can be carefully kept or ringed with garbage tossed out on the lawns.

    Caught on videotape, the culprits were quickly identified. The break-in hadn’t actually occurred at Grissom, but since some of the children went to Grissom and one was in fourth-grade teacher Sherri Norwood’s class, Edwards and Norwood figured it was their business and went to the home to sort things out.

    “We went to the house and, oh my goodness, it was bad,” Edwards said. So she called the kids over and said: “Whatever you all took from the school, bring that stuff back here front and center.”

    They told her: “We were hungry.” She asked a boy who was there what there was to eat. He told her there was a jug of water in the refrigerator. And other than a few packets of seasoning, he wasn’t leaving anything out in his inventory. There was just a lone gallon jug of water.

    “So Ms. Norwood and I started digging in our purses because we had to feed these children today. We knew there had to be something for the long term, but in the short term on the route back to school, we stopped at Popeyes and bought them a box of chicken and side orders.” Back at the school, they put the kids around the table and ordered them to eat, setting aside some for their older sisters at another school.

    Of the 800 kids at Grissom Elementary, 300 of them — or 37 percent — are classified as homeless (a number not reached until the end of the school year last year). And Grissom isn’t unique or even the school with the most homeless in the Houston Independent School District — that distinction probably goes to Ruby Thompson, which is tied into the Star of Hope family shelter.

    Homeless doesn’t always mean kids are out on the street or living in a shelter. At Grissom, most have moved in with another family, whether friends or relatives — that’s called “doubling up.”

    They can be classified as homeless while they’re still in their houses or apartments but have no utilities because the family can’t afford to pay for them. “You have the shell of the house, but you have no running water, no electricity; you’re basically camping in the house,” said Peter Messiah, head of the HISD Homeless Education Office.

    Across the sprawling urban-suburban-rural district that is HISD, there are 3,000 kids identified as homeless, Messiah said. He predicts with confidence that actually there are a lot more with families too embarrassed to “self-identify,” to say they have no place to call their own.

    At schools with heavy percentages of homeless kids, problems and needs occur that aren’t going to happen en masse at, say, a River Oaks or West U elementary.

    Math specialist Paula Correa said it’s not unusual for students to come to school and tell her: “My dad has just been deported. My mom has to go back to Mexico, but I’m born here and I want to stay here.” In one case, the father had been deported twice, and the mother was left with seven children. Edwards put a note in teachers’ boxes asking for donations, and when they took them over, “They acted as if we’d brought Jesus to the house.”

    Sometimes the nonacademic endeavors include combing out a girl’s hair in the morning when a depressed parent has abandoned the task or whisking someone off to the restroom for a quick scrub when personal hygiene has lapsed. A kid who shows up in shorts on a freezing day is taken to the counselor’s office, where Deborah Coleman dips into her closet and comes out with something warm.

    “We have extra coats. We have extra food. We do a lot of work with the whole child and not just the classroom piece of the child,” said Principal Cynthia Smith.

    They even teach elementary-age kids how to wash their own clothes in the sink at night.

    “We tell them, ‘Your mom might not be able to wash your clothes, but you can. Put it in the sink and wash it out, rinse it out,'” third-grade teacher Tareese Glover said.

    Smith explained: “Sometimes they don’t have washers at the house. They might have only one shirt. So we tell them, ‘Even if you don’t wash the whole thing out, put it under the water and wash under the arms.'”

    Glover continued: “We tell them how to wash their own clothes and how to hang them up and how to be neat even though you might have but this one pair of pants. Take pride in what you have and come in the next day with that shirt on, shirttail tucked in.

  13. eslkevin says:

    By Margaret Downing Wednesday, Dec 22 2010
    …continued from page 1

    “You’re still a prince; you’re still a princess; you’re still a child of God. And we still love you, and you can learn no matter what your situation is. And we try to instill that in our babies every day.”
    _____________________

    Homeless kids tend to move around a lot, either because they or their families have falling-outs with their host families, or the places they’re living become just too unbearable. It’s the kind of constant turmoil that makes staying focused in school difficult.
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.
    Margaret Downing
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.
    Related Content

    * Gangsters in Bacliff
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    http://www.houstonpress.com/2010-12-23/news/children-of-god/2/

    There are more and more homeless kids in the Houston Independent School District, in part because HISD is doing a better job of identifying them, but also because for their families, the recession hasn’t gone away, Messiah said.

    He sends out members of his six-person staff to educate teachers, administrators and front-desk personnel about what to look for and how to help, and he hopes the message will be passed on and spread like wildfire.

    That’s because when the two-year federal stimulus money runs out, his six-person office will drop back to one (him). And because: “It’s not going away. Unfortunately for some kids, it becomes a way of life for them and their families.”

    In addition to the stimulus money, Messiah has a regular budget of $180,000 a year, as well as some Title I funding for at-risk kids — to provide emergency clothing, toiletries and Metro passes for bus rides. That doesn’t go far in a district as large as HISD. “We try to make their life in the school setting as safe as possible. At least in the educational setting, they have some stability.”

    But even now, the system depends on help from volunteers.

    Every Friday, people from the Southside Church of God travel to the Houston Food Bank to pick up food in what are called “backpack buddies” that will get kids at Grissom through the weekend. Grissom counselor Coleman oversees this program, as well as distributing jackets, other clothing and toiletries from her brightly colored office. Two other small churches donate school supplies and clothing.

    Coleman counsels children when they ask her to, when their parents call her or when teachers spot something going wrong, like dropped grades or a kid who’s always trying to cadge food from his friends. Homeless kids have the same problems as other kids — grief and divorce, for instance; their lower socioeconomic level just means it happens more often, she said.

    Homeless kids at the elementary level have a different set of problems than teens, who are more independent and sometimes have a different set of reasons for leaving the home — maybe they’ve “come out” to disapproving parents or they’re fleeing perceived or real domestic abuse, Messiah said. In Houston, that’s especially tough because this area doesn’t have a shelter that opens its doors to anyone under 18 unless a parent checks him in, he said. For every “sofa surfer” who digs down deep and excels at school, seeing it as a way out of the situation he’s in, others turn to the sex trade business or crime just to supply basic shelter, food and clothing needs, Messiah said.

    At Grissom, transportation is a big and recurring problem, Smith said. If students live within a two-mile radius and have to walk to school and it’s a cold or rainy day, they may not make it, she said. “It’s difficult for parents to get them here if they don’t have transportation,” she said.

    The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which put an end to setting aside separate schools for homeless children across the country, calls for school districts to provide transportation for these kids. That is more difficult with the youngest students, Messiah said.

    “With the elementary students, it’s pretty tough, because they can’t get on a [Metro] bus by themselves,” Messiah said. “It’s an additional cost because you need to get a bus pass for the parent themselves to go back and forth.”
    _____________________

    There is no homeless list at Grissom, Principal Smith stresses. “We just discover need as need arises.” And sometimes that takes some doing, because kids who are homeless don’t always appear to be in need on the surface.

    “You see Timmy who is homeless getting out of this nice car and you think, ‘Oh, Timmy’s okay,’ but it’s the host family’s car,” Messiah said. “You get caught up looking at the physical trappings.”

    And the school district works hard to make sure kids aren’t singled out to their peers. When backpacks are handed out, no one can tell which ones have school uniforms inside, he said.

    At Grissom, teachers are expected to stay in contact with their students on a daily basis and to call their homes when they don’t show up for school. If it isn’t illness that’s keeping a kid away, counselor Coleman gets involved, Smith said. Home visits are not uncommon. Attendance is up this year, she said, so they think their methods are working.

    Smith insists her teachers be “firm, fair and consistent” with their charges, and insists that their students should be held up to high academic standards. “We’re educating the future presidents, the future world leaders here.” There isn’t a trace of sarcasm in her statement.

  14. eslkevin says:

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2010-12-23/news/children-of-god/3/

    By Margaret Downing Wednesday, Dec 22 2010
    …continued from page 2

    And despite what she says are the “draining” requirements of the job for all the staff at Grissom, Smith says she doesn’t have a big turnover. “We feel we’re on a mission and not on a job.”

    Last year, an 11-year-old boy lost his mother to cancer and went to live with his grandmother. Teacher Norwood “stepped right in along with the administrators and teachers and took him home from school and to tutorials.”
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.
    Margaret Downing
    Grissom teachers and principals say their students, some homeless, some not, can excel no matter what.

    The mother with seven children and the husband deported for the second time? Correa and Edwards did a cooking demonstration for the mom, who couldn’t read English, so she could understand what to do with the donated food.

    The family with nothing but a jug of water ended up inheriting furniture from Grissom that the school had planned to discard.

    Not everything has a happy ending or even a happy “now,” despite their best efforts. “It’s not all fluff. Sometimes you get down to the nitty-gritty,” Edwards said, which takes its toll on teachers.

    A staff member painstakingly combs a girl’s hair, then tells her to go on to breakfast and is screamed at in a mean way. A group of boys gets a trip to the barbershop, but on the next day gets into a fight at school. Word comes back to the school that a former student, now older, has gotten pregnant but doesn’t want the teachers at Grissom to know.

    “Things are not always positive, but our teachers are resilient. They keep coming back,” Edwards said.

    At last year’s end-of-year ceremonies at Grissom, not all the fifth-grade students had arrived dressed up enough to cross the stage. Edwards got on the PA system asking for white shirts and black pants and whether anyone had size 8 shoes and could they take them off long enough to allow a student to wear them for the ceremony. One teacher donated his belt, took it off in class and handed it over.

    In HISD, students can continue to get a free lunch at summer school. When that’s over, they’re on their own, looking for other programs. A school like Grissom and its staff becomes a lifeline to students and their families who are trying to survive.

    It is shocking and appalling that we have so many homeless children in Houston, kids who may not know where they’ll be from one night to the next, whose advantages are few. Teachers at Grissom, who don’t make a lot of money to begin with, are the ones picking up the names on the school’s angel tree, buying lunches in a pinch, finding clothes for these kids.

    “People here really work with their heart. They give a lot of themselves,” Smith said. “They do a lot of things on their time and out of their own pocket that’ll go unknown.”

    But now you do know. At Grissom, they give their time, money and hearts to their students. They’ll even give them the shirts off their backs.

    margaret.downing@houstonpress.com

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