Sitting serenely in the back corner of Tom Altman's fifth-and-sixth-grade classroom, pencil poised, considering a blank sheet of loose-leaf paper, Valerie could just as well be posing for Norman Rockwell. Her coarse, black hair is twisted into two tasseled pigtails. Her red tennies, one untied, dangle inches above the speckled linoleum. Residual baby flesh rounds her delicate shoulders and cushions her dimpled chin. Every now and then she unconsciously sucks on her thumb--a peculiar gesture for a fifth grader, which, for that very reason, is all the... More >>>