Study: Students prefer teachers of color

Urban students of all races are more positive about their Latino and black teachers than their white teachers, according to a study by New York University sociologists Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng and Peter Halpin, reports Anya Kamenetz on NPR.

Using the Gates Foundation’s Measure of Effective Teaching study, they looked responses by sixth- through ninth-grade students at more than 300 schools in cities around the country.
Students were asked questions such as:

  • How much does this teacher challenge his students?
  • How supportive is she?
  • How well does he manage the classroom?
  • How captivating does she make the subject?

“All the students, including white students, had significantly more favorable perceptions of Latino versus white teachers across the board, and had significantly more favorable perceptions of black versus white teachers on at least two or three of seven categories in the survey,” reports Kamenetz.

Asian-American and black students were especially positive about their black teachers.

“Controlling for student demographic and academic characteristics, teacher efficacy, and other teacher characteristics” didn’t change the results, reports Ed Week.

The study focused on urban districts, where students, including whites, tend to come from a lower socio-economic class, said Cherng.  Students surveyed were in early adolescence, when children “are struggling to form their identities,” he added.

Are Latino teachers better at connected with kids with identity issues?

Why would Asian-American students be so high on black teachers?

College unreadiness

About one in three students in the class of 2007 was “college-ready” in reading and math by graduation, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress, writes Mike Petrilli. Eight years later, about one in three had earned a bachelor’s degree. Not surprisingly, college readiness predicts college completion. But it’s not quite that simple.

Chart 1: College preparedness, college matriculation, and college completion

*2005 marked the beginning of a new NAEP assessment framework for math.

Many students think college is the only path to a decent job. In 2015, when 37 percent of 12th graders were college-prepared in reading and/or math, 69 percent enrolled in post-secondary education a few months after graduating from high school. A very high percentage — including those placed in remedial classes — said their goal was a four-year degree.

Students who are the first in their families to go to college, low-income students, Latinos and blacks are less likely to earn a degree. Academic readiness isn’t a complete explanation, writes Petrilli.

“Blacks and Asian-Americans are more likely to earn a degree than their 12th-grade readiness would predict, Latinos are less likely and whites are the same,” he observes.

As this NBER working paper from 2006 explains, “Blacks get more education than do whites of similar cognitive ability.” The authors, Kevin Lang and Michael Manove, posit that because of discrimination in the labor market, “Education is generally a more valuable signal of productivity for blacks than for whites. As a result, blacks invest more heavily in the signal and get more education for a given level of ability.” In other words, because some employers won’t hire blacks without a college degree, they are even more motivated to get a credential than others.

Asian-Americans’ high completion rates probably are due to their culture (and their parents), speculates Petrilli.

The “completion agenda,” which tries to get more disadvantaged students to a degree, could do useful work in getting Hispanics “across the finish line,” writes Petrilli. “As of the class of 2006, one in four Hispanic students who were ready for college didn’t complete a bachelor’s degree.”

Hispanics disproportionately enroll in community colleges, which have low graduation rates.

Elite public high schools aren’t diverse

Elite public high schools for high-scoring students aren’t very diverse, reports Spencer Michels on PBS NewsHour.

It depends on how diversity is defined. San Francisco’s Lowell High School, which is 57 percent Asian, is 14 percent white. The school also is short on Latinos (10 percent) and blacks (2 percent).

District enrollment is 35 percent Asian-American (nearly all Chinese), 23 percent Latino, 11 percent white and 10 percent black. (There are lots of “other” and “decline to state.”)

Elite exam schools in Boston and New York City also are majority Asian.

Supremes say UT can use race in admissions

The University of Texas at Austin can continue to consider race in admissions, thanks to a 4-3 Supreme Court decision in the Fisher case.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities “considerable deference” in “defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,”  reports the New York Times.

Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, lost her challenge to the use of race in admissions. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, lost her challenge to the use of race in admissions. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a passionate dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. called the ruling “affirmative action gone berserk” and “simply wrong.”

“We are told that a program that tends to admit poor and disadvantaged minority students is inadequate because it does not work to the advantage of those who are more fortunate,” wrote Alito.

Under the Top 10 Percent program, top graduates at every high school in the state — including many high-minority, high-poverty schools — are guaranteed admission to any state university. That’s increased the number of Latino and black students.

But, unlike most other Texas universities, UT-Austin uses race and ethnicity, and other factors, to fill the remaining seats. The beneficiaries tend to be middle-class blacks and Latinos at integrated high schools.

The Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg said the decision will “give universities more leeway to simply use race as a way to get racial diversity and ignore economically disadvantaged students.”

Alito also noted discrimination against Asian-Americans, who need much higher SAT scores to get a place at UT-Austin. That undercuts the diversity argument, writes Hans Bader. There are fewer Asian-Americans than Latinos at UT-Austin.

As the Asian American Legal Foundation noted, the university’s policy reflected the untenable and racist assumption that “Asian Americans are not worth as much as Hispanics in promoting ‘cross-racial understanding,’ breaking down ‘racial stereotypes,’ and enabling students to ‘better understand persons of different races.’”

Texas A&M more than doubled the percentage of black and Latino students without affirmative action, notes the Texas Tribune. At both A&M and UT-Austin, blacks and Latinos make up 23 percent of enrollment.

A&M strengthened its recruiting at high-minority schools and improved financial aid.

Ivy League’s Asian problem 


Asian-American applicants need much higher SAT scores to get into Brown, Yale, Dartmouth and other Ivy League schools, a coalition charges.

Asian-American groups want the U.S. Education Department to investigate Yale, Dartmouth and Brown for racial discrimination.

While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” the percentage accepted at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined, according to the complaint. It alleges this is because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”

It’s the Jewish problem all over again, writes Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) in USA Today.

Decades ago, the Ivy League colleges thought they had a problem: too many Jews. These recent immigrants, from a culture that prized education and academic achievement, had an unfortunate characteristic: They worked harder, studied longer and cared more about school.

. . . Problem was, the Ivy League didn’t really want them. Being first-generation students, these applicants didn’t have rich alumni parents who would be likely to donate big bucks. . . . And they were seen as boring grinds who studied too hard and weren’t much fun.

 So the Ivy League favored “leadership” and “well-rounded” candidates — and, when that wasn’t enough, set quotas for Jewish students.

Now Asian students “are seen as people who study too hard, boring grinds who aren’t much fun — and, of course, their parents aren’t as rich and connected,” writes Reynolds.

Here’s more on the Asian-Ivy War.

Math excellence — is it just for Asian-Americans?

Elite math competitions are “overwhelmingly dominated by Asian and white males from middle-class and affluent families, observes Liana Heitin in Education Week. Some are trying to diversify the talent pool by exposing lower-income students, girls, blacks and Latinos to advanced math.

A U.S. team won the International Math Olympiad last summer, the first win for Americans in more than two decades. Four competitors were Asian-American and two were white. All were male.

Students at the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program tackle a hard geometry problem. Credit: Evelyn Lamb

Students at the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program tackle a hard geometry problem. Photo: Evelyn Lamb

Future mathletes hone their skills in “after-school clubs, summer camps, online forums and classes, and university-based “math circles,” or mathematician-led groups,” writes Heitin.

Middle schoolers start in MathCounts, then move on to an online school called Art of Problem Solving. Some K-12 students get coaching from math professors. UCLA’s Los Angeles Math Circle has more than 250 students. Elites go to the Math Olympiad Summer Training Program, a three-week math camp.

Who knows about these opportunities? Well-educated Asian immigrant parents make sure their talented children participate. “There are a lot of kids whose parents made it to America by being good at math,” said Richard Rusczyk, founder of Art of Problem Solving.

Various initiatives are trying to get more kids into advanced math, writes Heitin.

A New York City-based nonprofit called Bridge to Enter Mathematics runs a residential summer program aimed at getting underserved, mostly black and Hispanic students working toward math and science careers. The summer after 7th grade, students spend three weeks on a college campus studying advanced math for seven hours a day. Over the next five years, the group helps the students get into other elite summer math programs, high-performing high schools, and eventually college.

MathCounts has added National Math Club, which gives resources to middle-school math teachers, and the Math Video Challenge, a team competition, to appeal to a broader range of students.

After the high-pressure Countdown round at this year’s national MathCounts competition, in which the top 12 students went head to head solving complex problems in rapid fire, the finalists for the Math Video Challenge took the stage to show their videos.

Half the video finalists were black and 13 of 16 were girls.

An 8th grade team from the Ron Clark Academy, an independent middle school in Atlanta that serves low-income students, was among the finalists. The students illustrated a complicated multistep problem entirely through rap.

“Three years ago, we were the only African-American people here,” said Valerie Camille-Jones, the team’s coach. “We won the video challenge, and [MathCounts] put it all over the website. The next year, more diverse videos were submitted because [students] saw themselves. It’s exposure.”

Her students watched the fast-paced Countdown round in which 12 students answered high-level math questions. “They turned to me and said, ‘We can do this.’ ”

The Asian advantage

Why do Asian-Americans do so well in school? asks Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times column. What’s the “Asian advantage?”

It’s not IQ, writes Brooks, citing Richard Nisbett’s book about intelligence.

Columbia University’s commencement in 2005. Photo: Peter Turnley, Corbis

Columbia University’s commencement in 2005. Photo: Peter Turnley, Corbis

Chinese-American and white children with the same IQ scores were followed into adulthood by researchers. Fifty-five percent of the Chinese-Americans entered high-status occupations, compared with one-third of the whites, Nisbett writes. Chinese-Americans with a 93 IQ did as well as whites with a 100.

In The Asian American Achievement Paradox, Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou note that many recent Asian immigrants are educated professionals. But working-class Asian-Americans tend to do well in school too. That’s certainly true of the children of the Vietnamese boat people.

The “model minority” may be a myth, but Asian kids walk into a math or science classroom knowing their teachers will expect them to excel.

Kristof credits the Confucian emphasis on education.

Immigrant East Asians often try particularly hard to get into good school districts, or make other sacrifices for children’s education, such as giving prime space in the home to kids to study.

There’s also evidence that Americans believe that A’s go to smart kids, while Asians are more likely to think that they go to hard workers.

Asian-American parents have high expectations for their children. A B is an “Asian F,” kids joke. (Kristof says A-, but I think that’s extreme.) And a B is “a white A.”

Asian-Americans also are likely to grow up in two-parent families.

“The success of Asian-Americans is a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education,” he concludes. “Ditto for the success of Jews, West Indians and other groups.”

But their success does not “suggest that the age of discrimination is behind us,” he argues. The “black boy in Baltimore who is raised by a struggling single mom, whom society regards as a potential menace” will not be reassured by the success of Asian-Americans. “Because one group can access the American dream does not mean that all groups can.”

Shouldn’t that kid be reassured by the success of West Indian blacks?

Pass the test, earn a future

Tested follows eighth-graders prepping for the exam that determines who gets a seat at New York City’s most elite public high schools. Asian-Americans make up 73 percent of enrollment at the city’s elite schools, blacks and Latinos only 5 percent.

A+ Asians: Are they diverse?


Students on the Berkeley campus. Photo: Eric Risberg, AP.

University of California schools rank high for educating diverse, first-generation students, writes Alia Wong in The Atlantic. Banned from considering race or ethnicity, UC has kept tuition low, enrolled community college transfers and targeted recruitment at lower-income and first-generation students, she writes. “Latinos are now the fastest growing and second-largest ethnic group admitted to the UC system, making up close to three in 10 of last year’s freshmen class.”

But focusing on economic diversity lets UC win points while admitting many Asian-Americans, complains Wong.

The highly selective UC campuses are known, sometimes bitterly, to serve especially disproportionate numbers of Asian students; Asians famously make up half of the undergraduates at UC Irvine, for example . . .

California has taken in many Vietnamese refugees and low-income Chinese immigrants. They speak English as a second language, go to public schools in their working-class neighborhoods — and often qualify for state universities.

Other high scorers are the children of Indian and Chinese engineers, who aced tests in their home countries. (Check out the winners in Google’s Science Fair. Six of eight have Indian names.)

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai invented a way to use corn cobs to filter water.

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, 13, invented a way to use corn cobs to clean pollutants from waste water.

Not all Asian-Americans — or those grouped with them in diversity data — excel in school, reports the Campaign for College Opportunity in a new report on the “model minority stereotype.”

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have much lower success rates than students of Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese ancestry. Southeast Asians from Laotian, Hmong and Cambodian families also tend to struggle in school.

There’s lots of individual variation in any group. Look at Cuban-Americans vs. Puerto Ricans or black immigrants from the West Indies vs. American-born blacks. We could be more precise about divvying people into racial/ethnic/cultural groups. I think it makes more sense to focus on socioeconomic disadvantage.

My niece is an 11th grader starting to look at colleges. Should she declare her 1/4 Mexican heritage on applications? It has no bearing on who she is as a student or as a person. If asked, my advice would be: Don’t.

Princeton’s discrimination against Asian-American applicants is OK with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, writes John Rosenberg on Minding the Campus. He analyzes a 20-page September 9 letter to Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber.

Asian students face diversity penalty

Playing piano or violin -- like the daughters of "tiger mother" Amy Chua -- fits the Asian stereotype, but hurts in college admissions, say counselors.

Playing piano or violin — like the daughters of “tiger mother” Amy Chua — looks “too Asian” on college applications, say counselors.

Asian-Americans have “turned against affirmative action policies” that make it harder for them to get into elite colleges, reports Frank Shyong in the Los Angeles Times. “In the San Gabriel Valley’s hyper-competitive ethnic Asian communities, arguments for diversity can sometimes fall on deaf ears.”

In a tutoring center’s workshop on college admissions in the valley, Ann Lee tells Asian-American parents about a Princeton study on how race and ethnicity affect admissions. Being black is worth 230 SAT points, according to the study. Hispanics receive a “bonus” of 185 points. Asian applicants are penalized by 50 points, says Lee. “Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes,” Lee says.

For immigrant parents raised in Asia’s all-or-nothing test cultures, a good education is not just a measure of success — it’s a matter of survival. They see academic achievement as a moral virtue, and families organize their lives around their child’s education, moving to the best school districts and paying for tutoring and tennis lessons. An acceptance letter from a prestigious college is often the only acceptable return on an investment that stretches over decades.

Private college-prep academies counsel Asian-Americans on how to stand out. “Everyone is in orchestra and plays piano,” says Lee, founder of HS2 Academy. “Everyone plays tennis. Everyone wants to be a doctor, and write about immigrating to America. You can’t get in with these cliche applications.”

Crystal Zell, HS2’s assistant director of counseling, urges students to volunteer in poor neighborhoods and find activity other than tennis, taekwondo or chess.

“One parent asked Zell whether it would help to legally change the family name to something more Western-sounding,” reports the Times.

Some Asian-American students have filed lawsuits against colleges that rejected them, but admitted blacks and Latinos with lower grades and test scores.