Why poor blacks don’t want to be professors

Most science professors are white or Asian males, reported Ed Yong in The Atlantic.

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Furthermore, women and underrepresented minorities are less likely than white and Asian men to be interested in faculty careers.

Readers responded: So what? It’s patronizing to assume that “women and minorities are wrong about their own interests and priorities,” one wrote.

A postdoc recalled trying to persuade two black female lab techs to go to graduate school.

They told us that we were women in our early thirties who couldn’t afford to buy houses or have children, who spent our nights and weekends working, who didn’t have retirement savings, and who were still struggling to get permanent jobs. Why on earth would they want to be like us?

A black scientist who left a Harvard immunology lab for Big Pharma said the biggest issue is pay. After three years at the lab, he earned $32,000. He started in the pharmaceutical industry at $70,000; after a year, he was earning $90,000 with shorter hours.

Academics aren’t just a ‘white thing’

Standardized tests are a “racist weapon,” argues Ibram X. Kendi, a history professor at the University of Florida. “What if the intellect of a poor, low testing Black child in a poor Black school is different—and not inferior—to the intellect of a rich, high-testing White child in a rich White school?” he asks.

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“Gathering knowledge of abstract items, from words to equations, that have no relation to our everyday lives has long been the amusement of the leisured elite,” writes Kendi. He prefers to measure literacy “by how knowledgeable individuals are about their own environment.”

A Mexican-American and a first-generation college graduate, Liz Reetz teaches sixth-grade social studies. Testing shows  how “our schools are not educating all students,” she writes on A Plus Colorado.

She “built a curriculum based on teaching students to think, read, talk, and write about history as it relates to identity and social justice,” she writes. Her non-elite students can handle abstractions, if they have “the opportunity to engage with ideas that are meaningful to them.”

Kendi’s ideas are dangerous, she believes.

“Equally intelligent in different ways” says to me: value survival skills in poor and brown people but leave the thinking about big ideas, governing, or improving the world to wealthy people and white people.

. . . You give the power to white teachers, white administrators, white legislators to say “you can’t hold me accountable for the fact that he can’t read, his intelligence is different” or “It’s not my fault she isn’t grasping algebra, her culture doesn’t value numbers or abstract thinking.”

The “notion that communities of color have fundamentally different kinds of knowledge” is racist and ahistorical, writes Reetz.

Pre-Columbian societies tracked the movements of stars and planets, understood complex mathematics, used chemistry and biology to create rubber, and engineered roads and buildings. Do not tell me that my culture doesn’t value abstract thinking.

Abstract thinking “is the heritage of humanity,” she writes. It’s not a “white thing.”

Stress, race and the achievement gap

The stress of coping with racism may widen the achievement gap,writes Melinda D. Anderson in The Atlantic.

Blacks pump out more stress hormones than their white counterparts, researchers have found. That high level of stress can affect concentration, motivation and learning, according to a new Northwestern study.

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Zion Agostini, 15, worries about being stopped by police on the way to Nelson Mandela School for Social Justice in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, writes Anderson.

Once he arrives, the sophomore must go through a metal detector. He’s often late to his first-period class “because I’m being scanned four times because of the metal in my necklace or my keys,” he complains. “It does make it extremely hard to focus on the classwork … You’re upset, or sad, or just emotional about what just happened. It takes a while to settle.”

Blacks and Latinos encounter “perceived discrimination” and “the stress of confirming negative expectations about your racial or ethnic group,” researchers found.

. . . perceived discrimination from teachers was “related to lower grades, less academic motivation … and less persistence when encountering an academic challenge.”

The study also found that the anxiety surrounding the stereotype of academic inferiority undermined students performing academic tasks.

To reduce stress, some students decide they don’t care how they do in school, says co-author Emma Adam. That leads to lower performance. “Promoting positive ethnic racial identity would be one way to reduce those feelings of separation or exclusion and improve students’ ability to focus in the classroom.”

Ed reform, race and ‘social justice’

Most education reform leaders are white, notes Education Next in Education Reform’s Race Debate.

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“Nearly everyone agrees that education reform would benefit from having more leaders of color, to better reflect and include the communities it aims to serve.”

But some advocates believe that “true school reform must be part of a broader social justice campaign led by people of color, which calls for progressive changes to health care, housing, immigration, and economic policies, as well as education.”

Is this a bold call for real social justice or a case of successful, bipartisan reform being overrun by identity politics and left-wing political agendas?

Education reform must discuss issues of race, class, and power, argues Ryan J. Smith of Education Trust-West.

Over the past year, the blogosphere has lit up with thoughtful commentary on this from Chris Stewart, Marilyn Anderson Rhames, and others. And EdLoc, launched by leaders of color across the country, is charting an inclusive third way to advance change in the polarized reform debate.

However, it’s important for education to “retain its collection of strange bedfellows,” he writes. “Recognizing race, class, power, and privilege isn’t a ploy to drive out white liberals or even social conservatives; rather, it is an attempt to help the movement mature.”

Jason Crye of Hispanics for Choice says his five children “don’t have time to wait for Utopia” before they get quality schools.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is trying to woo Hispanics, writes Crye. However, he believes “Latinos are ill-served by being treated as an accessory to a black-led movement.”

Perhaps this is why just one in three Hispanics expressed support for BLM in a Pew Research Center survey earlier this year, compared to two out of three African Americans. The history and needs of Hispanics are distinct.

One in four U.S. students is Latino, while blacks make up 16 percent of students, he points out. The Latino share is growing, while the black and white share of enrollment is shrinking.

Whites who think people of color should lead should step aside and let people of color lead, writes Robert Pondiscio. “Closing the achievement gap will take decades. Closing the leadership gap can be done this afternoon.

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?

A model of integration is now 98% black


Coleman High was the black middle-high school in Greenville, Mississippi.

Greenville, Mississippi was a model of integregation in the 1970s, writes Lynnell Hancock on the Hechinger Report. The Delta town was lauded in the Coleman Report for its voluntary plan to desegregate schools.

Now, 98 percent of public school students are black and 94 percent live in poverty.

Greenville High, once a top high school in the state, struggled to pull itself up from the F status it received for many years from Mississippi’s state accounting system to the D it has now

Across town, the private Washington School charges up to almost $6,000 annual tuition and is 94 percent white. Eleven out of its nearly 700 students are black.

In 1977, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission declared Greenville’s desegregation to be a “near total success,” writes Hancock. “Good leadership and good will” had created a district where “not one school was left with an all-black student body,” the commission concluded.

But whites, who were 30 percent of enrollment, steadily left for private schools.

A slower approach to desegregation, such as “freedom of choice” transfers used by some blacks,”may very well have had a better outcome than we’ve got now,” says William Percy Jr., a former school board member.

Hodding Carter III, who ran the pro-integration Delta Democrat-Times, is more cynical. “There is no place in America in which there are truly integrated schools when the black numbers get higher than 60 percent,” he said.

Charlotte, North Carolina also was a model of desegregation, reports The New Yorker.  After the school district stopped assigning students by race, in response to a 1999 lawsuit, the schools resegregated.

 

Charters work for black students

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Howard Fuller, a former superintendent of Milwaukee schools, helped found the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The NAACP’s call for a national moratorium on new charter schools will harm black families, argues Howard Fuller in an Education Week commentary. Low-income and working-class parents are “in desperate need of the types of educational opportunities that are being provided by charter schools,” writes Fuller, who’s now a Marquette education professor and director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

Twenty-seven percent of charter students are black, nearly double their enrollment in traditional public schools, writes Fuller. “Many of the 1 million names on waiting lists to get into a charter school are black children.”

Black parents continue to vote with their feet to enroll their children in charter schools for good reason—they work. According to Stanford University’s CREDO 2015 Urban Charter Schools Report on students in 41 urban regions across the country, low-income black students attending public charter schools gained 33 percent more learning in math and 24 percent more learning in reading each year as compared to their traditional public school peers.

In early August, New York City released achievement results for its public schools, showing that black and Hispanic charter school students were twice as likely to be on grade level in math as their peers in traditional public schools, and 50 percent more likely to be on grade level in English.

The NAACP claims that charter schools increase segregation. “Why are charter schools being criticized for bringing good schools into communities that have been underserved and neglected for years?” asks Fuller.

Study: Head Start boosts grad rates

Head Start has long-term benefits , according to an analysis by Brookings’ Hamilton Project.

Head Start participants are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and receive a post-secondary degree or certification, the study found.

As adults, they’re more likely to use “positive parenting” practices with their children.

Especially for black children, “Head Start also causes social, emotional, and behavioral development in participants that are evident in adulthood measures of self-control, self-esteem and positive parenting.”

Head Start participants were compared with siblings who attended other preschool  programs or none at all.

The analysis suggests that the alternative to Head Start is a very bad preschool, writes Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. “Those green bars . . . show Head Start having a bigger effect compared to other preschools than it does compared to no preschool at all. That can only happen if the other preschools were collectively worse than doing nothing.”

Of course, “doing nothing” means spending time with Mom or Grandma. It’s not surprising that low-income mothers often have to settle for low-quality preschools.

Head Start students in Tulsa. Photo: John W. Poole/NPR

Head Start students in Tulsa. Photo: John W. Poole/NPR

Tulsa’s high-quality Head Start program is producing academic gains in middle school, another study concludes.

“Children who attended Head Start had higher test scores on state math tests” in eighth grade, says Deborah Phillips, a Georgetown psychology professor.  “They were less likely to be retained and less likely to display chronic absenteeism.”

Latino students, including those from Spanish-speaking homes, showed gains. However, black boys did not benefit and there were no gains in reading.

Boston’s preschool success is “percolating up” to higher grades, writes Lillian Mongeau.

51% in NYC prefer charters

Only one in four New Yorkers said they were satisfied with their child’s education, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Fifty-one percent said they’d prefer a charter school for their own child: In the Bronx, two-thirds said they’d choose a charter school.

Charter students are outpacing district students in the city, reports the Wall Street Journal.

According to new state testing data, citywide student proficiency increased this year on average by 7.6 percentage points in English and 1.2 percentage points in math to 38% and 36.4%, respectively.

. . . proficiency at charter schools this year jumped 13.7 percentage points in English and 4.5 percentage points in math to 43% and 47%, respectively. In other words, charter students have improved by two to four times as much as the citywide average.

Black and Hispanic charter students — who make up nearly 90 percent of enrollment —  “scored 73% higher than their counterparts at district-run schools,” according to an analysis by Families for Excellent Schools.

Better teaching closes racial discipline gap

Better teaching can improve student behavior and close the racial discipline gap, suggests a new study published in School Psychology Review.  Virginia middle and high school teachers who received coaching in improving instruction referred fewer students for discipline: Blacks were no more likely to be referred than other students.

The “teacher coaching did not explicitly focus on equity or implicit bias, or draw teachers’ attention to their interactions with black students,”  reports Madeline Will in Education Week Teacher. “It was focused on skills in effectively interacting with any student.”

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When teachers have high expectations and facilitate “higher level thinking skills, problem solving, and metacognition,” students are more engaged and better behaved, researchers concluded.

“The findings held when accounting for risk factors including students’ achievement levels, gender, economic status, and teacher characteristics like race and experience,” writes Will.

Teachers in the control group, who received no mentoring or feedback, referred black students for discipline more than twice as much as whites.

After the two-year program ended, the teachers who’d received coaching continued to show no evidence of a racial discipline gap.

Unfortunately, the study didn’t analyze the achievement gap, but it’s a good guess that more engaged, better-behaved students also learn more.