Schools won’t tell colleges about suspensions

Syracuse schools will not share student discipline records with colleges, under a new policy proposed by Superintendent Sharon Contreras.

Remember the threat? It will go on your permanent record.

Syracuse Superintendent Sharon Contreras visited Hughes Elementary School on the first day of class. Credit: John Berry

Syracuse Superintendent Sharon Contreras visited Hughes Elementary School on the first day of class. Credit: John Berry

Seventy-three percent of colleges and universities ask if applicants have been suspended or expelled, according to the Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse. Half of high school disclose the information. In the rest, it’s up to guidance counselors to decide what to reveal.

Syracuse schools are trying to reduce the high rate of suspensions of black students. Revealing discipline records could hurt students of color, Contreras said at a school board meeting. “You make a mistake when you’re a ninth grader and it hurts you when you are applying to college? That’s just not fair.”

Study: Teachers underrate minority achievers

Teachers give lower ratings to high-achieving black and Latino students than to white classmates with similar test scores, concludes a new University of Texas study published in Social Science Research.

However, teachers gave higher ratings to low-performing blacks and Latinos then their scores indicated and judged low-performing whites more harshly.

Sociologist Yasmiyn Irizarry compared first-graders’ scores on a series of cognitive and literacy tests to how teachers ranked the students’ abilities, reports Education Week.

Teachers rated average-performing students as average, regardless of race or ethnicity.

. . . high-performing students of color were underrated by their teachers in comparison to white high-achievers. Black or Latino students who scored in the top 10 percent of all 1st graders, were 7 to 9 percentage points less likely to be rated “far above average,” and they were generally rated one to two rankings lower (out of five) than white students who scored the same.

The gaps in teachers’ expectations did not close until minority students were in the top 1 percent of all students.

Diversifying gifted, honors classes

Broward County, Florida more than doubled the number of low-income students and students of color identified as gifted — without changing eligibility criteria — by screening all second graders rather than relying on referrals from parents and teachers, a recent study found. Those who did well on a nonverbal cognitive test were given IQ tests.

Universal screening raised the percentage of gifted black students by 80 percent, Latinos by 130 percent and disadvantaged students by 180 percent, reports the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.

Sandi Peterson, middle school counselor in Elk Grove, congratulates a student for applying for honors classes.

Sandi Peterson, middle school counselor in Elk Grove, congratulates Kaianna Kelley for applying for honors classes. Credit: Hector Amezcua, Education Week

 The newly identified students “included many students with IQs significantly above the minimum eligibility threshold, implying that even relatively high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds were being overlooked under the traditional referral system,” according to researchers.

Schools elsewhere are trying to enroll more low-income, Latino and black students in gifted and honors classes, reports Education Week.

In Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb, 3.5 percent of lower-income students (based on eligibility for a free lunch) are in gifted and advanced classes, compared to 11 percent of non-poor students. The district has spent “more than $860,000” to rethink procedures for identifying high-potential students.

Screening all third graders has nearly doubled the number identified as gifted.

The district’s Elitha Donner Elementary School, for example, identified 12 low-income students as gifted this year, up from only three last year, and narrowed the white-black gap in gifted education from 4-to-1 in favor of whites to 2.5-to-1 in the last year alone.

Next year, the district will roll out the rest of the changes to the identification system, with teachers and principals developing new rubrics for identifying exceptional creativity and leadership, both in class and in outside activities, such as community volunteering and church youth groups.

“We’re looking at our students differently,” said Michelle Jenkins, Donner Elementary’s principal. “It’s training your brain that ‘gifted’ is not always your top academic students.”

Screening all students for high IQ makes sense. Redefining “gifted” to mean “good kid” does not.

Boston charters: Separate and superior

In schools, can separate be equal? asks Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe.

Brooke Mattapan Charter School is one of the highest scoring schools in the city: 67 percent of eighth-graders scored “proficient” or better in science and technology on state exams. That’s better than Boston Latin.

Out of 508 students at the charter school, three are white, including the codirectors’ daughter, notes Stockman.

“There’s nothing about a school that makes it better by having more white kids,” says Kimberly Steadman, codirector of Brooke, who is white.

“Her students routinely outperform those in predominantly white schools across the state,” writes Stockman. It’s separate but superior.

Hartford has spent $2 billion over the last decade building magnet schools — including one with a planetarium! — to attract white families. It’s an impressive effort. And yet, only about half of Hartford’s kids get into a magnet school.

To Steadman, that money might be better spent building excellent schools for black and Latino kids.

Brooke doesn’t try to attract white, middle-class families. “The dance studio with the ballet bar, the music room full of xylophones, and the computer room aren’t featured on the school’s website,” writes Stockman. That might draw parents whose children have other good options, taking space from the kids who really need it.

In Boston’s district-run public schools, the achievement gap is huge. Nearly 40 percent of African-American boys in middle school are classified as “special education” students. School officials involved with the “Boston Compact” came asked Steadman about Brooke’s special programs for black boys.

“We told them we didn’t have any special programs. We just treat them like everybody else. We teach them to read. To think. To stand up for their thoughts.”

“Brooke has one of the lowest attrition rates in the city,” writes Stockman.

So, how do they do it? The school day runs from 7:45 am to 4:30 pm every day, except Wednesday afternoon, about two  hours a day more than most district-run schools. Brooke’s school year is 12 days longer too. “That adds up to more than 350 hours of additional instruction.”

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.

In big cities, fewer black teachers

Fewer blacks are teaching public school in nine cities, in­clud­ing New York, Los Angeles and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Al­bert Shanker In­sti­tute. There are more Latino teachers in the classroom — and many more Latino students.

“Teach­ers of col­or are far more likely to leave the classroom than white teach­ers,” writes Emily DeRuy in National Journal. “They’re dis­pro­por­tion­ately likely to work in urb­an, high-poverty schools where the job is stressful and frustrating.

The per­cent­age of public school teach­ers of col­or has ris­en from 12 per­cent in 1987 to 17 per­cent in 2012, according to the Shanker report. Students of color are now a majority in public schools.

“Students, especially students of color, do best when their teach­ers are able to re­late per­son­ally to their ex­per­i­ences and cul­tur­al her­it­age,” writes DeRuy. “Stu­dents score bet­ter on tests and are more likely to stay in school.”

Teachers earn $16,000 more in low-poverty districts than in high-poverty districts, according to a Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress report.

Furthermore, segregation by race and socioeconomic status is growing.  “The av­er­age black stu­dent at­tends a school where two-thirds of his class­mates are poor, al­most double the rate for white and Asi­an chil­dren.”

College payoff is less for blacks, Hispanics

College-educated blacks and Latinos fared significantly worse in the recession than less-educated minorities, concludes a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis report.

Earning a college degree raises earnings for blacks and Latinos, but it also may add to debts. “Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concluded. “College degrees alone do not provide short-term wealth protection, nor do they guarantee long-term wealth accumulation.”

race-wealth-income“Better-educated African American and Latinos were more likely to own homes, and those homes tended to be their primary source of wealth, so when the housing market collapsed, their residences transformed from piggy banks into anchors,” writes Joseph Williams on TakePart.

Minority and low-income students “don’t attend the best possible colleges they could (based on grades, etc.),” which lowers earnings, S. Michael Gaddis, a Penn State sociology professor, told TakePart.

Black and Latino graduates earn significantly less than whites and Asian-Americans.

In a study Gaddis conducted in March, job applications with “white” names resulted in more job offers for higher pay than those with “black” names. Fictional jobseekers who claimed to be graduates of elite colleges did better than those from less-elite colleges, but race mattered. “Education apparently has its limits because even a Harvard degree cannot make DaQuan as enticing as Charlie to employers,” Gaddis wrote.

Study: White teachers expect less of blacks

Non-black teachers have lower expectations for black students than black teachers, concludes a recent study.

“We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two,” writes researcher Seth Gershenson. But it’s likely that teachers’ expectations “shape student outcomes.”

Two teachers for each 10th grader were asked to predict the student’s educational attainment.  “When a black student is evaluated by one black teacher and by one non-black teacher, the non-black teacher is about 30 percent less likely to expect that the student will complete a four-year college degree than the black teacher,” writes Gershenson, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at American University.

Racial mismatch in the classroom is a growing issue, reports USA Today.

The teaching force remains mostly white, while a majority of students are Latino, a fast-growing group, black, Asian and other.

“If you have a school where the student body is of color and the teaching body is entirely white, it sets up a dynamic that doesn’t foster cohesiveness and does not inspire students and can be problematic,” said Ulrich Boser, a senior researcher at the Center for American Progress.

A Florida study found that black, white or Asian students performed better when assigned to same-race teachers.

Of course, the only way to achieve that would be segregation.

New Orleans improves — with black teachers

A new generation of black teachers are part of New Orleans’ schools revival, writes Citizen (Chris) Stewart, who grew up in the city and attended neighborhood schools.

The Orleans Parish School Board — not “white school reformers” — put the city’s teachers on unpaid “disaster leave” because the schools were closed, he writes. That enabled teachers to collect unemployment benefits.

When schools reopened, the Recovery School District required that teacher candidates pass a basic skills test. “One third of the returning teachers failed that test,” writes Stewart.

“Veteran” and “experienced” don’t necessarily mean “quality,” he argues.

(Critics say) the fired black teachers “knew the kids” and “were the backbone of the black middle class.”

. . . The children of New Orleans deserve every shot at a good life we can proivde them. We can’t get there by viewing schools as a jobs program for the black bourgeoisie.

. . . Yes, some of the previous NOLA schools had many lovely, dedicated people working hard in a deeply dysfunctional system that blocked them from doing their best work.

At the same time, many others needed to go.

Today,  54 percent of NOLA teachers and 58 percent of RSD school leaders are black, writes Stewart. Blacks make up 59 percent of the city’s population.

“Great black school leaders and educators are working hard in a new system with many hopeful new possibilities,” he concludes. This time, growth of the black middle class is linked to “academic results for poor black children.”

Education Week‘s excellent series, The Re-Education of New Orleans, includes an interview with a veteran teacher who wasn’t rehired after Katrina.

Resurgence, by Public Impact and New Schools for New Orleans, analyzes what’s changed in NOLA.

74 Million’s Matt Barnum answers critics who downplay progress in NOLA schools.

Music is vital for community and culture, reports Ed Week.

Study: Too few minorities get special ed help

Nineteen percent of special education student are black, even though blacks make up only 14 percent of enrollment. Yet, blacks and Latinos are under-represented in special education, argues a federally funded study published in the Educational Researcher

Minority students are missing out on special services because they’re much less likely to be identified as disabled, according to Penn State researcher Paul Morgan and colleagues.

“Minority children are much more likely to be exposed to risk factors themselves that increase the likelihood of having a disability,” Morgan said in a video. “Exposure to lead, low birth weight [and] other risk factors for disability have often not been accounted for in the analyses when investigating minority disproportionate representation.”

Federal policy is based on the premise that too many low-income, black and Latino students are diagnosed with disabilities, notes U.S. News. “Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states are required to use federal funding to intervene with students sooner in hopes of reducing the proportion of minority students in special education.”

In fact, compared with otherwise similar white children, African-American children were 77 percent less likely to be identified as having health impairments, 63 percent less likely to be identified as having speech or language impairments and 58 percent less likely to be identified as having learning disabilities, the researchers found.

Hispanic children were more likely than African-American children to be identified as having a disability, but were still significantly less likely – by as much as 73 percent in some cases – to be identified with one than white children.

The key word is “similar.”

Morgan assumes that special education leads to helpful services, rather than lower expectations. Is that usually true?

Update: Federal special education officials and civil rights advocates are questioning the study’s methodology, reports Ed Week.