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.

Miami principal loses job for pool party post

The principal of North Miami High School has lost his job after defending the McKinney, Texas police officer who drew his gun on black teens after a pool party.

“He did nothing wrong. He was afraid for his life,” Alberto Iber posted on a Miami Herald story. “I commend him for his actions.” Iber has been “reassigned” to other administrative duties.

North Miami is a majority-black community.

Iber showed poor judgment, said Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho. “Insensitivity — intentional or perceived — is both unacceptable and inconsistent with our policies, but more importantly with our expectation of common sense behavior that elevates the dignity and humanity of all, beginning with children.”

Acting smart

As a child in Daytona Beach, Florida, Roland G. Fryer Jr. often visited his great-aunt and -uncle’s house, where pancakes were fried in the same pan in which the couple made crack out of water, baking soda and cocaine. Eight of his 10 closest childhood friends went to prison or died young, including a favorite cousin who was murdered.

A Harvard professor who studies race and education, Fryer has won what’s considered the “mini-Nobel” for young economists, reports the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

“How do you create structures so that people don’t just beat the odds, but so that you change the damn odds?” he said. “It’s not, like, a ‘them’ thing, for me. This is my family, dude.”
Roland G. Fryer, "Acting White," Education Next (2006).Fryer’s most controversial research has found that black and Latino achievers lose popularity if their grades rise too high. African-Americans with grade-point averages of at least 3.5 (B+/A-) had fewer black friends than students with B’s or lower. For Latino students, the cut-off was lower: The more their GPA “exceeded 2.5 (C+/B-), the less popular they were.”

The “acting white” phenomenon occurs in racially mixed schools, he found. “Social pressures could go a long way toward explaining the large racial and ethnic gaps in SAT scores, the underperformance of minorities in suburban schools, and the lack of adequate representation of blacks and Hispanics in elite colleges and universities,” Fryer wrote in Education Next.

Some challenge the theory, notes the Post. In support, Frayer cited an
experiment at Los Angeles high schools. Students — most were Latino — were offered a free SAT preparation class. Those told their classmates would know if they participated were significantly less likely to sign up.

“I didn’t realize I grew up poor until I got to Harvard,” says Fryer. Now he’s raising his own child in a very different environment. “My 2-year-old starts Mandarin immersion in the fall.”

Angry — and resilient — in Baltimore

Eighth-graders at Green Street Academy share their concerns in light of Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore.

Eighth-grade boys at Baltimore’s Green Street Academy discuss Freddie Gray’s death.  Photo: Shereen Marisol Meraji/NPR

When Baltimore schools reopened after a day of protests and violence, NPR visited a West Baltimore middle/high school, Green Street Academy, that’s trying to help students “make sense of it all” — and stay calm.

William Richardson, a former teacher and dean of students who now works for Juvenile Services, talked to eighth-grade boys in the school cafeteria.

“Why have white people been killing us since slavery, and they’re still killing us?” one student asks.

“All these police officers are killing black dudes for no reason,” says a boy named Montrel.

“If a cop asks what we’re doing, and we’re not doing anything, do we have to answer?” another wonders.

Adults in the room tell the boys to protest peacefully, “write emails to politicians, encourage their parents to shop at black-owned businesses and to above all, be positive,” reports Shereen Marisol Meraji.

“Positive is not always the answer,” a student replies.

Get your education, a teacher says. Move up out of here. “The students don’t seem satisfied,” writes Meraji.

After lunch, Principal Crystal Harden-Lindsey visited an American Government class where a student, James Arrington, is talking about what he wants the government to do to help the kids of Baltimore.

James says young people need access to more activities, recreation centers and safe places to go after school. He wants more responsible adults in the community to count on; Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters to step in.

He says kids act out because they don’t have anyone to show them how to do better.

Harden-Lindsey asks whether bad choices are the responsibility of the kids who make them, or of adults who’ve let them down.

“I think it’s 50/50,” another student says, “’cause it’s the obstacles and the decisions you make on your own.”

Harden-Lindsey wants to focus on the “50” that’s within the control of the young people themselves.

“A lot of what you say, I can definitely understand in terms of being hopeless, of being angry,” Harden-Lindsey says.

“Yes, we have a lot of things that go against us,” says the principal, “but we’re also very resilient.”