Diversity: Does class trump race?

Socioeconomic diversity — not just racial diversity — should be a priority for U.S. schools, said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. in an Atlantic interview previewing his July 1 speech at the National PTA Convention in Orlando.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

“A Puerto Rican and African American whose parents had both passed away by the time he was 12, King has repeatedly credited New York public schools for saving his life and shaping its trajectory,” writes Emily DeRuy. King attended integrated schools “that exposed him not only to high-quality curriculum, but to students and teachers from backgrounds and cultures wildly different from his own.”

“Like math and reading, like science, social studies, and the arts, diversity is no longer a luxury,” King told the PTA. “It’s essential for helping our students get ready for the world they will encounter after high school and, increasingly, throughout their lives.”

Schools integrated by social class raise disadvantaged students’ academic achievement, the Coleman Report concluded 50 years ago, writes the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg, also in The Atlantic.

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Coleman found racial school integration helped black students because of “the better educational background and higher educational aspirations that are, on average, found among whites.”

Still, socioeconomic integration has been a low priority for nearly all school districts — until recently, writes Kahlenberg. Now, 91 school districts with 4 million students are trying to mix low-income and middle-class students.

Charlotte, for example, which led the nation in racial desegregation, then abandoned it, saw its school board vote in 2016 to take steps to integrate the schools by socioeconomic status.

. . . In Cambridge, Massachusetts, . . .  a socioeconomic-integration program was adopted in 2001 and by 2014, 86 percent of low-income students graduated, compared to 65 percent of low-income students in Boston, whose schools are not socioeconomically integrated.

Schools integrated by social class (and race) have benefits for all students, the Century Foundation argues.

Whites are a plurality, but not a majority, in public schools, while Latinos, who come in all colors, outnumber blacks. I suspect this is driving the rising interest in socioeconomic diversity.

What every American should know

As part of Aspen Institute’s Citizenship & American Identity Program, you can list the top 10 things that every American should know.

Eric Liu kicked this off last year with an Atlantic piece on cultural literacy for a diverse America. “It’s not enough for the United States to be a neutral zone where a million little niches of identity might flourish,” he wrote. “In order to make our diversity a true asset, Americans need those niches to be able to share a vocabulary.”

Norman Rockwell's America

Norman Rockwell’s America

His list: Whiteness, the Federalist Papers, the Almighty Dollar, Organized labor, Reconstruction, Nativism, the American Dream, the Reagan Revolution, DARPA, A sucker born every minute.

Robert Pondiscio starts his top 10 list with “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

He adds: “To form a more perfect Union,” E Pluribus Unum, “a government of laws and not of men,” “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” “Self-Reliance,” “The chief business of the American people is business,” American exceptionalism,  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and Franklin’s “a republic, if you can keep it.”

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.

Math is out, diversity is in

A Detroit university will drop its math requirement, but may require students to take four diversity-promoting courses, reports the Daily Caller.

Until now, Wayne State has required all students to take Math 1000 — a reprise of high school math — or earn a satisfactory score on a standardized math test. (A 2 in AP math, the equivalent of a D, is good enough.)

Wayne State sponsors a Math Corps for Detroit students.

Detroit high school students in Wayne State’s Math Corps march in a Labor Day parade.

In the future, each major will decide how much math students need, if any.

“A lot of students need remediation in math,” Kim Shmina, who served on WSU’s nursing faculty until May, told Campus Reform. “They’re not at the high school level.”

Wayne State will adopt a new general-education program in fall 2018. A review committee’s proposal makes “the values and goals of diversity . . . a central component of the University Core.” Mandatory “Signature” and “capstone” courses would “be required to address one of the Diversity learning outcomes: Intercultural Knowledge and Competence, Global Learning, or Ethical Reasoning” and student also would be required to take at least one “Diversity” course.

Under the proposal, students in no-math majors may be placed in a “quantitative experience” course, Monica Brockmeyer, associate provost for student success, told Inside Higher Ed.

The university already offers a Math 1000 course called “Math in Today’s World” that would count, she said.

But so would other courses offered by a range of departments, including those in the humanities, she said. For example, a social science course on inequality in urban areas could include a mathematical component by asking students to gather data and calculate trends over time.

It’s entirely possibly that social science and humanities students should learn statistics rather than taking another shot at algebra. Instead, I fear, future Wayne Staters will get total immersion in “diversity” and a lick and a promise in math.

As for engineering, accounting and nursing majors, I hope they’re not too busy learning globally and interculturally to master their subjects.

25 years of charters: They’re not alike

In Charter schools at 25, Education Week looks at what’s changed since Minnesota passed the first law authorizing publicly funded, privately operated charter schools.

One story looks at two very different charter schools. St. Paul’s teacher-led Avalon School draws middle-class, white students interested in project-based learning. Alliance for College Ready Schools in Los Angeles focus on preparing lower-income Latino and black students to be the first in their families to go to college.

Some observers inside and outside the sector contend they have wandered far from their original purpose: to be schools of innovation and serve as a research and development sector for traditional K-12 schools. In many ways, Minnesota still embodies some of the early ideas, while cities such as Los Angeles represent what the charter movement has become: an engine powered by muscular foundations for raising the prospects of low-income African-American and Latino students.

“Raising the prospects” of kids who most need a decent education seems like a good goal to me. If project-based learning isn’t the most effective method for doing that — or black and Latino parents prefer a more structured, orderly school — why is that a problem?

 Nationwide, 5 percent of K-12 students attend charters, but in 14 cities, 30 percent or more have chosen charters.
Harvest Schools in Minneapolis are designed for African-American and East African students. Photo: Minneapolis Post

Harvest Schools in Minneapolis are designed for African-American and East African students.

Blacks make up 28 percent of charter students, nearly double their percentage in traditional public schools, according to an Ed Week analysis of federal data. Twenty-nine percent of charter students are Latino, compared to 25 percent at traditional schools. Whites are under-represented at charters.

Critics also claim all-minority charters — chosen by parents — are “resegregating” education.

Minnesota allows charters targeted to African-American, Native American, Somali and Hmong students, reports Ed Week. Some worry the schools aren’t diverse.

For example, Minneapolis’ Harvest Network of Schools enrolls low-income African-American and East African students, placing some in single-gender programs. The curriculum is “steeped in African history and culture.”

Obviously, some parents prefer Harvest’s focus to what’s offered at their more integrated (but probably low-income, high-minority) neighborhood school.

Education reform is for everybody

Education Reform Advocacy Is About Addition Not Subtraction, writes Martín Pérez on Education Post. That is, it takes a coalition.

In his Los Angeles barrio, the neighborhood schools were “dropout factories,” he writes.

My parents were only able to save up enough money to send one of us to a Jesuit high school. They chose me. My brother Ulysses had to stay behind in the public high school. Four years later, when at 18 I became the first in our family to be accepted to college, my brother was entering the Los Angeles County jail. Four years after that, as I walked across the stage as a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, my brother was entering the penitentiary system for the second time.

. . . I decided instead to become the teacher he never had, the one who would understand him, who would take the time to connect with him; the one who he would remember later in life thinking, “If not for this teacher, I would be in jail.”

A Berkeley graduate, Pérez joined Teach for America, became District Teacher of the Year in Phoenix’s Alhambra district and is now an education advocacy fellow at 50CAN. Education reform needs leaders who are “ideologically diverse and racially and socioeconomically diverse,” he concludes.

Isn’t this obvious. Nooooo. Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio kicked off the debate by writing that conservative education reformers feel marginalized by left-wing reformers. “There is an unmistakable and increasingly aggressive orthodoxy in mainstream education reform thought regarding issues of race, class, and gender. And it does not include conservative ideas.”

The reform movement needs both the market and equity perspectives, writes Derrell Bradford, executive director of NYCAN, on The 74.

I’ve been increasingly frustrated to see so many people I like and respect (from Marilyn Rhames to Justin Cohen, Chris Stewart and Jay Greene) take aim at one another.

. . . Does and should the conservative or “Market” perspective — one focused on choice, pluralism and opportunity as the prime drivers — continue to have a place in the education reform movement, effort, confab, or whatever you want to call it? The answer has three letters: yes. Competition and innovation are essential, and may be the best way to level the playing field for kids of color.

“Even as the education reform movement strives to become more ethnically diverse, it could also become less so ideologically,” warns Bradford. “We do not win with a smaller tent against a unified enemy that has created the conditions we battle against.”

Reformers on the “right” and “left” agree about many issues, writes Rick Hess. However, the “social justice warriors” are using “white privilege” to shut down dialogue.

Those on the left have all too often taken any disagreement on these issues as evidence that those of us who disagree with them are blinded by “white privilege.” If we weren’t blinded, we’d agree with them. If we don’t agree, it’s evidence that we’re blinded. This infuriating little catch-22 can leave even conciliation-minded conservatives thinking, “The hell with it.”

Progressives should care about what conservatives think — and not simply “out of tactical self-interest,” Hess concludes. “It’s because exploring these substantive differences is good, healthy, and important, and makes for smarter decisions about policy and practice.”

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.

TFA drops social justice training


Michael Darmas, a Teach for America corps member, “high fives” a student at Holmes Elementary School in Miami. Photo: AP

Teach for America‘s Education for Justice pilot, which trained would-be teachers in social justice and cultural competency, has been canceled, writes Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week. College students took courses for a year to prepare to teach in low-income, minority communities.

TFA is cutting 150 positions, including its national diversity office, notes Sawchuk. “Still, this is somewhat surprising news. After all, the pilot was one that TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard announced in 2014 to great fanfare.”

After nearly a year of E4J, Kailee Lewis, a future TFA corps member, believes telling teachers they’ll show low-income students “what’s possible when they work hard and dream big” is a false and dangerous lie.

This idea that ‘hard work’ can create something out of nothing neglects the fact that often in low-income communities there are multiple forms of oppression stacked against a child even before birth.

Education 4 Justice was teaching future teachers . . . to recognize their privilege and their oppressions.

I don’t see how this prepares someone to teach. If you think your students can’t succeed, even if they “work hard and dream big,” then what’s the point? Give the pobrecitos hugs and recess, but don’t bother them with fractions, grammar and photosynthesis.

TFA is expanding recruitment efforts among college juniors, rather than waiting till students are about to graduate. It will offer training for future teachers that takes “the best practices from E4J and other pre-corps pilots,” said an official statement.

Science fairs aren’t open to everyone

President Obama reacts as Joey Hudy of Phoenix, Arizona, launches a marshmallow during the 2012 White House Science Fair. Photo: Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

At this week’s White House Science Fair, President Obama showcased young scientists and inventors and urged girls to pursue STEM fields. “We’re not going to succeed when we’ve got half the team on the bench,” he said. “Especially when it’s the smarter half.”

“Diversity is important,” said Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “We need more STEM workers, and we need to recruit the best talent of the world, and some of the talent will come from people who have not been traditionally involved in STEM.”

Science fairs have “became an exercise in privilege,”writes Carl Zimmer, a science writer, in STAT. Girls aren’t excluded. But children who don’t have educated parents and access to high-quality labs won’t go very far.

Veronica was able to carry out her science fair experiment in a Yale lab.

Told her seventh-grade science fair experiment required expert supervision, the author’s daughter was able to use a Yale lab. Photo: Carl Zimmer

His daughter decided to compare different ways to clean a toothbrush for her seventh-grade science fair.  She planned to brush with a new toothbrush,  clean it with water, lemon juice or vinegar, then see how much bacteria grew on a Petri dish.

Her proposal required filling out “an avalanche of confusing paperwork,” Zimmer writes. It was considered “so potentially dangerous that Veronica would have to carry it out under the supervision of a trained expert, who would first have to submit a detailed risk assessment.”

Most kids would have quit there. But Zimmer knew a Yale microbiologist who agreed to let the seventh-grader work in his lab. She ended up winning an honorable mention at the stair fair.

“When you look over the projects that win the Google Science Fair and the Intel Science Talent Search these days, it’s clear that they’re mostly the products of very bright, motivated students lucky enough to work in university labs where they can take advantage of expertise and equipment,” Zimmer writes. Kids without those connections are out of luck.

College admissions: Why not a lottery?

Affirmative action is back in court — the U.S. Supreme Court — in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Abigail Fisher is challenging racial preferences in admission to University of Texas at Austin.

Abigail Fisher is challenging racial preferences in admission to University of Texas at Austin.

Abigail Fisher, a white student rejected in 2008, claims her dream school used “holistic review” as a cover for racial discrimination. “There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, and who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” Fisher said.

“Affirmative-action policies at selective colleges are very vulnerable,” writes Richard Kahlenberg in The Atlantic. Race is weighed “very heavily” in admissions decisions. That helps “fairly well-off African-American and Latino students.”

“By the 1990s, one study found that 86 percent of African American students on selective campuses were middle or upper class, and the white students were even richer,” he writes.

“Underrepresented minority students receive a 28-percentage-point increase in their chances of being admitted, according to one careful analysis,” he writes. ” Low-income students receive no boost whatsoever.”

University of Texas at Austin uses race as a factor in admission for up to 10 percent of students.

University of Texas at Austin admits the top 10 percent of students at each high school to ensure diversity; about 7 percent are admitted through “holistic review.”

Affirmative action based on economic disadvantage — help for low-income students of all races — could reproduce current levels of racial diversity at 193 selective colleges, a 2014 simulation concluded. “Socioeconomic diversity would rise substantially,” writes Kahlenberg.

Samuel Goldman, a poli sci prof at George Washington University, proposes a lottery open to all qualified applicants to replace the opaque, dishonest and expensive college admissions system.

The application would involve a checklist of more or less objective, externally verifiable criteria. These might include GPA above a certain cutoff, scores of 4 of 5 on a given number of AP tests, and so on. . . . there might be a box to be checked by applicants who played a varsity sport.  The application could even ask about socio-economic status, allowing applicants to indicate that their parents had not attended college or that they grew up in a high-poverty census tract.

Suppose the checklist contained ten criteria. Applicants who satisfied, say, six of them would be entered into a lottery for admission.

“Elite universities might lose a bit of their cachet,” he writes in The American Conservative. He’s OK with that.

A college-admissions lottery would reduce stress, writes Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore psychology professor.

Every selective school should establish criteria that students would have to meet to have a high likelihood of being successful. Then, the names of all applicants who meet these criteria would be put into a hat and the winners would be drawn at random.

Students wouldn’t have to be “best,” he writes. “Good enough” would be good enough.