A ‘bar exam’ for new teachers?

Evaluating prospective teachers on classroom performance, including videos of student teaching, will increase teaching quality, say advocates of Stanford’s edTPA. Some want to make it a “bar exam” equivalent for entry into teaching.

Credit: John Berry

Credit: John Berry

“But critics have worried the test could create another stumbling block for minority teachers, who are underrepresented in the profession,” reports Hechinger’s Sarah Garland. African-American teachers scored somewhat lower on edTPA, a new analysis shows.

About 70 percent of candidates scored a 42, the recommended cut score. Blacks averaged a 41, “compared to roughly 45 for white, Hispanic and Asians,” writes Garland.

Those who did their student teaching in the suburbs tended to score slightly better than those who trained in urban or rural areas. In addition, women had an edge on men.

Some believe performance tests will create a “roadblock to diversifying the profession,” writes Peggy Barmore.

At least a dozen states and more than 600 teacher preparation programs use performance tests such as edTPA, she writes. “They cost more money, take more time, and require the teacher aspirants to do more work — all of which could deter low-income and minority teacher candidates who were already faring worse, on average, on the less rigorous state-administered certification tests.

Feds: Selective teacher ed hurts diversity

Eager to increase the number of black and Latino teachers, the U.S. Education Department wants teacher education programs to keep entry standards low, writes Jackie Mader for the Hechinger Report. It’s OK to be unselective, under new federal rules, as long as teacher education programs “maintain a high bar to exit.”

Only 18 percent of teachers are African-American, non-white Hispanic, Native American and Asian-American, according to a new Brookings report. Slightly more than half of public school students are non-white.


The report predicted the number of Latino teachers will fall even farther behind the rising number of Latino students.

Students do better with same-race teachers, some research shows, Mader writes. Black teachers expect more of black students, according to a 2016 Johns Hopkins study. “For example, white teachers were almost 40 percent less likely than their black counterparts to expect black students to finish high school.”

Lowering standards is an insult to blacks and Latinos, said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “I’m very much opposed to anything that would lower the bar for entry, for a simple reason: It’s already about as low as you can go. In many institutions in the United States, there are lower bars for entry than playing college athletics.”

U-Chicago: No ‘safe spaces’ here

Image result for college free speech safe spaces trigger warnings

Don’t expect “safe spaces” or “trigger warnings” at the University of Chicago, wrote Dean of Students John Ellison in a letter to incoming freshmen. Expect some discomfort.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” wrote Ellison. “Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community.”

“Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort but rather as a crucible for confronting ideas and thereby learning to make informed judgments in complex environments,” wrote University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

It’s inspired praise. “It is a sad commentary on higher education that this is considered a brave and bold move,” writes Mary Katharine Ham on The Federalist.

But there’s plenty of outrage, writes Reason‘s Robby Soave.

The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer called Ellison’s letter a “perverse document” that limits academic freedom by telling professors they can’t issue “trigger warnings,” if they choose.

“The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education confirmed with the university that its statement should not be read as a ban on trigger warnings,” responds Soave.

Professors are free to warn — or not warn.

Slate‘s L.V. Anderson branded (the letter) “very odd,” while suggesting that the university is further marginalizing students who already feel marginalized.

Activist students should want their universities to treat them as thinking adults — rather than Mommy’s Special Snowflake — Soave argues. If the administration has the power to limit unpopular speech, students lose power.

At University of Georgia, Dr. Naomi Graber defines “safe space” as a place where students can voice unpopular views without risking a lower grade — or ridicule. Her syllabus assures students “they will not be penalized for being ‘wrong’ in discussion sections” and asks them to “challenge ideas, not people.”

Embedding ‘diversity’ in forestry

Many colleges require all students to take a class that exposes them to another culture: Often they can learn American Sign Language, read gay literature or study jazz, Native American archaeology sites or labor history without focusing on the priorities of social justice advocates.

Few colleges “require individual courses with curriculum designed specifically to foster cross-cultural exchanges,” writes Emily DeRuy in The Atlantic.

Now, some colleges are trying to get professors to embed “diversity” in all classes, she writes. That includes everything from statistics to forestry to engineering.

Hamilton College in New York recently adopted a plan that will require professors across all disciplines to discuss diversity and inclusion in their classes.

St. Edward’s University, a progressive Catholic school in Texas, is revamping a series of standalone diversity- and social-justice-focused courses it has long required in an attempt to urge professors across campus to work such conversations into a wider array of classes.

When Thomas Easley interviews people who want to teach statistics at North Carolina State University (NCSU), he asks how they’d integrate diversity into the curriculum.

NCSU’s U.S. diversity requirement includes myriad courses that don’t require “interactions between people from different backgrounds,” Easley tells DeRuy. As diversity officer for the College of Natural Resources, he is trying to train professors “to integrate conversations about diversity into curriculum.”

Calculate and catalog valuable forest metrics such as tree height, canopy cover, stem density, and crown area for individual trees in both forest and urban settings. Quantum Spatial has developed cutting-edge methodology that generates forest metrics directly from LiDAR points, which produces an accurate, detailed tree databases for entire study areas. Credit: Quantum Spacial

Foresters can use colors to analyze tree height, canopy cover, stem density, and crown area. Credit: Quantum Spacial

His example is that foresters “need to secure the trust of landowners from all backgrounds, and the process of earning that trust varies depending on who the landowner is.”

So, how much time should a forestry professor spend trying to teach the cultures of the various landowners a forestry graduate might encounter?

I worry about academic freedom. What if a forestry prof thinks students should focus on the diversity of trees, not the diversity of people?

Perhaps the statistics professor could ask students to analyze African-American males’ risk of stroke. Would that be enough? Is it necessary to discuss whether statistics is inherently patriarchal and heteronormative?

Years ago, a Cuban-American told me his father had been a professor of French at the University of Havana when an edict came down requiring all courses to incorporate the thought of Fidel Castro. That was ridiculous in courses focused on French language, literature and culture, the professor said at a department meeting. He served eight years in prison.

E pluribus oops

It’s time to restore the “civic mission” of schools, writes Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio. Reclaiming the “melting pot” metaphor is a first step, he argues. To truly “welcome and celebrate diversity,” we’ll need to  focus children “on what makes us one country and one people.”


He cites social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s analysis of the clash between “nationalists” and “globalists.”

“Nationalists see patriotism as a virtue,” Haidt writes. “They think their country and its culture are unique and worth preserving.” Globalists see all that as “mere racism.”

He cites Karen Stenner, an Australian political scientist who sees intolerance as a response to “the perception that ‘we’ are coming apart.” Celebrating “our sameness” the best way to build tolerance of differences, she argues.

 “Ultimately, nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions, and processes. And regrettably, nothing is more certain to provoke increased expression of their latent predispositions (for authoritarianism) than the likes of ‘multicultural education,’ bilingual policies, and non-assimilation.”

That brings Pondiscio to the schools, which used to tell American children about the melting pot,  E pluribus unum and “Bring me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

“Gradually, the term fell into disrepute, giving way to metaphors of quilts, mosaics, and kaleidoscopes,” he writes. (“Melting pot” is now considered a microaggression on some campuses.)

Pondiscio dreams of a “civic education renaissance” that would “cultivate in our children a sense of attachment to the nation and its civic ideals.”

In Germany, officials are calling for mandatory classes on Islam in schools in response to an axe attack on train passengers by a 17-year-old Afghan refugee/ISIS “soldier.”

Via The Impotents.

Backlash: Diversity training boosts bias

Here’s a non-surprise: Mandatory diversity training leads to less diversity and more hostility, concludes a study published in the Harvard Business Review.

. . . five years after instituting required training for managers, companies saw no improvement in the proportion of white women, black men, and Hispanics in management, and the share of black women actually decreased by 9%, on average, while the ranks of Asian-American men and women shrank by 4% to 5%.

Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance—and many participants actually report more animosity toward other groups afterward.

Voluntary training led to better results, researchers found.

Research from the University of Toronto reinforces our findings: In one study white subjects read a brochure critiquing prejudice toward blacks. When people felt pressure to agree with it, the reading strengthened their bias against blacks. When they felt the choice was theirs, the reading reduced bias.

Stressing the benefits of a multicultural workforce, rather than the risk of lawsuits, college recruitment aimed at women and minorities, mentoring new hires and creating in-house diversity efforts led to a more diverse managerial workforce over time. Bringing in outside consultants backfired.

I went through this sort of mandatory training in my newspaper days. One Power Point presentation featured purple hippos, because nobody employed by Knight-Ridder Newspapers was a purple hippo.

School administrators might benefit from a look at the research.

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.


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.