Hispanic students aren't catching up

Hispanic fourth and eighth graders didn’t catch up in math and reading from 1990 to 2009, concludes Achievement Gaps, a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report issued yesterday. Hispanic students improved, but so did non-Hispanic whites.

Nationwide, the average Hispanic student is working two or more grade levels below the average white student, notes the Christian Science Monitor.  (Ten points on NAEP is the equivalent of one grade level.)

In fourth-grade math in 2009, the average Hispanic score of 227 corresponds with the “basic” skill level, and it indicates that students can make a pictograph of given information, and can determine, in a multiple-choice question, how many given pieces cover a shape.

The white average score of 248, on the other hand, is just one point shy of reaching the “proficient” skill level, and it indicates that these students can subtract a two-digit number from a three-digit number and solve a word problem involving quarts and cups.

Hispanic school enrollment in grades 4 and 8 tripled in the last two decades, growing from 7 percent to 22 percent by 2009.  Some 77 percent of Hispanic students come from low-income families.

Thirty-seven percent in fourth grade and 21 percent in eighth grade are not fully proficient in reading English. Not surprisingly, Hispanic students who’ve achieved proficiency — which is measured by scoring well on tests — do much better than those who aren’t proficient.

For Hispanics who already know English, the gaps with whites have narrowed. That gap was 15 points in Grade 8 reading, for instance, while ELL Hispanics scored 39 points lower than non-ELL Hispanics.

Among low-income students, the gaps between Hispanics and whites have narrowed in reading and eighth-grade math since 2003.

Florida boasts a significantly smaller Hispanic-white achievement gap. Other school systems with smaller-than-average gaps are Kentucky, Missouri, Wyoming and the Department of Defense schools. California, sadly, has a larger-than-average achievement gap.

33% of KIPP grads earn 4-year degree

Thirty-three percent of KIPP graduates earned a bachelor’s degree 10 years after graduating from one of the charter network’s first middle schools in Houston or the Bronx, according to a KIPP report. Another 5 percent earned an associate degree and 19 percent are working toward a degree.

That’s far short of KIPP’s goal, a 75 percent four-year college graduation rate. But these low-income black and Hispanic KIPPsters are slightly more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than the average young American; the national rate is 30.6 percent. Only 8.3 percent of students from low-income families earn a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s.

Some 95 percent of KIPP’s middle-school graduates completed high school compared to a national average of 83 percent. Only 70 percent of low-income students complete high school. Eighty-nine percent of KIPPsters enroll in college, compared to 62 percent of all U.S. students and 41 percent of low-income students.

KIPP graduates have more motivated parents than typical low-income students, Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science in education at Teachers College, Columbia told Ed Week.

However, that extra motivation didn’t translate into higher achievement before enrolling in a KIPP middle school. When students start, typically in fifth grade, they’re achieving at similar levels to students in nearby schools, but doing worse than the district average, according to Mathematica’s research.

In 2004, KIPP began to open elementary schools to keep students from falling behind and high schools to keep middle-school graduates on the college track. KIPP To College was started to provide academic, financial and personal counseling to alumni.

Improving Hispanic graduation rates

On Community College Spotlight:  A “policy road map” for improving Hispanic students’ graduation rates.

In Texas, colleges are eliminating late registration to boost success rates, but funding is tied to enrollment, not completion.

One drop of Hispanic blood

One drop of Hispanic blood makes a student Hispanic, according to U.S. Education Department regulations that take effect this year. Students of non-Hispanic mixed parentage will be classified as “two or more races,” which some says lumps together those who are likely to be disadvantaged (black and American Indian) and those who are not (white and Asian).

The new standards for kindergarten through 12th grades and higher education will probably increase the nationwide student population of Hispanics, and could erase some “black” students who will now be counted as Hispanic or as multiracial (in the “two or more races category”). And reclassifying large numbers of white Hispanic students as simply Hispanic has the potential to mask the difference between minority and white students’ test scores, grades and graduation rates — the so-called achievement gap, a target of federal reform efforts that has plagued schools for decades.

The New York Times’ Room for Debate asks: How should students of mixed ancestry be classified?

Not at all, responds Shelby Steele, a Hoover Institution fellow.

Civil rights leaders don’t like this ruling because they are in the business of documenting racial disparities. In our culture mixed-race children do not carry the same level of entitlement as blacks. Giving them their own category reduces the number of blacks and, thus, the level of entitlement that civil rights groups can argue for.

Identity politics is a cynical and dehumanizing business that, in the end, helps no one. Better to eliminate all such categories and leave race and identity in the private realm.

Race still matters, writes Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale. His research shows that “being Black still has independent and powerful negative effects on educational opportunity, quite separate from language and class barriers.” That is, blacks do significantly worse on tests even when socioeconomic factors are considered.

People who look black are treated differently.  Other mixed-ethnicity people usually blend in, certainly where I live in California.

My new nephew celebrates his one-week birthday today. Like his sisters, he’s one-quarter Hispanic in ancestry, but nobody will know that by his name or appearance or Spanish fluency. His first cousins are one-quarter Hispanic, one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Italian and one-quarter German/British, to simplify.  They are middle-class Americans.

If we’re going to classify kids by race, then we should know who’s black-Hispanic and who’s Asian-Caucasian and who’s Samoan-Irish-Cherokee. Computers can do this in nanoseconds. But wouldn’t it be nice to stop.

Honors for all

Honors and Advanced Placement students at Evanston Township High, a large, very diverse school near Northwestern University, tend to be white and Asian. In hopes of preparing more black and Hispanic students for high-level classes, the school may eliminate honors-only freshman humanities classes for the top 5 percent of students, reports the Chicago Tribune.  Instead, teachers are supposed to teach the honors curriculum to all students; those who do well will get honors credit. If it works well, honors biology also will be eliminated.

The new humanities class would include all students able to read at the ninth-grade level, which the high school defines as scoring at or above the 40th percentile nationally on an achievement test given to eighth-graders.

A small number of students below the 40th percentile will be in a different class, to get more help. This year, 50 students are in that support class — about 8 percent of students enrolled in all freshman humanities courses.

Some parents of high achievers say top students won’t be challenged in classes with a wide range of abilities. Other parents complain their children are excluded from honors classes based on tests taken in eighth grade.

Evanston High spends more than $20,000 per student, one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the state, reports the Trib. “But while white students have consistently scored high enough on state tests to meet the standards, black and Latino students lag far behind, according to state data.”

Without No Child Left Behind, which forces schools to break out the performance of racial and ethnic subgroups, Evanston High would look like a high-performing school, notes Alexander Russo.

My daughter was in a mixed English class in ninth grade at Palo Alto High. She did some extra work and got honors credit; a majority of students did not do the honors work.  It worked, mostly because the range of skills wasn’t all that wide.  However, if black and Hispanic students lag far behind in K-8, I doubt they’ll be transformed by sitting in class with honors students. It will take more work in K-8 to prepare students for true honors work.

Few black male students are proficient

Black male students are doing very poorly in school, concludes a report by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools. From the New York Times:

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

In addition to low test scores, black male students drop out of high school at nearly twice the rate of white males. SAT scores for black males who remain in school average 104 points lower than white males.

Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, calls for “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” such as “how much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

Black girls are much more likely to complete high school and go on to college than their brothers. The culture for girls is less toxic than the culture for boys, most of whom are growing up without their fathers.

The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.

The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” (Michael) Casserly said.

And what’s the evidence that spending money improves results? Or holding a White House conference for that matter.

In Baltimore, the dropout rate for African-American boys declined to 4.9 percent during the last academic year, down from 11.9 percent three years earlier, the Times reports.

Andres A. Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, said the improvement had little to do with changes at the margins, like lengthening the school day or adding mentors. Rather, Mr. Alonso cited aggressively closing failing schools, knocking on the doors of dropouts’ homes to lure them back and creating real-time alerts — “almost like an electrical charge” — when a student misses several days of school.

Baltimore also opened alternative schools to help students complete a diploma.

Grades, scores or character?

Less than four percent of students are black or Hispanic at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a public magnet school in Virginia.  Forty-six percent of students are Asian-American. TJ’s admissions committee should consider character as well as brains, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

Last year, the school says, 52 Hispanics and 29 blacks reached the semifinal round of admissions, based on their academic records. But only 13 Hispanics and four blacks were enrolled.

The ability to benefit from the school’s imaginative teaching is not the main criterion for the admission people, I suspect. Like the rest of us, they are impressed by test scores.

Many highly selective high schools are predominantly Asian-American, Mathews writes. Asian immigrant parents push their children to excel academically, especially in science and math. When TJ looks for students with a “passion” for science and math — and high test scores and grades —  it finds many Asian-American students.

The school’s administrators, teachers and counselors have formed a Diversity and Engagement Curriculum Team to recruit more blacks and Hispanics.

“Success in America stems more from character than test-taking ability,” Mathews writes. “We can tell which Jefferson applicants show signs of the determination and grace that produce great lives” by talking to their middle-school teachers.

Many of the most promising ones will be black and Hispanic. Give more of them a chance, and Jefferson will not only be a more interesting school to attend, but more reflective of the values we want all of our kids to have.

Do blacks and Hispanic students have more “character” than Asian-American students? They’ve probably dealt with more adversity. But most of those Asian kids are exceptionally determined people; many have overcome language and cultural challenges. I’d bet their middle-school teachers love them.

Diversity arguments for discriminating on the basis of race and ethnicity are incoherent, argues John Rosenberg on Discriminations. “If Mathews’ suggestions for TJ were adopted perhaps its name should be changed to The Thomas Jefferson High School For Interested, Determined, Graceful Students Of Good Character. The school would probably still be good … but it wouldn’t be TJ.”

The college premium

On Community College Spotlight:  College graduates are much less likely to be unemployed than workers with only a high school diploma, but some question whether the college advantage is worth taking on debt.

Community colleges are reaching out to high-risk students — especially Hispanics — to get them from high school to community college to a four-year degree.

Follow Florida

To reduce the achievement gap, follow Florida’s example, write Matthew Ladner and Lindsey Burke on National Review Online, who look at the Sunshine State’s remarkable progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

After a decade of K–12 education reform, Florida’s minority students — both Hispanics and blacks — have outscored the average student (minority and non-minority) in many other states.

Florida parents have a range of choices, they write, including charter schools, vouchers for special-needs students, education tax credits and online learning options.  enjoy more educational options than those in any other state.

Students in third grade through tenth are tested in reading and math. “Policymakers have periodically raised their standards, and students have demonstrated that they can reach tougher goals.” Schools are graded on an A-to-F scale, which parents can understand.

Florida also implemented alternative teacher certification and a limited pay-for-performance program and, importantly, ended social promotion. If Johnny cannot read in third grade, he will no longer automatically advance to fourth grade. He will retake third grade with extra help.

Florida adopted a tougher version of No Child Left Behind, they write.  The state’s Hispanic and black students are the beneficiaries.

Black flight in Dallas

Black parents and education leaders are pulling out of district-run schools in Dallas, reports the Morning News. Some black students go to charter schools; others are enrolled in suburban districts. 

It’s not a surprise to anybody that blacks are leaving DISD,” said Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas NAACP. “We know that Hispanics are really taking over the school district. The whites are completely gone, and now blacks are going.”

The number of black students in DISD has fallen from 60,000 a decade ago to about 41,000 today. Meanwhile, suburban districts – such as Cedar Hill, Mansfield and DeSoto – and Dallas charter schools show growing numbers of black students. Though DISD’s overall enrollment of about 157,000 students is fairly flat, the percentage of Hispanic students has soared to 68 percent. The percentage of black students, the dominant group from 1975 to 1994, has dropped to 26 percent. White students now make up about 5 percent of the district, down sharply from 57 percent in 1970.

Some blacks say the district focuses on serving the needs of Hispanic students who speak English as a second language. Others say district schools are large and disorderly.

Black students have done poorly in Dallas schools, writes Matthew Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog.