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: 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.

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.”

Most California Latinos support testing

A majority of California’s Latino voters support school testing, while white voters do not, according to a USC/LA Times poll.

Fifty-five percent of Latinos “said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.”

Twenty-three percent of Latinos said students were tested too much, compared with 44 percents of whites polled.

“Once a family has achieved a certain level of financial success, they have the luxury of worrying about their children’s stress levels,” said Dan Schnur, head of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “For families who haven’t yet made it, they see the stress that comes with testing as an acceptable trade-off in order to more precisely measure progress.”

80% of teachers are white

Laurent Moreau

Credit: Laurent Moreau

While minority students are now a majority in public schools, more than 80 percent of teachers are white.

Boston’s public schools employ one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Latino students and one black teacher for every 22 African-American students, notes the New York Times. The ratio of white teachers to white students is one to fewer than three.

Does it matter?

Some studies have found no link between students’ performance and being taught by a same-race teacher. When there is a link, it’s small.

According to Anna Jacob Egalite, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and an author of a new study, the largest improvements amounted to about one month of additional learning within a school year.

Other researchers who have found similar academic effects say more than test scores are at stake. “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University.

Many black and Latino college graduates have student loans that push them to “choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend.

Seeking black, Latino success, study ignores charters

Black and Latino boys do poorly in all Boston public schools, concluded a study that ignored charter schools. Boston has the top-performing charter schools in country, CREDO reports. At many, black and Latino boys do well, notes CommonWealth Magazine.

“I was surprised no one contacted us to see what we had learned,” said Owen Stearns, CEO of Excel Academy, which runs two charter schools in East Boston and one in Chelsea. “We’ve been one of the top middle schools in the state for seven years, and 75 percent of our students are Latino.”

At Excel’s East Boston middle school, 100 percent of Latino male 8th graders have scored proficient in English on the state exam for the last four years. In math, the proficiency rate has ranged from 87 to 100 percent.

Excel Academy student Omar Fromenta, college class of '21,  loves science "because it is full of surprises."

Excel Academy student Omar Fromenta, college class of ’21, loves science “because it is full of surprises.”

At the four highest-performing Boston Public Schools, where 40 to 60 percent of black and Latino boys scored proficient, researchers from Brown’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform found teacher collaboration, individualized instruction and a “caring school culture.”

However, researchers criticized the schools’ “colorblind” approach and called for empowering minority students by using “critical race theory” and pedagogy. One example was ” having students reflect on a current inequitable practice (such as the standards and testing movement) to produce a performance or service that showcases their understanding of its harmful effects on students like them.”

At charters with black and Latino boys do well, “building culturally-relevant topics and readings into the school curriculum” is important, but not the priority, reports CommonWealth.

. . . Stearns said the key to high achievement among Excel students is “high expectations around behavior and academics” and “clear alignment among everyone in the building on the need for intellectual rigor and how we interact with students.”

Teacher quality is more important than “cultural competency,” says Stearns.

Ross Wilson, chief of staff for the Boston Public Schools, said the district will “work with our colleagues in charter schools to see what effective best practices are” in a variety of schools.

Raising AP pass rates for blacks, Latinos

Rachmad Tjachyadi collects homework assignments from his AP chemistry students at W.T. White High School in Dallas ISD.
Rachmad Tjachyadi teaches AP chemistry at White High in Dallas

Black and Latino students in Dallas high schools pass the Advanced Placement exams at the highest rate in the country, reports KERA News.

The National Math and Science Initiative has encouraged students to try AP courses.  The Dallas nonprofit “offers Saturday study sessions, pays the hefty exam fees for students, gathers teachers together for professional development and even gives teachers better books or lesson plans if they need them,” reports KERA.

In 1996, when NMSI started working with Dallas high schools, 75 black and Latino students passed at least one AP exam. Last year, 1,270 students passed.

As more Dallas students take an AP exam, the pass rate has fallen. But the overall number of passing students is higher.

Anyone can take his AP chemistry course, said Rachmad Tjachyadi, who teaches at W.T. White High School. Not everyone will pass. “We’re not going to drop the standard for students who have gaps in their preparation,” he said.

Gregg Fleisher, NMSI’s chief academic officer,  would rather see 20 out of 40 students pass an AP physics exam, for example, than 10 out of 10, reports KERA. “What is better for our country — to have twice as many proficient and 20 more who tried it?” he says. “Quite frankly, I think 12 out of 40 is better than 10 out of 10.”

NMSI gives $100 to each student who passes a math, science or English exam, and $100 to the teacher for each passing student. That means that if all 55 of Tjachyadi’s students pass the chemistry exam, he’ll get a check for $5,500. Last year, he got a nice $2,600 for his passing students—right at Christmas time.

Even students who fail the exam can benefit from the challenge, he says. A former student, Grace Knott got a 1 on the chemistry exam, equivalent to a D. However, when half of her classmates failed college chemistry, she was “able to keep up was because of the backing that I got in Mr. T’s class,” she said. Knott is now a biology teacher at a Dallas high school.

After the story tale ending …

Spare Parts, which tells the true story of an underdog robotics team of Mexican immigrants, is inspirational and nearly waylaid by cliches, writes the Arizona Republic.

In 2004, Arizona high school boys — all undocumented immigrants — beat well-funded teams from around the country — including a team from MIT — in an underwater robotics competition. Joshua Davis’ Wired article and book inspired a documentary, Underwater Dreams.

When the movie ends, the boys’ future seems to be bright, writes Joshua Davis in a New York Times op-ed. But, because they were undocumented, only one earned a bachelor’s degree and none work in robotics.

One works as a cook, another as a janitor, according to Davis. A third is unemployed. He dropped out of Arizona State when voters passed Proposition 300, which banned state aid or in-state tuition for undocumented students.

 Oscar Vazquez . . . also had a scholarship to A.S.U., and after working menial jobs for a year, was able to attend. He was a sophomore when Proposition 300 passed, and managed to stay in school only by piecing together more scholarships, all while leading the university’s robotics team to regional championships. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 and applied for legal residency.

Not only was his application denied, but he was also summarily banned from the United States for 10 years for living here without a visa. He ended up working on an assembly line in Mexico.

After a year, his ban was reversed when Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, interceded on his behalf. Mr. Vazquez returned, enlisted in the Army, and served a tour of combat duty in Afghanistan. He is finally a citizen, and repairs trains in Montana for the railroad company BNSF.

Deporting talented young people who’ve grown up in the U.S. is “a startling rebuke to the American dream,” concludes Davis, who argues for President Obama’s executive action granting work permits to undocumented immigrants like the robotics team.