18% of teachers are minorities

Eighteen percent of public school teachers — and 42 percent of students —  are racial or ethnic minorities, reports Harper‘s Index.

Secret school success

We’re not all going to hell in a hand basket, argues Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. “The last 15 years have seen tremendous progress for poor, minority, and low-achieving students — the very children that have been the focus of two decades of reform.”

 . . . For instance, between 1990 and 2009, black fourth graders made 35 points of progress on the mathematics NAEP exam; black eighth-graders gained 24 points. The corresponding numbers for Latino children were 28 and 21 points respectively. In reading, black fourth-graders gained 13 points between 1992 and 2009; black eighth graders gained 9 points. In the just-released geography exam, black fourth-grade students gained 28 points between 1994 and 2010; Latino fourth-graders gained 21 points. Similar progress was seen in history and civics.

This means low-income and minority students are “achieving one, two, and sometimes three grade levels higher than their counterparts in the early 1990s were,” Petrilli writes.

What happened? States that adopted accountability systems made big gains in the ’90s and “the stragglers made big progress once No Child Left Behind forced them to follow suit,” he argues.

NCLB doesn’t hold schools accountable for history, civics, and geography; neither do most states. But “poor and minority kids are stronger readers now, so they can better read the social studies exams and answer more questions correctly,” Petrilli theorizes.

The debate should be about trade-offs, he writes. Poor and minority kids are learning more, but their schools may be turning to scripted lessons and squeezing out art and music. Poor and minority kids are learning more, but principals and teachers have more incentive to cheat on tests. “Poor and minority kids are learning more, but their more affluent, higher-achieving peers are making fewer gains. Is it worth it?”

Would you teach? 'No way'

Hilary Lustick’s New York City students say they respect black and brown teachers but act up when teachers are suburban whites. But they don’t want to become the teachers they’d like to have, she writes on Gotham Schools.

Two students help with teaching in her sixth-period class.

They reinforce my routines with more precision than I do, insisting on total silence before they will call on a student and flat-out berating any out-of-turn or disrespectful comments. . . . These young women agree they have the organizational skills and classroom presence of natural educators, but neither would ever consider teaching high school. Alissa, who is blunt and would probably make a kick-butt high school teacher, says flatly, “No way. I see how we treat you guys.”

Students rarely see teachers who grew up in their communities and returned to teach,  “infusing the structures they need to succeed with the cultural tones and signals that will make them feel self-edifying and not submissive to the white man,” Lustick writes.

Because she doesn’t see strong teacher role models like herself, Alissa dismisses the entire profession as one unworthy of respect, one undeserving of her intelligence and effort.

It sounds like Alissa thinks teaching in the inner city is a very difficult job. Which it is.

Education as economics (and politics)

On Community College Spotlight:  With the Community College Summit set for Tuesday, President Obama is pushing higher education as an economic issue — and a political issue.

Recession challenges community colleges.

Women, blacks and Hispanics are earning more STEM degrees, but there’s little change in engineering, computer science or physics.