From white to black

Sarah Valentine as a girl, with her two brothers.

Raised in a white family, Sarah Valentine was told her “olive” skin color came from her Italian-American mother, who denied she was adopted. As an adult, she learned her biological father was black. “I began the difficult process of changing my identity from white to black,” she writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Coming out” as black cost me my relationship with my mother and some of my closest friends. It cleaved my sense of self in two.

. . . “You’re making a big deal out of nothing,” my mother said when I tried to impress on her the seriousness of what I was going through. “It’s only important if you choose to make it important.”

. . . In my family, it was understood, even if it was never directly stated, that only people of color “had” race; whites were just people.

Valentine is now an English professor.

I think anyone who discovered they were adopted at 27 would have identity issues.

I know a man who refuses to identify by race or ethnicity because it would deny the importance of his adoptive parents. Of course, they didn’t lie to him.

Separate and gifted?

Eliminate gifted tracks in New York City, argue Halley Potter of the Century Foundation and David Tipson of New York Appleseed in the New York Times Room for Debate blog.

Seventy percent of the city’s gifted and talented (G&T) kindergarteners are white and Asian, while 70 percent of students are black and Latino, they write.

“Segregation” harms the education of low-income students. they argue. “At the same time, affluent white and Asian students in the city’s separate G&T classrooms are also denied the cognitive and social benefits that socioeconomically and racially diverse classrooms offer.”

Gifted children won’t “be fine” in mixed-ability classes, responds Rick Hess.

. . . we’re putting much at risk when we simply hope that overburdened classroom teachers can provide the teaching and learning that gifted children need. Anyone who has watched a teacher labor to “differentiate” instruction in a classroom that encompasses both math prodigies and English language learners knows it’s unreasonable to expect most teachers to do this well.

Students do best in classrooms with students of similar ability, researcher Bruce Sacerdote writes. “We know from data, from theory and, most important, from decades of experience that ability grouping or tracking can have a big payoff. . . . High-ability students benefit the most from high-ability peers.

Study: Teachers go soft on minority students’ work

After reading a poorly written essay, teachers offered comments and advice. Those who thought the writer was black or Latino provided more praise and less criticism, according to a Rutgers study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (JEP), reports Science Daily.

(The study) involved 113 white middle school and high school teachers in two public school districts located in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, one middle class and white, and the other more working class and racially mixed.

“Many minority students might not be getting input from instructors that stimulates intellectual growth and fosters achievement,” said Kent Harber, Rutgers-Newark psychology professor.

George W. Bush called it “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Study: Teachers think white girls can’t do math

High school teachers think white girls can’t do math, concludes a University of Texas study.  “Even with the same grades and the same test scores, the teachers are still ranking the girls as less good at math than the boys,” says Catherine Riegle-Crumb, co-author of the bias study. By contrast, teachers’ perceptions of minority students’ math abilities matched their achievement.


40% of new teachers took alternative path

Forty percent of public school teachers hired since 2005 came through alternative preparation programs, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Information. That’s up from 22 percent of new teachers hired between 2000 and 2004, notes Ed Week‘s Teaching Now.

In addition, the survey found that alternative-route teachers are more in favor of using reforms such as performance pay, elimination of tenure, tying student achievement to teacher evaluations, and market-driven pay to strengthen the teaching profession than are their traditionally prepared counterparts.

However, nearly all teachers, regardless of certification route, support removing incompetent teachers without concern for seniority.

All teachers surveyed were “slightly more satisfied with general working conditions” and “more satisfied with the status of teachers” than those surveyed in earlier years, going back to 1986, reports Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011.

Baby boomers are retiring: Less than a third of teachers are 50 or older and 22 percent are younger than 30.

Eighty-four percent of public school teachers are female, up slightly, and 84 percent are white, down from 91 percent in 1986.

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.

Whites only for class president

Only whites can run for class president at Nettleton Middle School in Mississippi, reports Mixed and Happy, a site for racially mixed families.  The offices of eighth-grade vice president and school reporter, seventh-grade secretary treasurer and sixth-grade reporter are reserved for blacks. The school elects two homecoming kings and queens, one white and one black.

After reading the school handbook, Brandy wrote to the school board asking which offices are open to her mixed-race children.

“They told me that they “Go by the mother’s race b/c with minorities the father isn’t generally in the home.” They also told me that ” a city court order is the reason why it is this way.”

The school, which has a black principal, is 74 percent white and 26 percent black. I suspect the policy was written to ensure that blacks would win a share of class offices. And it will be dropped like a rock very quickly.

Once the policy went public, the superintendent put up a statement saying “the processes and procedures for student elections are under review.”

Update: As predicted, Nettleton has abandoned its policy of reserving student offices for blacks or whites on a rotating basis.

U.S. flag ban on Cinco de Mayo

Five students who wore American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo were sent home from a California high school, reports the GilroyDispatch. Live Oak High School in middle-class Morgan Hill is 43 percent non-Hispanic white and 40 percent Hispanic.

“They said we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire,” said sophomore Matt Dariano.

The boys refused to turn their T-shirts inside-out, saying it was disrespectful to the flag.

More than 100 students were spotted wearing red, white and green as they were leaving school. Some had the Mexican flag painted on their faces or on their arms.

. . . One Mexican-American student, freshman Laura Ponce, had a Mexican flag painted on her face and chest, peaking out of her low-cut shirt. She did it because, “it’s our day, the only day we can show our spirit.” A school administrator took away the Mexican flag she was carrying as she was waiting to go home. Ponce said: “not cool.”

Some students yelled “Mexico sucks,” reports the Dispatch. Mexican-American students yelled insults back  in Spanish.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the school hosted folklorico dancers, who waved Mexican flags and played Mexican music. Apparently, it didn’t ease the tension.

Via Instapundit.

California gives students broad free speech rights, which the school apparently violated, writes Eugene Volokh.

Color counts

Work, study, get rejected for medical school: Discriminations posts Association of American Medical Colleges’ data for med school applicants from 2005 to 2007.

1. An Asian American with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 36.8% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

2. A White with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 40.7% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

3. An African American with a GPA of 2.8 to 2.99 and a MCAT score of 36 to 38 has a 100% chance of being admitted to a U.S. medical school.

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., now summering on Martha’s Vineyard, opposes race-based affirmative action, Discriminations notes. Affirmative action served as a “class escalator” for some black people, who now use it to perpetuate their status, Gates told the Vineyard Gazette.

“I think we need a class-based affirmative action. I grew up in the hills of West Virginia with poor white people and I can testify from my own experience the culture of poverty is color-blind,” Professor Gates said.

Many of those rejected Asian-American applicants grew up in struggling immigrant families, but they weren’t raised in a culture of poverty.

Update: Readers point out that the AAMC data show only one black applicant with a 2.8-2.99 GPA in the 36-38 MCAT range. However, 100 percent of the 44 black applicants with grades of 3.2-4.0 were accepted, while acceptance rates ranged from 64.1 percent to 94.2 percent for Asians with the same scores and GPAs above 3.2.

I also looked at a larger category:  Applicants with grades from 3.0 to 4.0 and scores in the 27 to 29 range, Wikipedia says 28.1 is the median score. Asians with 3.8 to 4.0 grades had a 72 percent acceptance rate, compared to 76 percent for whites and 95.9 percent for blacks.  At 3.6 to 3.79, the rate was 56.7 percent for Asians, 60.8 percent for whites and 92.1 percent for blacks. At 3.4 to 3.59, 42.9 percent of Asians, 45.8 percent of whites and 90 percent of blacks were admitted. 3.2 to 3.39: 27.3 percent Asian, 31.8 percent white, 83.6 percent black. 3.0 to 3.19: 15.6 percent Asian, 23 percent white, 76.3 percent black admitted.

I think it’s fair to say that Asian-American medical school applicants are held to slightly higher standards than whites and much higher standards than blacks.