Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quotable Crap about the "Achievement Gap"

The state test results from the 2006-07 school year are in, and the Sacramento Bee's intrepid education reporter, Laurel Rosenhall, has really outdone herself by obtaining quotes about the results from the biggest numbskulls she could scoop out from under the nearest rock.

I'll get back to that in a second. First, let's summarize the article. As usual, your obsessively hardworking Asian students, whose parents often put the fear of God into them, came out on top. Following closely behind in their usual number two position were the white kids, turning in a solid, if uninspired effort. Next we had the Hispanic kids holding their longstanding rank of third, with a big space between themselves and the second-place whites. And trailing the pack - again - are your black students.

What makes the results even more controversial is the fact that economically poor Asians and whites outperformed middle/upper-class Hispanics and blacks. The long-standing excuse used to be that blacks and Hispanics did more poorly because they were more likely to live in poverty. Now, that theory no longer holds water. As State Superintendent of Schools, Jack O'Connell says in the article, it's not an economic achievement gap, it's a racial achievement gap. Year after year, the racial ranking order for state test scores does not change, and neither do the lame excuses for why this is. Let's hear from the "experts" shall we?
Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust West, said state policymakers are responsible for the achievement gap that has kept black and Latino students behind because they've done little to put experienced, well-trained teachers and rigorous high-level courses in schools that predominantly serve those groups.

"Our system takes poor kids and kids of color -- not just the students of color who are poor -- and provides them less of everything research says makes a difference," she said.

"That is the underlying cause of the achievement gap."
That's funny Ms. Ali, because the Washington D.C. school system, for instance, (which is predominately black - and that includes students, teachers, and administrators) spends upward of $14,000 per student per year, yet their scores still stink. It's not about money, and it's not about your teacher looking like you. Those canards are so tired and old. And what if you gave a high-level course and nobody came? What then?

Next, we hear from another "expert" who says that "expectations" are to blame. Take it away Anita!
"The expectations are not as high for African American students as they are for other students," said Anita Royston, an education consultant who used to work for the Sacramento City Unified School District.
Another tired old canard! Yes, Ms. Royston, every day when my students walk into my classroom, I shake my head and give a "tsk, tsk" to myself at how all my black students just can't be expected to perform as well as my other students. For all that is good and holy, could she give me just a little bit of credit? I have the highest expectations for ALL my students. I don't give a rat what color they are! Some of my best students have been black. Did I somehow forget myself that day and demand high expectations of them and not to my other black students?

And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, your intrepid reporter, Laurel Rosenhall, brings us the opinion of an education professor from what is arguably the most leftist and intellectually vacuous college in our Cal State system. And if the opinions of this employee of that institution are any indicator, I would say the shoe fits. Check out this gem:
Sharroky Hollie sees the achievement gap yet another way. He is a professor of teacher education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who focuses on strategies that help Latino and African American students learn. Hollie says the achievement gap reflects a biased education system that doesn't accept behaviors and learning styles common in African American and Latino communities.

For example, he said, an African American student who is talkative and frequently gets out of his seat will be seen as disruptive and defiant in most schools. Instead, Hollie said, teachers should develop teaching strategies that work with the student's social and kinesthetic nature, a trait that could be attributed to his cultural background.

"The first thing we want schools to do is to change their mind-set in seeing these behaviors as cultural and not negative," he said. "The rest of it is: How can the instruction be reshaped to validate and affirm the cultural behaviors as a segue to standards-based learning?"
So when one of my black or Hispanic students is constantly getting out of his seat without permission, and is talking to himself or whomever while I am trying to give my lesson, it is my fault because I haven't adjusted my teaching to his "social and kinesthetic nature"? Oh, Professor Hollie, could you be anymore of a racist, and I do mean racist in the true sense of the word? You are saying that - that's YOU - are saying that black and Hispanic kids are so inferior, that they can't control themselves enough to adjust to the expected norms of behavior in class? If you could only hear yourself you sad, sad excuse for an educator.

SacBee online articles have a comment section where readers can share their thoughts, and I had a lot of fun reading the comments to this farce of an article. There were numerous quality comments, but this one did a great job of shooting down the whole "cultural" inability to behave:
What's amazing is how often students with a "cultural" need to disrupt class by being out of their seat or talking can change that behavior when *they* want to... In the regular year students have a right to attend their comprehensive high school and require a hearing to be removed to a continuation school or other environment. In SCUSD that means the hearing office is going to complain about what the school is not doing for the poor kid (despite months of effort and paperwork gathered by school admin) then the student will be placed on a "contract" and sent back to school. Now, take the same student in summer school. Typical summer school rules are students are dropped on their 2nd referal to the principal (sometimes first). Good coaches also bench students for refera. Amazingly, the same students with a "cultural" need for behaviors that others find disruptive, gets over that "need" quick when he doesn't like the consequences.
Yep, take off the administrative shackles during summer school or threaten the playing time of those sacred sporting events, and you see the student's "culture" change right quick.

There is hope though. If more of these minority students suffering from the "achievement gap" had the childhood experience of this reader/commenter, there wouldn't be such a gap in the first place:
I'm an African American and the importance of academic achievement was drilled into my head constantly. Yep, I was teased for "acting white", but I would rather be teased any day than bring home a C to my mom, and there had better not be too many B's. We read together as a family. We could watch 30 minutes of TV (cartoons, sitcoms) per day, but all the news and PBS we wanted. No MTV or BET. Parents were the bosses in the house, no exceptions. They were selective about who we were allowed to socialize with. Books in every room, world maps on our walls, and family outings were educational. When I was in high school, it was my responsibility to succeed at that point, and my choices could either open doors or close them. I had a good foundation to make good choices. It starts at home.

Historically, Af. Americans have made education the highest priority and we need to go back to that.
The "acting white" comment from that reader/commenter is a whole other future blog entry unto itself. When you get a chance, read an excellent book by Shelby Steele called White Guilt. In it, Mr. Steele talks about the trap this society is in. The political left gains a demented - but in our current culture, legitimate - moral authority by excusing the social pathologies and irresponsible behavior of minorities that cause a lot of the factors that lead to this so-called achievement gap. At the same time, the political right is paralyzed with fear at the prospect of being called racist for daring to suggest that these same minorities be held to the same standards of behavior and responsibility as everyone else. Until this situation changes, those racial test score rankings will remain as they are, and all the money in the government coffers - read: taxpayers' pockets - won't make a lick of difference.

Good Day to You, Sir


Darren said...

It's apparent that all of California's teachers are racist.

Odd, though, that even minority students who have minority teachers *still* do poorly as a group. I guess those black and brown teachers are just as racist against black and brown students as their white and yellow fellow teachers are.

Or maybe we need to realize that there are cultural obstacles to learning, obstacles that didn't exist in "the black community" in the pre-Civil Rights era, when blacks worked hard to provide a quality education for their own kids because they often couldn't count on white-run governments to provide it for them.

Darren said...

Oh, and Laurel Rosenhall is an idiot.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Excellent post! It is true that there are cultural barriers to achievement. And they exist in the black community. Expectations my butt. I don't give out a syllabus for white and Asian kids and another one for everyone else. They get the same instruction, attention and tests as everyone else. Until black families return to the emphasis on self-reliance and education that they favored pre-war on poverty, the gap will widen. I will continue to give my best to ALL the students in my classes. I will continue to expect their best from them.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to enroll in the Prof. Hollie's class and then in the middle of his lecture get up out of my seat and sit next to the best looking girl in class and start hitting on her, then I'll take a text message, then I'll lean over and punch the student opposite the hot girl because he told me to shutup, I'll cuss at him and call him a "nigga" (about 50 times), and then, when the Prof. tells me to cut it out, I'll cuss him out for even daring to confront me. I'll be sure to remind him that I pay his sorry ass, and that he just better get back to teaching if he don't want to get his ass kicked. I'll be sure to take up about 15-20 of class. When security arrives I'll run away.

Seriously though, I think there is some degree of cultural accomodation that must be considered, but how much is reasonable. I also think we do students a real disservice when we teach (as this Prof. seems to) that culture is static. The future generations will thrive in this economy if they change, adapt, and take one various cultural elements. I know that I've had to, and it does help me relate to the students better.

I also agree with what Darren and Law and Order said. Good quote, " It's apparant that ALL of California's teachers are racist."

One thing I'm certain of - it will be brought up in tomorrow's department meeting, simply as a rhetorical "what are we doing". Of course, no one will want to step in that stinking mess, and then we'll move on to things like who needs what supplies.

Anonymous said...

It's late: I meant to say
" . . . take on various cultural elements . . ."

Anonymous said...

To add to Darren's comment about all California teacher's being racist, I offer the following observation: The achievement gap has been reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Nebraska, Michigan, etc. Even U.S.A. Today reported on it. So I guess that means that all of the country's teachers are racist.

BTW - Britain experiences the same issue.

I do think it is culture, pop culture more specifically, that is to blame, at least in part. Anybody remember the school of hard knocks t-shirt (it equated academic with what is learned in the street). What it really meant was that street life is real and academics were fake. Check out this link from 2003: That brotha is/was rollin in it.

Can the achievement gap be coupled with the murder rate of blacks in the U.S.? Spartan child rearing vs. Athenian child rearing?

I think the black community is confused about black culture; and so the white community is confused about what exactly it means to be white. If pop hip-hop is black culture, then how can it be validated? This man has much to say:

Anonymous said...

Read this:

I've got to stop reading your blog late at night!

The Vegas Art Guy said...

Holy crack pipe Batman!
How about having parents that care about their kids progress? Oh, wait that's the Asian parents and the white parents do. OK, so if it works for them why not hispanic and black students?

Anonymous said...

The U.S. History team at my site improved the scores of their African-American males significantly. The team said they included more afro-centric curriculum. Interestingly, the other populations still improved, including Hispanics.

Makes you go hmmm . . .

The Prof. might have a point. Our students are so emotionally wrapped up in their ethnic identity they find it difficult to be objective. Wait, isn't that the definition of a racist?

ms-teacher said...

for my master's thesis, I looked at parenting styles and academic performance. Asian parents are typically Authoritarian and yet, the "research" shows that children who come from authoritarian households, typically will not perform as well as those coming from authoritative households. One of the reasons cited for Asian students was the fact that their social group also pushed for academic success. Their high grades was a sign of social status among their peer group.

Interestingly African American students also typically come from Authoritarian households. However, their peer group accuses students who are academically successful of "acting white." This was a real eye opener to me.

I really do feel that something needs to change in the African American community before we start to see change in the classroom. As everyone else has already posted, my expectations are high for all of my students and I get quite sick when I hear people say that they are not.

Anonymous said...

Check out the book "Between the Rhetoric and Reality",Lauriat Press,2009; Simpkins&Simpkins.

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