Tag Archives: Parsing the Achievement Gap II

More Nonsensical Charges of ‘Discrimination’ from Education Law Center

by Christopher Paslay

Instead of addressing the root causes of dysfunctional behavior, the Education Law Center once again cries “racism”.    

From the Notebook:

Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs are supposed to help turn around disorderly public school students, but they are academically inadequate and discriminatory, according to a complaint by the nonprofit Education Law Center.

The ELC alleges that a disproportionate number of African-Americans and students with disabilities are sent to them.

While African-Americans make up only 15 percent of the state’s public school students, they made up 35 percent of the pupils in the special programs in 2010-11.

Here we go again.  More irresponsible race-baiting from progressive education advocacy groups.

The Education Law Center’s belief that discrimination is causing minorities to be sent to alternative education programs is a classic example of a logical fallacy, also known as the belief that correlation proves causation.  It is also an example of a lurking variable.  Simply stated, you cannot conclude that discrimination/racism is taking place at Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth simply because minority students are disproportionally sent there.

The truth is that correlation does not imply causation.  For example, it would be wrong to assume that sleeping with your shoes on causes a headache, even if statistics showed that 100,000 people went to bed with their shoes on and woke up with a headache.  There is most likely another factor that led to the cause, a lurking variable; in this case, that variable would be that the people went to bed drunk.

Likewise, it would be wrong to assume that eating ice cream causes drowning, even though statistics show that as ice cream sales go up, so do the number of drowning deaths.  The lurking variable in this case is hot weather.

Which is why the Education Law Center should not assume discrimination is the primary reason minorities are nearly three times as likely as their White peers to be sent to Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth.  There is a lurking variable, and it is the fact that Black students are three times as poor as their White counterparts.

According to statistics from the National Poverty Center, 38 percent of Black children in the United States live in poverty, whereas only 12 percent of White children are impoverished.  This is extremely significant because research continues to show that poverty leads to poor conduct, low academic achievement, and the chronic breaking of school rules.

The Educational Testing Service’s 2007 policy report “The Family—America’s Smallest School,” highlights how one in three Black children in the U.S. are “food insecure” and how 70 percent of Black babies are born out of wedlock to a single mom.  This is very troubling in light of the fact that children in single-parent families score lower on academic tests, have higher incidences of psychological problems that reflect aggression and poor conduct, have a greater tendency to abuse illegal substances, and are more likely to have sexual relationships at an earlier age.

In a 2009 report titled “Parsing the Achievement Gap II,” the Educational Testing Service tracked national trends between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The report listed 16 factors that have been linked to behavior and student achievement.

Some significant findings were that White students’ parents were more likely to attend a school event or to volunteer at school; minority students were more likely to change schools frequently; the percentage of Black infants born with low birth weight was higher than that for White infants; minority children were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury; minority children were less likely to be read to daily by parents; minority children watched more television; and minority students grew less academically over the summer.

This research—which lays bare some of the root causes of violent and dysfunctional conduct—is not new.  Yet the Education Law Center attributes the high number of minority students being sent to alternative programs to something as banal and cliché as “discrimination”.

This is, quite frankly, pathetic.  It is also counterproductive from a learning standpoint.  Although some racial discrimination may still exist in public schools (there is no significant data to show that it does), reinforcing the idea that students are targets—that they are not the captain of their own ship but simply a victim—contradicts the fundamental message hardworking teachers across America are trying to instill in their students: Personal responsibility!

The Education Law Center’s simplistic conclusion of discrimination is also lazy.  Instead of rolling up their sleeves and attempting to fight the good fight, instead of addressing the multitude of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges facing our minority children so they can receive the supports they and their teachers need, the Education Law Center chooses to go the Al Sharpton grievance route, and race-bait.

Tragic.  And we wonder why nothing changes in our public schools.

This article is an adaption from a March 2012 post titled “Why Minority Students Face ‘Harsher Punishments’.

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10 Questions for Camden’s Next Superintendent of Schools

by Christopher Paslay

“Poverty” has more to do with culture and values than it does money. 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says not taking over Camden public schools would be “immoral.”  Christie’s plan is to hire a new superintendent and do what he can to fill teacher vacancies.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Once the takeover begins, the state “will ensure that every child has the books, instructional materials, and technology necessary for a high-quality education, many of which are currently not reaching the classroom,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Books, instructional materials, and technology.

And we can’t forget money.  School reform advocates will also insist poor urban districts across America need more funding.  Noted education scholar Diane Ravitch recently published the post “Do Americans Believe in Equality of Opportunity?” on her blog:

Governor Jerry Brown of California gave a brilliant state of the state speech in January, where he pledged to change funding of public schools so that more money went to children with the greatest needs. . . .

But a Los Angeles Times poll finds that only half of the public support the idea of spending more for those with the highest needs.

This raises the question: Do we really believe in equality of educational opportunity? Or do we feel that it is okay that schools for children from affluent families have more resources than those for children of the poor?

Interestingly, Camden public schools spend over $20,000 per student, yet have some of the lowest SAT scores in New Jersey and a graduation rate of only 49 percent.  According to an article in the Notebook:

Camden, the poorest city of its size in America and the most violent — with nearly 70 homicides last year in a population of less than 80,000 people — has a graduation rate below 50 percent. At the same time, due to landmark New Jersey court decisions on school funding, the city spends more than $20,000 per student, close to the amount spent in some of the area’s wealthy suburbs.

According to an article in the Delaware County Daily Times, per-pupil spending and achievement are not correlated:

If spending were an important factor in education we’d expect Lower Merion’s $26,000 per-student spending to rocket their academic performance far above neighboring Radnor’s at $19,000 per student. Yet Radnor is ranked No. 4 by the Business Journal and Lower Merion is ranked No. 7.

But for a stark comparison we should look to Central Bucks where they spend $13,000 per student — less than half of that spent by Lower Merion. And their ranking? Just behind Lower Merion at No. 8!

What folks like Ravitch rarely address, however, is that “equality of opportunity” has more to do with values and culture than it does with money.  What does “poor” mean, exactly?  My father grew up in a 900 square foot row-home in Southwest Philadelphia with nine siblings, and the only source of income was my grandfather’s salary as a Philadelphia firefighter.  Was my father poor?  Financially, maybe, but not in terms of his values and character.  He learned responsibility, respect, work ethic, honesty, integrity, and the importance of family nonetheless.  He went on to become a well-respected teacher and administrator, and eventually earned his Ed.D.

In a 2009 Educational Testing Service policy report titled Parsing the Achievement Gap II, national trends between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds were tracked.  The report listed 16 factors that have been linked to student achievement.  Of the 16 factors, nine were directly related to a child’s home environment.

Camden is over 85 percent minority.  If its public schools are going to make any real progress, the next superintendent should have a plan in place to address the following 10 questions (these questions apply to any major urban school district in America):

1.  How are you going to get Camden parents involved with school?  According to ETS, Black students’ parents are less likely than White parents to attend a school event or to volunteer at school.  Children whose parents are involved in their schooling have higher levels of achievement.

2.  How are you going to get Camden men to father their children?  Minority students were less likely to live with two parents, and 77 percent of Black children in America are born out-of-wedlock.  Children who live with two married parents do better both behaviorally and academically.

3.  How are you going to keep Camden families from frequently moving and changing schools?  Minority students are more likely than White students to change schools frequently.  There is a high correlation between frequently changing schools and poor test scores.

4.  How are you going to increase the low birth weight of Camden newborns?  The percentage of Black infants born with low birth weight is higher than that for White and Hispanic infants.  Studies show children with low birth weight do worse in school.

5.  How are you going to keep Camden children from getting lead and mercury poisoning?  Minority and low-income children were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, which harms brain development.

6.  How are you going to get Camden children to eat healthy?  Minority and low-income children were more likely to be food insecure, which can lead to concentration problems and issues with development.

7.  How are you going to encourage Camden parents to get their children to school?  Black and Hispanic students have the highest rates of absenteeism.  There is a high correlation between truancy and low academic achievement.

8.  How are you going to get Camden parents to read to their children?  Minority and low-income children were less likely to be read to daily as infants, which studies show impacts a child’s vocabulary development and intelligence.

9.  How are you going to get Camden parents to turn off the television? Minority and lower-SES children watch more television.  Excessive television watching is associated with low academic achievement.

10.  How are you going to keep Camden children from regressing academically over the summer?  Minority and low-SES students grow less academically over the summer, and in many cases, lose knowledge.

Until these awkward but important issues are adequately addressed, Christie’s takeover of Camden public schools—along with a new superintendent—isn’t going to make a significant amount of difference.

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Holistic Education, Parental Involvement

Why Minority Students Face ‘Harsher Punishments’

by Christopher Paslay

Minority students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from America’s public schools.  But there is a lurking variable in the equation that Secretary Duncan refuses to address.    

According to a new study by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Black students are more than three times as likely as their White peers to be suspended or expelled.  This is noteworthy information, being that 84 percent of America’s public school teachers are White.

When addressing the report’s findings, Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggested the harsher punishments were the result of either conscious or unconscious discrimination.  Duncan said that the report was an eye-opener for school officials, and that it would force disciplinarians to reevaluate their inconsistent policies and work to make discipline fair and equitable across all races.       

Duncan’s belief that discrimination is causing minorities to be suspended or expelled is a classic example of a logical fallacy, also known as the belief that correlation proves causation.  It is also an example of a lurking variable.  Simply stated, you cannot conclude that racism is taking place in America’s public schools simply because teachers are mostly White and the students receiving the harshest punishments are mostly Black.         

The truth is that correlation does not imply causation.  For example, it would be wrong to assume that sleeping with your shoes on causes a headache, even if statistics showed that 100,000 people went to bed with their shoes on and woke up with a headache.  There is most likely another factor that led to the cause, a lurking variable; in this case, that variable would be that the people went to bed drunk. 

Likewise, it would be wrong to assume that eating ice cream causes drowning, even though statistics show that as ice cream sales go up, so do the number of drowning deaths.  The lurking variable in this case is hot weather.

Which is why Secretary Duncan should not assume discrimination is the primary reason minorities are three times as likely as their White peers to be suspended or expelled.  There is a lurking variable, and it is the fact that Black students are three times as poor as their White counterparts.

According to statistics from the National Poverty Center, 38 percent of Black children in the United States live in poverty, whereas only 12 percent of White children are impoverished.  This is extremely significant because research continues to show that poverty leads to poor conduct, low academic achievement, and the chronic breaking of school rules. 

The Educational Testing Service’s 2007 policy report “The Family—America’s Smallest School,” highlights how one in three Black children in the U.S. are “food insecure” and how 70 percent of Black babies are born out of wedlock to a single mom.  This is very troubling in light of the fact that children in single-parent families score lower on academic tests, have higher incidences of psychological problems that reflect aggression and poor conduct, have a greater tendency to abuse illegal substances, and are more likely to have sexual relationships at an earlier age. 

In a 2009 report titled “Parsing the Achievement Gap II,” the Educational Testing Service tracked national trends between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The report listed 16 factors that have been linked to behavior and student achievement. 

Some significant findings were that White students’ parents were more likely to attend a school event or to volunteer at school; minority students were more likely to change schools frequently; the percentage of Black infants born with low birth weight was higher than that for White infants; minority children were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury; minority children were less likely to be read to daily by parents; minority children watched more television; and minority students grew less academically over the summer.

This research—which lays bare some of the root causes of violent and dysfunctional conduct—is not new.  Yet Arne Duncan, the highest education official in the land, attributes the high number of minority suspensions and expulsions to something as banal and cliché as “discrimination”. 

This is, quite frankly, pathetic.  It is also counterproductive from a learning standpoint.  Although some racial discrimination may still exist in public schools (there is no significant data to show that it does), reinforcing the idea that students are targets—that they are not the captain of their own ship but simply a victim—contradicts the fundamental message hardworking teachers across America are trying to instill in their students: Personal responsibility!      

Duncan’s simplistic conclusion of discrimination is also lazy.  Instead of rolling up his sleeves and attempting to fight the good fight, instead of addressing the multitude of social, emotional, and behavioral challenges facing our minority children so they can receive the supports they and their teachers need, Duncan washes his hands of the problem entirely.  It’s racism.  Period.  Next question?     

Amazingly, Secretary Duncan hypocritically speaks of the will to change.  “The power of the data is not only in the numbers themselves, but in the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change,” he said of the findings in the new report.  “The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.  It is our collective duty to change that.”

School officials across America are more than willing to face the facts and become agents of change.  The question is—is Secretary Duncan?

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Filed under Arne Duncan, Multiculturalism, School Violence

New report links nine parental factors to achievement gap

 

 

by Christopher Paslay

 

In a newly released report titled Parsing the Achievement Gap II, the Educational Testing Service tracked national trends between students of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The report listed 16 factors that have been linked to student achievement. 

 

Of the 16 factors, nine were directly related to a child’s parents and home environment.  They were as follows:   

 

Parent participation: White students’ parents are more likely to attend a school event or to volunteer at school.

 

Frequent changing of schools: Minority students are more likely to change schools frequently.

 

Low birth weight: The percentage of Black infants born with low birth weight is higher than that for White and Hispanic infants.

 

Environmental damage: Minority and low-income children were more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury.

 

Hunger and nutrition: Minority and low-income children were more likely to be food insecure.

 

Talking and reading to babies and young children: Minority and low-income children were less likely to be read to daily.

 

Excessive television watching: Minority and lower-SES children watch more television.

 

Parent-pupil ratio: Minority students were less likely to live with two parents.

 

Summer achievement gain/loss: Minority and low-SES students grow less academically over the summer.

 

Although the report also attributed the achievement gap to school equity issues, such as class size, the availability of technology and teacher experience, ETS did recommend placing an emphasis on improving the involvement of parents and the community.    

 

“Families . . . have a large responsibility to regulate use of the TV set, read to young children, see that they get to school, and support efforts to foster discipline and order in the schools,” ETS concluded in their report.  “Ignoring the impact of a student’s home circumstances will do nothing to help teachers and schools narrow achievement gaps.”

 

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Filed under Achievement Gap, Parental Involvement