Category Archives: Achievement Gap

group of african college friends

Educators’ Disbelief in the Academic Potential of Students of Color

One of the reasons for persistent racial achievement gaps in our schools is differences between what leaders and teachers believe to be the achievement potential of White students and students of color. Rhetoric espousing belief that all children can learn at high levels can be heard in every school and school district in America. That rhetoric, unfortunately, does not yet match reality. There remain school leaders and teachers who believe Black and/or Latino students are incapable of learning at the same levels as White children. group of african college friends

Leaders’ and teachers’ disbelief in the potential of students of color rarely looks like blatant racism. It rarely sounds like leaders and educators saying to students of color that they are less academically capable than their White counterparts (although that does still happen in some limited instances). Nevertheless, their disbelief is unmistakable.

But in 2015, that disbelief most often manifests itself as failure to challenge students of color to meet the same rigorous academic standards that they expect White students to meet or exceed. Their disbelief looks like hard and soft sorting mechanisms that systematically channel students of color into tracks that will limit their academic and profession. That disbelief looks like allowing students of color to decide whether they will or will not work in class that day/semester/year. That disbelief looks like coddling students of color rather than challenging them to achieve academically at high levels. That disbelief looks like pushing students of color to the absolute limit of their abilities on the athletic field, while challenging them to do little more than show up to the academic classroom. That disbelief looks like failure to challenge colleagues and administrators who write and implement policies that perpetuate the status quo for students of color in schools and institutions of higher education.

While leaders’ and teachers’ disbelief in the academic potential of students of color is different from calling them racially insensitive names or preventing them from enrolling in predominantly White schools and institutions, it is just as dangerous as the blatantly racist actions of the past. And that continued disbelief in the academic potential of children of color is partly responsible for the racial achievement gaps that persist in America’s schools.

Hypocrites and Opposition to Charter Schools in Kentucky

I’ll start this post by telling you that I don’t care very much for hypocrites. I have no problems working with people whose opinions and beliefs are different than mine, sovaldi but if at all possible, buy cialis I try not to work with hypocrites, simply because they get under my skin. Hypocrites come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and religious and political persuasions. Neither Republicans nor Democrats, Blacks nor Whites have a monopoly on hypocrisy.

I have seen blatant hypocrisy recently in the position some prominent Kentucky leaders and scholars have taken to oppose to the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky. For those of you who live outside of Kentucky, Kentucky is one of the handful of remaining states in the U.S. where there is no charter school legislation. First of all, to be clear, I am not saying that anyone who opposes the passage of charter school legislation in Kentucky is a hypocrite. I am saying, however, that there are hypocrites in Kentucky who oppose the passage of charter school legislation. I am aware that I am not being politically correct, but political correctness has to take a backseat when our children’s futures are at stake. High quality public school options for low-income and minority families could mean the difference between a career and gainful employment or joblessness, prison, and poverty. For some of our children it is not a stretch to say that having high quality public school options could be the difference between life and death.

So I get upset when hypocrites demand that our most under-served children remain in failing schools and stand in the way of reform that would benefit under-served children, while at the same time they use all their resources to keep their own children out of failing schools and get them into select magnet programs or private and parochial schools. For those hypocrites, school choice is good for parents like them who have the social, political, and financial capital to get their kids into schools that serve them well. But when it’s time to talk about high quality public school options for low-income families, options that are outside of the traditional public school district, they cry foul, arguing that we must protect local school districts at all costs from school choice advocates, or that allowing parents to send their children to a charter school would take needed funds away from the traditional public school.

Well, I have a few questions for the hypocrites: When you relocate outside of Jefferson County (Louisville, KY) into Oldham County or Shelby County or across the river to Indiana so that your child can attend a school that meets her needs, don’t the tax dollars that used to follow your child to Jefferson County now follow your child to their new school? Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) no longer receives SEEK funds for your child when you move to Oldham County. But you don’t make the argument that Oldham County is robbing JCPS of needed funds, do you? Do you argue that it’s unethical that families relocate outside of Jefferson County so that their children can attend a school that  meets their needs? No, you don’t make that argument because it is understood that school districts have to compete to keep the children of middle class and affluent parents-parents like you.

And what about the hypocrites who oppose policies that would give low income families choice, but they reside in Jefferson County and choose to send their children to Louisville Collegiate School, Trinity, or Saint Xavier? How many dollars for your kids does the state send to JCPS?  Are Trinity and Louisville Collegiate responsible for ruining JCPS? And why doesn’t the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) lobby the legislature to have private and parochial schools in Jefferson County shut down because those schools rob JCPS of much needed revenue. Surely, if every child attending a private or parochial school in Jefferson County had no option other than attending a JCPS school, the JCPS bottom line would improve drastically overnight.

But here’s the secret those hypocrites don’t want you to know about: they actually support school choice, but they only support it for their children. As long as the hypocrites can get their children into the schools they want them to attend, they are perfectly content to hold hands and march in solidarity with JCTA to prevent the passage of legislation that would result in additional high quality public school options for low income families and families of color.Those hypocrites make speeches, and give talks, and give appearances in which they claim to fight for the interests of under-served families, but in reality they fight for their own interests. The truth is that local school districts can continue to fail the children of low income parents and parents of color for generations to come, and all those hypocrites will ever do is give a speech about it or talk about it in a radio or television interview. But here is the best part, the hypocritical elected officials will count on low-income families and families of color to continue to support them on election day, even when they have done absolutely nothing to improve educational option for low income children.

So what do I expect of these hypocritical leaders? I expect them to (a) continue to fight to get their own children into select public and private schools, (b) back their teachers union buddies by trying to prevent the passage of charter school policy in Kentucky, and (c) think little about actually improving educational opportunities for the communities and families they claim to serve.

What do I expect of low income families and families of color in Kentucky? I expect those families to hold their leaders accountable for what they say they will do when they walk door-to-door asking for votes. I expect low income families and families of color to make sure their leaders are being who they say they are. I expect low income families and families of color in Kentucky to demand high quality public school options for their children, and demand that their elected officials support legislation that would provide additional high quality options for their children. I expect low income families and families of color to hold their elected officials directly accountable to them, and not just to the teachers unions. I expect low-income families and families of color in Kentucky to get down right mad about the education achievement of their children and demand that the Kentucky General Assembly, the Governor, and their local school board do something to change it right now.

group of african college friends

So-Called “Gap Students”: Reframing Adults’ Conversations About Children of Color

I get more and more irritated every time I hear an educator use the term gap students. Educators now routinely use that term to refer to subgroups of students whose test scores are significantly  below those of their White middle-class, online non-disabled peers. The gap they refer to is the achievement gap between White students and other students. I know very well-meaning educators who regularly use the term and do so without any malicious intent. But the use of the term is derogatory, insulting, and dangerous for how educators think about children of color, children from low-income families, and children with disabilities. Additionally, use of the term gap students absolves schools and educators (at least in their thinking) from any culpability in creating the achievement gaps that they are referencing.

Use of the term gap students implies that there is something wrong with the children being referenced, some inherent deficit that exists with them; an implication which is false. The reasons for the achievement gaps that we see in schools are numerous and highly complex. We can discuss and debate those factors all day long, but we should never allow our thinking or language to insinuate that the blame for achievement gaps rests solely or even primarily with the children whose achievement scores are below the level we would like them to be. So-called gap children are the victims in all of this; victims of historical, societal, familial, community, and yes, school conditions that have created and perpetuate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.

So instead of referring to children as gap students, maybe we should refer to their teachers as gap teachers, their schools as gap schools, their school leaders as gap principals and gap superintendents. How about we call the state commissioner or superintendent a gap commissioner. Let’s see how much they like that. There is plenty enough blame to go around for the shameful achievement gaps that we now have. Instead of insulting and degrading our children by labeling them as gap students, let’s own up to our failures as adults and change our behavior and practice to better meet our children’s needs.

The Case for a Black & Latino Male Success Initiative at the University of Kentucky

The University System of Georgia’s (USG) 2002 study of factors related to the challenges its campuses faced with the enrollment retention, cialis and graduation of African American male students revealed that: (a) African American males students felt isolated and alienated on their campuses; (b)  most schools had failed to engage African American males students, viagra both inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) African-American male students longed for the ability to talk to faculty, staff, and peers on their campuses that could related to their racial and gender experiences. Based on those findings the USG invested in pilot programs targeting African American male students at the middle school, high school, and higher education levels across the state, with the explicit goals of increasing the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of African-American male students within the system. USG’s Initiative is a testament to the resolve of its leaders to intentionally and strategically do something about the troubling statistics associated with African American male students’ experiences on its campuses.

The commonwealth of Kentucky is different than Georgia in a few significant ways. First, Georgia is a much larger and much more racially diverse state than Kentucky. At the time of the 2010 U.S. Census, Georgia boasted a state population of 9,687,653 residents, which was an 18% increase over the state’s population at the 2000 U.S. Census. In 2010, 59.7% of Georgia’s residents identified themselves as White, 30.5% as Black or African American, 0.3% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 3.2% as Asian, 0.1% as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 4% as some other race, 2.1% as two or more races, and 8.8% as Hispanic or Latino of any race. Kentucky, however, is only about half the size of Georgia in terms of population and is significantly less diverse. In 2010, Kentucky had a state population of 4,339,367 residents. Kentucky is also one of the Whitest states in the U.S. In 2010, 86.3% of residents identified themselves as White, 7.8% as Black or African American, 1.1% as Asian, 0.2% as American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.1% as Pacific Islander, and 3.1% as Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Given the differences in number of state residents and the differences in racial/ethnic composition of the states, one would expect to see differences in student enrollment patterns between higher education institutions in Georgia and Kentucky, and those differences are in fact there. In raw numbers, UK enrolls fewer male students of color than comparable institutions in the University System of Georgia. The University of Kentucky’s Black male enrollment (and Black female enrollment) in bachelors’ degree program has, however, been relatively stagnant since the 2008-2009 academic year. Total undergraduate enrollment at the University of Kentucky for the 2012-2013 academic year is 20,878 students.  Black students account for approximately 7.5% of the undergraduate student enrollment at the University. Black male undergraduate students account for just under 46% of the University’s total Black undergraduate enrollment. Hispanic or Latino students comprise about 2.7% of the University’s enrollment, and Hispanic or Latino males account for just over 47% of the University’s total Hispanic or Latino student population.  But overall, African American and Hispanic or Latino male student enrollment at UK comes pretty close to mirroring the racial and ethnic profile of the state.

Outside of enrollment, however, the University of Kentucky faces many of the same challenges that USG institutions faced in 2002; namely, retention, achievement, and graduation rates for undergraduate male students of color, particularly Black male students. University of Kentucky Institutional Research data show clearly that achievement (GPA), retention, and graduation rates for Black male undergraduate students fall significantly behind those fore Black females, Hispanic or Latino students, White males, and White females. Even as much work remains to be done with improving the University graduation rate for all students, the graduation rate for Black male students at UK shamefully falls significantly below that of any other subgroup of students. The six-year graduation rate for the 2006 cohort of Hispanic or Latino first-year, first-time students at UK was 52.6%; for Black female students it was 54.7%; for Black male students it was 42.6%; for White female students it was 60.8%; and for White male students it was 55.5%. Strongly related to graduation rates, the first fall to fourth fall retention rates for Black male students are abysmal. For the 2009 cohort, the first fall to fourth fall retention rate for first-time, first-year Black male students was 45.6%; for Black female students it was 53.1%; for White male students it was 65.5%; and for White female students it was 70.1%. Also related, academic achievement for Black male students at UK falls significantly below the achievement of other subgroups of students. The first year UK GPA for Black male students for the 2011 cohort of first-year, first-time freshmen was 2.25; for Black female students it was 2.56; for White males it was 2.79; and for White female students it was 3.09. 

Further, many of the findings of USG’s study of Black male students hold true for Black male undergraduates at the University of Kentucky. Exploratory research conducted in 2009 by the University Office for Institutional Diversity indicated that Black male students at UK also experience feelings of isolation and alienation, and that the University campus can be a hostile place for them. Institutional research data and exploratory research findings make it pretty clear that if the University desires to improve the quality of experience for Black male undergraduate students and in-turn improve retention and graduation rates, intentional and strategic interventions must be put into place. The University of Kentucky has both the talent and resources to improve educational outcomes for its Black male students. It is my sincere hope that the University leadership make a decision to build and support an Initiative aimed at supporting the success of male students  of color.

 

Georgia’s African-American Male Initiative: One Model for Systems and Institutions that are Serious about Black Male Success

Recognizing serious challenges with the recruitment, pilule retention, sovaldi and graduation rates of African American male students on the campuses of the University System of Georgia (USG) in 2002, viagra the system launched its African-American Male Initiative (AAMI). System officials took note of the significant gender gap among African-American students in the system; African American women accounted for approximately 68% of the system’s total African American student population. In response to identified gaps, the USG raised questions about whether African-American males had been presented with opportunities for higher education, whether they faced gender-specific challenges at certain stages of the academic ladder, and what the specific barriers to their enrollment and retention were on the individual USG campuses.

The system’s study of those questions revealed that: (a) African American males students  felt isolated and alienated on their campuses; (b)  most schools had failed to engage African American males students, both inside and outside of classrooms; and (c) African-American male students longed for the ability to talk to faculty, staff, and peers on their campuses that could related to their racial and gender experiences. Based on those findings the USG invested in pilot programs targeting African American male students at the middle school, high school, and higher education levels across the state. The goal of USG’s AAMI has been explicitly to “increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation of African-American males within the University System through strategic interventions.” The program focuses on removing obstacles to students’ success and providing resources to help students be successful. As a result of the system’s initiative and early success, it successfully attracted funding support form the Lumina Foundation in 2006 and again in 2009. Lumina funding enabled the Initiative to refine its strategies and focus more specifically on undergraduate student success.

One partnership that has been central to USG’s efforts has been with the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB). SAAB’s goal is for “all Black males on educational campuses to take full advantage of their academic years and to better understand and practice their full responsibilities, rights, and privileges as citizens” of the U.S. The organization was founded and established in 1991 on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University by Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, a Mississippi native and doctoral graduate of the University of Georgia. USG used some of its Lumina funding to establish SAAB chapters on eight USG campuses.

By 2011, there were 37 programs focusing on African American male success in the USG system. Those programs have resulted in significant increases in the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of African-American male students on those campuses; from 2002 to 2011, African-American male system enrollment rose by nearly 68%, six-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen rose by 10% (28.95% to 38.98%), and the number of bachelors degrees conferred annually rose by nearly 50% (1,294 degrees in 2003 to 1,938 degrees in 2010). While significant work remains to be done, the USG AAMI is a national model for higher education systems and institutions that want to do more than just talk about improving enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of African American male students.

BMI-S 11.16.10

Educational Attainment for Black & Latino Males Remains Alarmingly Low

The Schott Foundation’s 2012 report, case The Urgency of Now, shows that high school graduation rates for Black male students remain significantly lower than for any other group of students. Since 2004 the foundation’s reports have shown that Black male students are significantly less likely than any other group of students to earn a high school diploma. This year’s report shows that only 52% of Black males and 58% of Latino males graduate from high school in four years, compared to 78% of White, non-Latino males who graduate high school in four years.

These numbers show clearly that now is not the time to pull back our efforts. These numbers further illustrate the continued need to reject proposals for policy and/or practice that fail to take racial inequity into account. Differences in the socioeconomic circumstances of families surely impact educational outcomes, but socioeconomic differences fall far short of explaining persistent differences in the educational outcomes of Black and Latino male students. Race and gender do still matter.

You can access the Schott Foundation’s full report, The Urgency of Now, here.

Group Calls for Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions

SOLUTIONS NOT SUSPENSIONS, prostate a self-described “grassroots initiative of students, cialis educators, viagra parents, and community leaders, has called for a national moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. The group calls on states and districts to support teachers and schools in dealing with disciplinary infractions “in positive ways–keeping students in the classroom and helping educators work with students and parents to create safe and engaging classrooms that protect the human rights to education and dignity.” The group cites research showing that Black and Latino students and students with disabilities have been grossly disproportionately affected suspensions and expulsions; meaning disproportionate numbers of these students miss critical classroom instructional time,

I completely support this group’s efforts to replace out-of-school suspensions with positive alternatives. The disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion for Black and Latino students, Black and Latino male students in particular, are nothing short of shameful. This group’s identification of the problem as a human rights issue is correct; this disproportionate treatment of Black and Latino children does in fact rise to the mark of being a human rights concern. Second, as an education concern, having disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino students unfairly kept out of their classrooms makes eliminating achievement gaps between them and white students and decreasing high school dropouts among these groups of students highly improbable.

But all hope is not lost. This is a problem that we can and we will address together; we must for the sake of our children.

For additional information on SOLUTIONS NOT SUSPENSION, please see: http://stopsuspensions.org/

ACT Scores Show Black Students in Kentucky are in Serious Trouble

Last week the ACT Scores for Kentucky’s high school class of 2012 were released. The results show that while their composite average has increased slightly from a 19.2 for last year’s class to a 19.5 for this year’s class, no rx Kentucky seniors’ scores still lag behind the national average composite score of 21.1. But possibly of even greater concern for this audience is that the gap between White and Black students in Kentucky has increased.

Average scores for White children in Kentucky have increased from from 22.1 in 2008 to 22.4 in 2012. Average scores for Asian students have risen from 22.9 to 23.6. Average scores for Hispanic students have risen from 18.7 to 18.9. The average scores for Black children in Kentucky since 2008 have been substantially lower than any other group of students. Black students in 2008 had an average composite score of 16.9, check and in the last four years has increased by only one tenth of a point to 17.0  That means the gap between White and Black students’ scores has increased from 5.2 points in 2008 to 5.4 points in 2012.

 To put those numbers into perspective for you, buy  that means in Kentucky’s class of 2012 only 5% of Black students have met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. That is compared to 42% of Asian students, 32% of White students, and 13% of Hispanic students who met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. To be clear, none of those percentages are particularly good, but the fact that such a small percentage of Black students have met college-readiness standards in Kentucky in 2012 is pretty scary to me. 

Students and parents should understand that many of the jobs that existed in previous generations do not and will not exist in the US for today’s students. The impact of globalization and technology have greatly changed the opportunities that will be available for students. Understanding that, it troubles me how often I still hear adults debating whether or not children need to on to college to lead productive lives. I may upset some folks here but I don’t care. The truth is that if students do not go on to pursue some type of post-secondary education, either earning a degree in a field where they will be able to get a job paying a living wage, or going on to a community or technical college to learn a skill or trade, they will be left on the outside looking in on the 21st Century US economy. If anyone tells you anything different, they are either uninformed about these changes or they are choosing to mislead you. Previous generations of students may not have gone to college and everything may have worked out just fine for them, but the American economy has changed.

The just of all this is simple; unless we can make some pretty significant changes in a lot of areas quickly, Black children in Kentucky are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

Remember, change begins with you. Be empowered my friends!