As we approach the Dr. King’s birthday celebration and the 54th year of Dr. Martin Luther Kings’s assassination, many within the African American community and beyond continue to follow the path of Dr. Kings’s beliefs and teachings. Year after year, the country continues to celebrate and rejoice in the vast contributions Dr. King made while fighting for social justice and equality for African Americans and others. Dr. King particularly focused on employment, housing, and military institutions which are all central to Americans’ social life.
Dr. King did not write or speak a great deal on education. Several scholars believe Kings’ minimal writings or statements may be as a result of timing. During the year of 1954, Dr. King was but 25 years old as well as a newly appointed pastor of Dexter Ave Baptist Church. In 1954, Thurgood Marshall won a landmark victory, from the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s position supported the parents of African American students who were constantly denied access to white schools simply due to their origin or race. The court stated, “Kansas laws allowed for segregation of school enrollment based on race. This violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by denying African American students “benefits” and “opportunities” of education equal to white students.”
Though there may be limited writings from Dr. King on the purpose of education, he did publish his thoughts on education while attending Morehouse College in 1947. He argued that to benefit society, high quality education should focus on developing students’ critical thinking and moral compass or imperative. Dr. King, continued by saying, “Setting a high bar for critical thinking is important not only within the context of a specific course, but also as a lifelong skill. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life” (Stanford University, 2022). Retrieved 1/15/2022 from: “The Purpose of Education” | The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute (stanford.edu)
Dr. Martin L. King Jr was assassinated over five decades ago and the landmark Civil Rights victory of 1954 outlawed separating students on the basis of race. The Supreme Court ruled students of color shall be afforded equal access to American Public Schools. Since 2014, there are more students of color in American Public Schools. The same students who more than not read several grade levels below. Students of color are less likely to enrolled in rigorous math courses. A much-needed discipline to master in the 21st Century. After all, many current and future careers will be in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Numeric Literacy (Math).
We are now 22 years into the 21st Century. How are students of color fairing in American Schools? Since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling which favored the Brown family, are African American students doing better? Do American Public Schools systemically work against students of color? Do all American students have equal access to public education? In the next section, I will provide answers to the questions raised above. To begin, I find it necessary to provide clarity by starting with a breakdown of teachers and students’ demographics.
21st Century Findings for USA public school African American Students
As of 2015, there are 50.7 million public school students:
Black 15.5% 51.1% of students are of color
Native American 1.0%
National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
As of 2018, there are 3.2 million Full Time Equivalent (FTE):
Black 6.7% (2% Black male teachers and 4.7% Black female teachers in the USA)
Native Americans 1.4%
National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
When the onion is peeled back, the data findings show significant disparities as it relates to the ratio of African American students to African American teachers. This is also true for Hispanic students. Hispanic students make up 26% to 30% of public-school students. However, there are only 8% to 10% FTE Hispanic teachers. Additionally, White students make up 48.9% of public-school students. However, of the 3.2 million teachers in public schools, 80.1% are White teachers (National Center Educational Statistics, 2017). Does the lack of teachers of color really matter? (Yes). Does the lack of teachers of color have a negative impact on students of color as well as white students? (Yes). Do white teachers benefit from having a diversified faculty and staff? (Yes). According to the research, do non-black teachers and administrators believe students of color can earn a four-year degree? (Not all). Several of the questions raised are grounded in what is known as implicit bias.
Implicit Bias Defined
If you have a brain, you have biases. Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or origin humans have biases. Do our implicit biases allow for collateral damage for students of color? Some will say, yes with supporting evidence from reputable institutions such as John Hopkins University and others. Do teachers and administrators’ implicit biases diminish access and opportunities to learn for students of color? (Yes, more than not).
An implicit bias “is any unconsciously-held set of associations of particular qualities to all individuals from that group. Implicit biases are the product of learned associations and social conditioning. Biases begin at a young age and most people are unaware they hold them” (Berghoef, 2019; Nittle, 2021). Teacher bias promote barriers which prevent missed opportunities to learn (OTL). Missed opportunities to learn may spell a lifetime of hardship such as inability to endure the rigor of post-secondary institutions, lower lifetime earnings, or possibly worse such as a shorter life expectancy due to the stressors associated with poverty (Reeves, 2021).
Teacher Bias, Perception, & missed Opportunities to Learn
Black and white American cultures are still significantly different in regard to how teachers read behavior depends in part on the teacher’s race. Research shows that black and white teachers provide vastly different evaluations of behavior of black students. According to the Startz (2016), when a black student has a black teacher that teacher is much, less likely to see behavioral problems than when the same black student has a white teacher (Startz, 2016).
Wright’s research study focused on 20,000 early childhood students and their school experiences from kindergarten, first, third, and fifth grade. The data findings suggested a Black teacher is much less likely to see behavioral problems than the same Black student with a white teacher. “When a black student is evaluated by one black teacher and by one non-black teacher, the non-black teacher is about 30% less likely to expect the student will not complete a four-year college degree. Wright’s findings show Black teachers rate white students very similarly as do Caucasian teachers. “Being race matched matters a lot for African American students but not for others” (2015). The more African American students are matched with African American teachers, the less likely that student gets suspended by half.
The effect of race matching is entirely as a result of the perception toward Black Boys (Wright, 2015). However, not as noticeable for African American girls. Secondly, the effect of matching is limited to the year of the match. Unfortunately, “when that same black student is given a white teacher the following year, the unwanted behavior is again a problem”. These bias adult practices can be remedied through a heavy dose of ongoing professional development with a focus on Excellence, Equity, Access, fixed mindsets, and implicit bias.
The research findings of Wright (2015), Papageorge (2016), and Gershenson (2015; 2016; 2021) suggest teacher perceptions rather than real behavior differences since we might expect improvements in behavior to persist the following year, and that is not what happens. Considering the research findings regarding teacher demographics, public schools lack of adult diversity, as well as implicit biases, African American boys are more likely to suffer in public schools across America in areas such as graduation rates, low enrollment in rigorous college courses, high suspension, and a lack of opportunities to learn (OTL). These mentioned determinants may equate to increased incarceration and a breakdown in African American families because African American women have significantly less equitable African American men to select as a marriageable partner. These findings are not new. Year after year, and regardless of the institution conducting the research on the importance of a more diverse staff, the results are the same. Having African American and Hispanic teachers are essential for student success and improved cultural acceptance and competence within the organization. As we continue to find solutions for many of the concerns raised, we cannot forget our moral imperative.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said the purpose of education is to teach citizens critical thinking skills and to improve their moral compass. Dr. King gave his life in the name of social justice for all people. We must live up to Dr. King’s vision and dreams by pushing through adversity and challenges. We cannot give up on his dream of a better America. There is no better place to begin, than improving academic outcomes for Black and Brown students across the nation.
In closing, the researchers nor myself are suggesting malice, prejudice, or favoritism. However, the findings are glaringly clear, “Race Matters in America’s Public Schools.” To not acknowledge that race matters for all students, is a disservice for all of America’s Public Schools and their students in which they should be serving. Nevertheless, the challenges of finding certified African American teachers are extremely difficult. The demand for all teachers in public schools is enormous and the challenge of identifying certified African American teachers in that same candidate pool is a grandeur feat.
The purpose of this protest is simply to address the violation of students’ civil rights in regards to receiving a rigorous public education from RUSD. Our intentions are not to shame anyone though some may feel that way based on the facts outlined throughout this protest. We know educated people across the whole round globe are more likely to fair better than those who lack any kind of post-secondary training. The African American Community has to be acknowledged. The inequities must be eradicated at once. Resources should not be distributed based on a “One Size” fit all model. All schools do not share the same concerns or challenges. The hardships many students and their families face, are more than not, grounded in the negative impact of the academic achievement gap. Education has been referred to as the “great equalizer.” It is said, education levels the playing field for all students despite their origin or street address. I would like to push back on that and say, education helps tremendously, but yet a habitual track record of colossal short comings in eliminating racist beliefs, systemic barriers, and unfair policies. Awful beliefs which lead to disgusting and unwarranted treatment toward too many people of color, and poor whites. The first section of our protest is to address the status of Racine and the public schools’ ongoing disappointment and failure in educating many of its citizens. Some districts are being sued by students of color, for failure to educate. “A group of former students from five of Detroit’s worst-performing public schools is suing the Michigan Department of Education and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for their constitutional right to access literacy.” The students cannot read or write to a level needed to function throughout a lifetime. https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/11/07/detroit-public-schools-literacy-lawsuit
Racine continues to lead the country as one of the Worse
“For the third year in a row, Milwaukee and Racine are among the worst cities in the United States for African Americans to live, according to a recent report from a financial news company. Black Americans in the two cities make half of the median income of white residents and are nearly 12 times more likely to be put in prison than their white counterparts, according to the report. 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial company that produces financial news, ranked Milwaukee the worst city and Racine the second worst city for black people to live. Last year, Milwaukee ranked second and Racine ranked third. In 2017, Milwaukee ranked third and Racine ranked fourth. The company created an index of eight different measurements, including education, income, health, incarceration and achievement gaps between whites and blacks to assess the race-based gaps in the nation’s metropolitan cities. Pamela Oliver, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said she has studied incarceration rates across the state. “Segregation and discrimination are preventing the upper ward mobility of black folks who migrated here a generation or two ago. She told WPR that Wisconsin is traditionally a state where white people are more well off than their black neighbors.” The next section of concerns focuses on the achievement gap and how the achievement gap never disappears once school years are over and the negative impact on Racine’s local economy. Retrieved 6/18/2020 from: https://www.wpr.org/report-milwaukee-racine-rank-worst-cities-african-americans-live
What exactly is an achievement gap? The term “achievement gap” refers to disparities in the academic achievement of specific groups of students (Coleman et al., 1966). The achievement gap now measures four years: by the end of high school, African American and Latino students have skills in literacy (reading) and numeracy (mathematics) that are virtually identical to those of White students at the end of middle school (Lyman & Villani, 2004; Scherer, 2002-2003). What about the Achievement Gap once school years are over? The achievement gap exists during school years, but when the school years are over the achievement gap becomes an opportunity gap. In other words, students become adults. In many cases, adults who will not be able to pay for everyday essentials such as food, purchase a home, have access to health, vision, or dental insurance. Again, all due to the everlasting achievement gap. The achievement gap can impact one’s life time earnings and where they live. In addition, in recent months we have come to realize that COVID 19 has been severely devastating for most of these same Black & Brown communities ravished by high poverty, high crime, high police presence which sometimes results in black deaths, low wages and high rates of babies dying at birth. Lower life time earnings can have a direct impact on where people live and what kids are exposed to as they grow up. Lower life time earnings can very well impact one’s credit score and put up barriers that prevent home ownership and sometimes prevent the opportunity to rent. Consequently, most are forced to live in low credit score neighborhoods. Low credit score neighborhoods can breed a host of negative exposures such as violence and childhood stressors. Low score neighborhoods are inundated with liquor stores, cigarette ads, and corner stores that sell nothing but unhealthy processed food. All of these factors add to negative childhood experiences due to the incessant achievement gap. As a result, school districts across the country have created Social Emotional Learning programs. Now SEL is a billion dollars industry. It’s a cycle of milking poor Black, Brown, & White families. What if we closed the gap for one generation of students? All school districts including Racine Unified School District have a direct impact on students’ outcomes, local economy, and if other companies are willing to move to relocate to, which ultimately create jobs as well as an improved economy. The first question usually raised by organizations deciding on which city to locate or relocate their business, is the status of the school system. “How great is the school system?” It’s extremely difficult for co-operations with educated employees who have school age children to move to a school system with severe concerns such as RUSD. Racine Unified or any other school district not closing the gap for at least 3 years consecutively have a significant impact on where students live as adults. The next section of this read, explains the possible negative impact of where a student ends up living once they drop out of high school or graduated from high school NOT college or career ready.
The Impact of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects (STEM CAREERS for Wealthy) For the purpose of providing explicit clarity, it’s necessary to provide research study findings which clearly show that neighborhoods have an impact on people’s beginnings as a child and their outcomes as an adult (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). Where you live is strong predictor of who becomes scientists and inventors. “Neighborhoods in which children grow up shape their lifetime income, college attendance rates, and fertility and marriage patterns” (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). The researchers analyzed more than 7 million families by analyzing de-identified families with IRS records from 1980s. The results of the findings show “neighborhoods affect intergenerational mobility primarily through childhood exposure” (Chetty & Hendren, 2017).
These pictures of abandon streets, dire poverty, and diminished opportunities are barriers to reaching the American dream. Students who attend Horlick, Julian Thomas, Gilmore, Wadewitz, and Jerstad Middle and live on Memorial, Marquette, Douglas, and MLK neighborhoods have the most diminished opportunities due to Horlick’s poor academic outcomes. This is consistent with the other high schools of Racine such as Park and Case. Many of these students will not attend post-secondary schooling and will remain in these neighborhoods. Exposing another generation of children to adverse childhood experiences such as gun violence, child abuse, incarceration of love ones, and extensive exposure to drug abuse. However, the downtown portion of Douglas Street is well maintained and passable streets and yachts. Another picture below shows how poverty impacts living conditions for African American children on Racine’s north side of the city.
The findings also revealed, place matters. Children who grow up in poor environments tend to mimic the same income and outcomes in adulthood as the permanent residents in the community. The same can be said if a child is exposed to improved environments. Secondly, neighborhood matters largely because of diﬀerences in childhood exposure, rather than the diﬀerences in job market conditions. Third, each year of childhood exposure matters (Good or Bad environments) roughly equals that of a child born in the neighborhood. However, age of the child’s move to an improved environment does matter. For example, moving to an improved environment has less of an impact on adults who are 23 years old compared to a child who moves to an improved neighborhood by age 9 or 10 (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). Retrieved from: http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/movers_paper1.pdf
Consider two American children, one rich and one poor, both brilliant. The rich one is much more likely to become an inventor, creating products that help improve America’s quality of life. The poor child probably will not. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Equality of Opportunity project, a team of researchers led by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty. Chetty and his team look at who becomes inventors in the United States, a career path that can contribute to vast improvements in Americans’ standard of living. They find that children from families in the top 1 percent of income distribution are 10 times as likely to have filed for a patent as those from below-median-income families, and that white children are three times as likely to have filed a patent as black children. This means, they say, that there could be millions of “lost Einsteins”—individuals who might have become inventors and changed the course of American life, had they grown up in different neighborhoods. “There are very large gaps in innovation by income, race, and gender,” Chetty told me. “These gaps don’t seem to be about differences in ability to innovate—they seem directly related to environment” (Raj Chetty, 2017).”The discrepancy in who gets patents is not the result of innate abilities, Chetty and his team, Alex Bell of Harvard, Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics, Neviana Petkova of the U.S. Treasury Department, and John Van Reenen of MIT, conclude. Children from many different backgrounds excel in math and science tests in third grade, for instance. But it’s the wealthy children who do well in math and science that end up getting patents. Why? Because they have more exposure to innovation in their childhood.” Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/12/innovation-income-chetty/547202/
Student Achievement in RUSD: College & Career Readiness RUSD’s Vision Statement:All students graduate Career and/or College Ready DesJardins, Gaertner, Kim, and McClarity (2013), Preparing Students for College & Careers: The Causal Role of Algebra II looked at the impacts of taking Algebra II in high school.
ACT defines college and career readiness as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll in and succeed in credit bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation” (ACT, 2020). There are but two courses remedial courses such as English and Mathematics. There are no remedial sciences, social studies, or French courses. So, when observing the state of Wisconsin current data on African American Students’ academic performance in the 2 college ready courses English and Math, the scores are as follows with no change but academic regression. Completing Algebra II is the number one Academic Factor that predicts College and Career Readiness (ACT, 2016). When a student completes Algebra II, they are more likely to preform higher on their college admission assessments such as ACT or SAT, which improves students being admitted into college. “The mathematics courses students take in high school affect their academic achievement and their admission to competitive postsecondary schools and professional programs” (Schiller & Muller, 2003, p. 300). Adelman (2006) states, when students complete high-level mathematic courses such as Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, and Calculus these are the most significant predictors of achieving in postsecondary systems.
Stein, Kaufman, Sherman, and Hillen (2011), research findings suggest there are inequities regarding those who take Algebra in 8th or 9thgrade. This is common for minority students, lower income students, and students whose parents have minimum education (Filer & Chang, 2008; Gamoran & Hannigan, 2000; McCoy, 2005; Shakrani, 1996; Walston & McCarroll, 2010). According to research by Stone (1998), these demographic inequities in Algebra have been evident since the early 1990s in large urban school districts. Now that we know how American College Testing (ACT) defines college readiness, let’s see how African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites have been performing over the last 4 years in RUSD, based on FORWARD EXAM results retrieved from the Department of Public Instruction in Madison, Wisconsin (2019-20). State scores from the FORWARD exam are strong predictors of determining which students are ready to enter college ready to endure the rigor and expectations college present. In addition, students are not enrolled in any remedial course. For example, when we consider Park High School 2019 student achievement scores in math, 98.2% of African American students did not score at proficiency on the yearly Wisconsin’s State Assessment. This is severely YUCKY.
As it relates to RUSD’s ACT scores, 19.5% of students who took the ACT were proficient or advanced in ELA, a 0.3% increase from the previous year. The proportion of students scoring proficient or advanced on the ACT dropped about from 12% to 10.1% proficient. About 13% of Unified students didn’t take the test (Journal Times, 2019). Wisconsin Policy Forum on Wisconsin ACT data from the past few years, researchers found “areas of concern with declining and stagnant college readiness scores of high school juniors” (Badger Herald, 2020) Retrieved from:
The gaps in the college readiness benchmarks are most prominent among racial lines. This is especially the case for English Language Arts. According to Wisconsin’s ACT data, there was a 43% gap between white students with 57% at the benchmark level compared to 13.3% of African American students. These gaps were also consistent between economically disadvantaged students and other racial minorities across other courses (Badger Herald, 2020).
Park High School’s 3 years Report Card 2019 (DPI, 2019 State of Wisconsin) English Scores for African American Students (Basic + Below Basic)
2017 94% Failed English 2018 94.4% Failed English 2019 94% Failed English 2017 98% Failed Math 2018 97% Failed Math 2019 98.2% Failed Math Not College Ready Not College Ready Not College Ready
What’s even more alarming is the fact White students in RUSD are failing at an alarming rate too. 74% of White students failed English at Park High School and 85% of White students failed Math. RUSD has a direct impact of the City of Racine’s current and future economy. At this rate, we can predict the City of Racine’s outcomes for future constituents. Many times, we overlook poverty and poor academic outcomes for White students. It is mandatory to consider all students suffering from poverty.
Whites with the Least Education are Dying Early
“Middle-age white Americans with limited education are increasingly dying younger, on average, than other middle-age US adults, a trend driven by their dwindling economic opportunities, research by two Princeton University economists has found” (STAT, 2017). “Despite advances in health care and quality of life, white middle-aged Americans have seen overall mortality rates increase over the past 15 years, representing an overlooked “epidemic” with deaths comparable to the number of Americans who have died of AIDS, according to new Princeton University research. The results are published in a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from Anne Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, and Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs and professor of economics and international affairs.
Although death rates related to drugs, alcohol and suicides have risen for middle-aged whites at all education levels, the largest increases are seen among those with the least education, the researchers found. For those with a high school degree or less, deaths caused by drug and alcohol poisoning rose fourfold; suicides rose by 81 percent; and deaths caused by liver disease and cirrhosis rose by 50 percent. All-cause mortality rose by 22 percent for this least-educated group. Those with some college education saw little change in overall death rates, and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher actually saw death rates decline” (Princeton University, 2015). Retrieved from: https://wws.princeton.edu/faculty-research/research/item/rising-morbidity-and-mortality-midlife-among-white-non-hispanic https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/23/dying-whites-middle-age-less-education/
Case High School African American Scores over 3 years: State of Wisconsin Scores 2019 (Basic + Below Basic)
2017 90.2% Failed English 2018 87% Failed English 2019 88% Failed English 2017 95% Failed Math 2018 97% Failed Math 2019 95.2% Failed Math Not College Ready Not College Ready Not College Ready
Horlick High School State of Wisconsin 2019 African American Students (Basic + Below)
2017 97% Failed English 2018 97% Failed English 2019 94% Failed English 2017 99% Failed Math 2018 99% Failed Math 2019 99% Failed Math Not College Ready Not College Ready Not College Ready
There is a direct correlation between state assessment Forward and how a student will score on the college admission test such as ACT or SAT. Not MAP (NWEA). Though RUSD and other school districts speak a great deal on MAP Testing growth, MAP Testing scores are showcased more than not to the public for the purpose of appeasing the public. Again, MAP Scores have NO impact to very minimal for improvement on Wisconsin’s State Assessment (FORWARD) or ACT scores.
In RUSD, 19.5% of students who took the ACT were proficient or advanced in ELA, a 0.3% increase from the previous year. The proportion of students scoring proficient or advanced on the ACT dropped about 2% to 10.1% proficient. As a result of COVID 19 interrupting schools in March of 2020, academic performances for all students will suffer. However, students from more stable homes and educated parents are more likely to be exposed to educational opportunities. More than not, this will not be the case for Black and Brown students and RUSD is not providing students with efficient and rigorous learning opportunities. RUSD has failed the City of Racine and they continue to behave as if there is no academic plan tailored to students having unbreakable access to Remote Learning, despite students’ home address. This next section of this protest will focus on African Americans who attended college prior to COVID 19.
Attending College benefited African American Students during the era of COVID 19
For the purpose of providing clarity to RUSD and the community of Racine, I conducted a small investigation on LinkedIn in order to collect data from random African Americans who attended college at an HBCU or any college institution. I wanted to find out if there were benefits to having attended college and safety from COVID 19 pandemic. I also sought information about their jobs and steps their jobs took to protect them (African American) from contracting the many times fatal disease. The results are glaringly clear. African Americans who attended college were less likely to die or contract COVID 19. They were more likely to receive healthcare as well as get regular check-ups from their doctors. Nevertheless, over 63% of the survey participants know someone in their immediate surroundings who either died from COVID or negatively impacted from coronavirus. I now realize that social distancing is a privilege. Many students living in poverty cannot socially distance themselves from others due to living in small hotels, shelters or multiple family members living in one home. In other words, to sit on the other end of the sofa is a privilege we middle class people take for granted. Please view the research findings:
These data findings make it clear that being truly college and career ready matters. Students must be exposed to a highly qualified diverse staff which embraces variance. RUSD’s test scores are strong predictors for who will be successful and who will not. Many students may face plenty of challenges throughout their life. Finally, as you can see from question #13, no matter what part of the country one may decide to live, having a college education or post-secondary training are extremely beneficial coupled with various health care benefits for prolonging a healthy life.
As a result of RUSD supreme failure of educating students of color, we can predict the life expectancy and living conditions of African American Students, Hispanics, & Whites as a result of poor MATH scores. Why? Algebra II is the #1 academic factor associated with college readiness. More than not, these students will suffer from a possible shorten life span and possibly inundated with situations associated with poverty. If there are ever COVID 21, 22, or 23, many of these students who failed the State of Wisconsin Assessment or ACT have increased possibilities of contracting this horrible and sometimes fatal disease. These same students are more likely to live in high crime and violence infested neighborhoods as adults, thus exposing another generation of AA Students to Traumatic Childhood Experiences. RUSD has a direct impact on these awful childhood experiences and the stability of Racine’s economy.
RUSD Mission: Educate every student to succeed. (ESSA -every student succeed act, 2015).
The Core Values are as follows: “Core Values In RUSD, our Vision, along with our Core Values, form the basis of the work we do each day to ensure every student exceeds expectations. Our Core Values were collaboratively developed by teacher and District leaders in a process that gathered input from all employees and RUSD families. Our Core Values reflect the priorities of the District and establish the essential foundations for decision-making and collaborative work. Our Core Values ensure that the organization moves forward in ways that reflect the values and beliefs of everyone. The first Core Value places students at the center of all actions and decisions at the classroom, school, District and Board of Education levels” (RUSD, 2020).
EXCELLENCE. Leadership must value their employees and their contributions to making the organization strong and welcoming. To start living up to the established CORE VALUES, hire more teachers of color. Not just for special education classes or physical education. What about Mathematics, Science, English, and Social Studies? The next section of this read makes it clear that hiring educators of color matters tremendously.
Research from John Hopkins University: Hire Black & Brown Educators
It is severely clear that RUSD is not living up to their established and documented Core Values as it relates to diversifying the district. Diversity and inclusion of others are the only ways any organization will reach and sustain Excellence.
Hiring Practices in RUSD: According to DPI of Madison, WI (2019), RUSD has 1515 certified and uncertified teachers.
When considering demographics of students in Racine Unified, Whites 38%, African Americans 27%, & Hispanics 28%. When considering the demographics of teachers, there are 86% White, 8.8% Hispanic, and 4.7% African American (3.5% or 53 black females and 19 black males or 1.2% in RUSD). This is amazingly awful and RUSD is not living up to their CORE VALUES. As a result, students are NOT at the core of RUSD’s values.
According to John Hopkins University (2017), “Low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college, concludes a new study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University economist. Having at least one black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income black boys, the results are even greater – their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent. The researchers initially studied about 100,000 black students who entered third grade in North Carolina Public Schools between 2001 and 2005. About 13 percent of the students ended up dropping out of high school, while about half graduated, but with no plans to pursue college. However, low-income black students who were as good as randomly assigned to least one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade, were not only less likely to drop out of school, but 18 percent more likely to express interest in college when they graduated. And persistently low-income black boys — those who got free or reduced-price lunches throughout primary school — who had at least one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade, were 29 percent more likely to say they were considering college (John Hopkins, 2017).
Remote Learning and RUSD Intentionsand Profound Failure to Educate
From March 17, 2020 to July21, 2020, there has been no real teaching and learning happening for RUSD’s students. It has been consistently fragmented at best. There is a colossal amount of concern in the African American Community, but the district of Racine did not adjust to accommodate the communities’ concerns, which is to educate their child(ren) with a guaranteed and viable curriculum. RUSD failed to effectively communicate their virtual plan as a result of having no plan and have no plan today. Doug Reeves a popular researcher of student achievement would call this “Mal-Practice” (2000). Please keep in mind, there are no vaccines or effective treatments for Coronavirus except to distance oneself from other humans. All districts across the country will have to establish a sound and clear safety plan which includes Remote Learning for Fall 2020 and beyond. It is here to stay. Access to public education in many cases will look different or should I say, tailored to 21st century learning.
While schools were being cancelled and the Black and Brown students had no consistent remote learning opportunities or other opportunities to learn, Rosalie Daca continued to provide possible falsehoods to Journal Times and the community about how they were working on Remote Learning for students or why the district is not going to provide devices because of the different levels of poverty as it relates to students. It never fully happened. Parents are still outraged at this major debacle. While Rosalie Daca was disclosing half of the story to parents, she was trying to leave RUSD for predominantly white school districts. These are the districts. Please see the dates of these interviews in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Traverse City, Michigan and the days Rosalie spoke to Racine Journal Times. Here is Eau Claire:https://www.record-eagle.com/news/tcaps-superintendent-search-goes-ahead-virtually/article_08c7caf4-831a-11ea-9f69-f782d0e71a67.html
This evidence may possibly show Rosalie Daca, Chief Academic Officer had other priorities. When their first priority should have been dealing with how to educate students by creating Remote Learning opportunities for students. However, Ms. Daca can’t be blamed in isolation. There are others to blame. The citizens of Racine voted yes on the referendum. Student achievement tied to the $1 billion dollars must be priority #1. African American families are outraged at RUSDs lack of urgency and poor virtual plan. Minority families continue to report there are no teaching and learning opportunities happening. Parents are very afraid their children academic performance will decline more the coming Fall 2020, due to fragmented to no direct instruction along with no teacher modeling expectations. By no means am I criticizing teachers. The platform for teaching opportunities must be a priority for administration in central office.
RUSD & Journal Times Quotes in Racine Journal Times Newspaper “Some one-to-one districts, such as Waterford High School, have a regimented schedule with specific remote classes scheduled for certain times each day, while others, such as Union Grove High School, assign work through applications like Google Classroom and allow students to finish it any time during a given day.” Racine Journal Times April 26, 2020.
Daca’s quote:“That brings up an equity check as well,” said Rosalie Daca, Racine Unified’s chief academic officer. “We don’t want to create really cool lessons that kids with (internet) access can participate in and then everyone else gets this silly worksheet that’s just not at the same level of quality. So, we try to make sure that’s not happening too, and that’s a lot to consider” (April 26, 2020).
“We are working hard to gather the resources needed to equip our families,” said Stacy Tapp, Unified’s chief of communications and community engagement. “We are also developing plans to ensure we can obtain enough hotspots for families who need them.”
Daca’s quote: “We could give every kid a device,” Daca said. “That doesn’t mean they know what to do with it. That doesn’t mean that they’re used to learning that way. We have to move the teachers and the students to a place where they are comfortable with that and they are used to that.”
Tapp:“We are developing a ‘Re-Entry Plan’ for next school year to address gaps,” Tapp said. “We are partnering with districts across the country to come up with a multifaceted plan which takes into account the extra supports that will be needed like tutoring, extra review, slower pace, etc.; but also preparing for a better transition to remote learning in case we find ourselves in this same situation in the future.”
How many black teachers are there in RUSD? There are 53 AA females (3.5%) and 19 AA males a total of 72/1515 certified & uncertified teachers. 19 African American males equate to (1.2 %) of 1515 Demographics RUSD TEACHERS Black: 4.8% Hispanic: 7.5% Two or more races: 1.5% White: 85.2% https://publicstaffreports.dpi.wi.gov/PubStaffReport/Public/PublicReport/StaffByEthnicityAndGenderReport
RUSD students Demographics Black: 25.3% Hispanic: 28.4% Two or more races: 5.9% White: 38.9% Racine teachers Demographics Hispanics 7.5%, Black 4.7%, White 85.6%
What is the graduation rate for African American & Hispanic Students?
Why are African American employees fleeing RUSDin record Numbers?
Kevin Brown, Gabriel Lopez, Janet Colvin, Julie Landry, Chelsea Stallworth, Angela Davis, Keona Jones, Jackie Moga, Stacy Kimmins, Gretchen Stewart, Lindsey Blue, Demetri Beekman, Alyson Eisch, and Valencia Koker. This is not an exhaustive list. I named a few.
African American teachers and administrators constantly complain about the amount of unfairness they endure just to maintain their jobs. They complain they are severely needed but severely undervalued. Their voices are not heard. They state they lack professional developments which enhance their skill sets to improve academic success for all students. The same community of RUSD’s educators of color state there are absolutely no opportunities for career advancement due to not being part of the Miller Park (baseball) good ole boy group. The African American educators and the African American community continue to be concern about the inadequate to absolutely no equity training for such a diverse school district. Excellence will never be achieved until school districts operate through a cultural lens (National Equity Project, 2015). The organizational charts below speak volume. We have to ask, why does an awesome diverse city not have people in the organization reflective of the community?
RUSD Organizational Chart of Shame due to severely Lacking Diversity
Angela Apmann-Horlick High Jeff Miller-Park High & Cassie Kuranz-Case High
Board Member Mike Frontier’s son Dr. Tony Frontier’s Research on Opening new Schools
The passing of the $1billion dollar referendum was an awesome accomplishment. It’s exciting to know the City of Racine’s students will be moving into new buildings one day. All of the students and teachers deserve state of the art schools. However, the purpose of schooling cannot be overlooked for new windows and shining new door knobs. Student Achievement has to happen as well. Student Achievement should be at the core of schooling. New bricks and parking lots will have absolutely no impact on student achievement.
Vignette 1:“A New School Based on the premise that “smaller is better,” Willow Wood School District was awarded a significant grant to create a small high school, with funding provided for various structural changes that would be required. The grant application had described how the smaller environment would create a more connected, personalized learning experience for students. In the initial months the district addressed complex logistical details and brought in architects to plan for changes to a wing of an existing high school. The district’s IT team began to plan for a new computer network. A planning committee was formed to discuss the mission and vision of the new school. It was decided that teachers would be trained in a comprehensive instructional methodology emphasizing authentic problem solving and workplace readiness. The district brought in a consultant to assist with marketing to appeal to students with an interest in 21st century manufacturing and international business. A school principal was selected. A name, Global Prosperity Academy, was chosen because it aligned with the adopted mission of providing an international education that would prepare students to thrive in a global economy” (Frontier & Rickabaugh, 2014)
“Six months before the opening of the new school, staff members were hired from the existing high school, and they were empowered to make a number of decisions related to curriculum and school structure. The intent was to develop a curriculum whereby students could focus on one of three sets of courses emphasizing workplace-readiness skills, global awareness, or engineering. Each student would have a laptop. The staff chose to implement a block schedule, and rather than using a traditional report card, they decided to use a new standards-based report card. An online curriculum development tool was selected for teachers to develop and track their curricula. By the start of the school year, the building was ready and students were enrolled. Staff had attended two summer workshops to gain a better understanding of authentic problem-solving strategies and workplace-readiness skills. At a parent meeting a few days before school began, the new standards-based report card was distributed, along with a pamphlet explaining the philosophy of the school and its mission statement.
The facility looked great, and the community was energized by the concept of a new, small school with a global focus and lots of computers. On opening day, a crew from a local television station pulled in front of the school, and a reporter spoke with students and others about the opportunities offered by the Global Prosperity Academy. The story that aired that night featured a close-up of the school’s gleaming new sign; a few interviews with excited parents, the principal, and hopeful students; a shot of the impressive computer lab; and a closing scene showing a group of students heading inside as the first bell rang. The prospects of the Global Prosperity Academy had stirred tremendous excitement. Unfortunately, that excitement quickly waned. After a few months it was clear that student achievement was no better than it had been at the large high school—and attendance rates were actually worse. The curriculum was never fully developed around the identified mission and purpose, and factions formed between what students perceived to be the high-achieving engineering group and the low-achieving workplace-readiness group. Two years later, the school was moved to a new site and completely reorganized. The enthusiasm of the early days gave way to finger-pointing, blame, and frustration” (Frontier & Rickabaugh, 2014). Retrieved 6/21/2020: http://www.ascd.org/ascd/pdf/siteascd/publications/books/5levers-excerpts.pdf
Thomas Jefferson Lighthouse-Changing the name to Lloyd Jackson
Questions for RUSD Executive Leadership and Board of Education?
What forms of Equity professional development are available for the entire district? Are all students provided with a guaranteed and viable curriculum with access and without a break in their learning experiences? This must be coupled with certified and qualified teachers in their subject matter.
What types of trauma work are happening for the entire district of RUSD? What plan and action steps are available to address students’ traumatic experiences during COVID 19 & social distancing? Are there certified psychologist, social workers, and counselors available to address the severe trauma? Are there psychologists of color who understands Black and Brown culture because we know having employees of color, provide leverage and understanding? These attributes are necessary for improving concerns students maybe experiencing.
What steps are being introduced to parents and families so they may be able to better address their children academic concerns? How is RUSD working with internal and external stakeholders to improve academic outcomes for African American students and students who live in poverty, despite their race or ethnicity.
Who is responsible for addressing the RUSD’s old and new policies which may be considered discriminatory in 2020? Are parents and community members part of the policy analysis? If not, will you please include a true cross section of Racine’s communities in this process?
Do African American teachers feel supported? Are there several artifacts of evidence disclosing how teachers of color feel about the district’s culture and climate? Just as the Gifford Elementary School principal so eloquently stated, a positive culture and climate is essential, mandatory, necessary and imperative for any organization’s success. If so, please provide to Racine communities. What action steps are being taken to address this situation? Is the plan available for the public? If there are plans to address these pressing ills, how often are they progressed monitored with timely feedback to all teachers, faculty, and principals? Do you have a Culturally Relevant Curriculum for core subjects and more? If so, please provide opportunities for communities to see the Culturally Relevant Curriculum.
Summary The community would like for these concerns to be addressed as soon as possible. The community is paying attention and waiting for sound evidence of plans to address each and every question raised above in this protest for Equity, elimination of structural and systemic barriers, and improved Student Achievement, graduation rates for all students, and more African American, Hispanic, and other teachers of color. This is the only way to reach “Excellence” as a district.
Black Humanity Coalition Scott Terry Daryl Carter Kimberly Rice Zakee Darr Preniece Love Theres More Cardell Gallagher Carl Fields Brenda Harris James Ford Dr. Kevin Wayne Brown African American Community–We are NOT a hostile group. We seek improved opportunities for all students. This is especially true for African American and Latino students.
Voices of Urgent Concerns!
We are willing to work together! Students of Color must know there are people fighting for their future!
While visiting my hometown, Hammond, Louisiana last week to pay my respects to a family member who passed, I had to leave the house for fresh air due to the massive amount of people delivering food, comfort, and prayer. I just needed to take a little drive to allow myself to mourn on my terms. As I drove around the town, it became glaringly clear not only did a family member pass, but the entire community seemed to be dead and I thought to myself, things will remain the same for too many citizens of Hammond. Most of all, there is no sense of urgency. Where are wrap around services designed to improve conditions for humans’ well being? Why do people seem as if they are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? A psychological condition which causes one to lock arms with those who cause ongoing harm which brings about continual stress, dependence, and most of all, African Americans tend to feel they shouldn’t push on the system of oppression due to their need to survive. Consequently, long lasting harsh conditions continue to wreak havoc on certain areas of Hammond, LA. These areas are severely saturated with African Americans and other minorities. People of color who are oppressed, suppressed, and depressed. I continued to ask myself as I drove around my hometown, “why?” Why do these conditions continue? Why do African Americans seem to get the shortest stick in multiple ways year after year and decade after decade?
So, I started to ask people their opinions as to why such traumatic conditions continue to plague their community? I even asked some who were standing outside of a liquor store. In isolation, all reported similar reasons for the unwanted conditions, which is the “system was designed to keep them in one area with no hope.” Believe it or not, many of the citizen’s replies were valid. While asking questions at the liquor store near St. Paul Church, I realized there was a person passed out in the sweltering heat near the woods located on side of the store. So, I went over to check on the person to realize it was a lady. I asked questions and locals informed me it was no big deal and that “this is what she does.” Then they walked away with absolutely no concern. May I add, I was visibly appalled. I proceeded to ask the lady if she was all right and if she needed some help, and she stated several times “no” but she never got up.
Education and Homeownership
This leads me to reflect on the correlation between traumatic conditions, achievement gaps, education and homeownership. The term “achievement gap” refers to disparities in the academic achievement of specific groups of students (Coleman et al., 1966). The achievement gap now measures four years: by the end of high school, African American and Latino students have skills in literacy (reading) and numeracy (mathematics) that are virtually identical to those of White students at the end of middle school (Lyman & Villani, 2004; Scherer, 2002-2003). The achievement gap exists during school years, but when the school years are over the achievement gap becomes an opportunity gap. In other words, students become adults. In many cases, adults who will not be able to pay for everyday essentials such as food, purchase a home, have access to health, vision, or dental insurance. The achievement gap can very well impact one’s life time earnings. Lower life time earnings can have a direct impact on where people live and what kids are exposed to as they grow up. Lower life time earnings can very well impact one’s credit score and put up barriers that prevent home ownership and can sometimes prevent the opportunity to rent. Consequently, most are forced to live in low credit score neighborhoods. Low credit score neighborhoods can breed a host of negative exposures such as violence and childhood stressors. Low score neighborhoods are inundated with liquor stores, cigarette ads, and corner stores that sell nothing but unhealthy processed food. All of these factors add to negative childhood experiences and have a direct impact on minority students’ academic outcome. But, how did we get here? Was the system created to hold down certain citizens based on their race? Are people of color of Hammond, Louisiana still feeling the impact of the racist Housing Act of 1934-1968?
As a sociologist who studies society and groups, I would say, “yes” based on the resounding research that’s readily available as well as my own truthful observations. The Housing Act of 1934 was created during the Great Depression by Franklin D Roosevelt. “The Act was designed to stop the tide of bank foreclosures on family homes and to make housing more affordable for Whites.”
There is a term associated with the Housing Act of 1934 through 1968. The term or practice is known as Redlining. Redlining decided who received home loans. Redlining is also a practice in which the government created neighborhoods based on race and location. For example, green areas were able to receive home loans and the areas were/are predominantly white and red areas were/are considered bad and troubled and of course inundated with African Americans as well as other minorities, which was validated by my unwavering eyes. Redlining, debilitating policies and practices forbade African Americans from receiving home loans despite their social economic status or level of education. This can be observed from the educated African American principals’ and teachers’ homes located on JW Davis Drive near what was known as Greenville Park High School, Hammond Jr High, and now Greenville Park Leadership Academy. Though the name continues to change, the demographics which walk into GPLA daily have not changed since its origin. Student performance has plummeted and GPLA has been labeled as a subpar school by the state of Louisiana; but there’s hope as I am hearing great things about the current administration.
34 years of racial housing practices continue to hover over most of America’s Cities. Cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and yes, Hammond, Louisiana are all victims of these awful though enforced practices.
The result of these deplorable policies, ensured 98% of loans were given to white families. Hammond was not excluded. Families in the green were able to purchase homes and accrue wealth. Whites were able to sell then use the equity to send their children to college all the while producing generations of wealth and generations of college educated whites. One thing is true, when neighborhoods are segregated, the schools are segregated too.
According to USA Today (2018), Hammond is considered one of the cities in America with the lowest graduation rate. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/08/21/cities- where-fewest-people-graduate-high-school/372711172
Salem, Oregon ⦁ High school graduation rate: 74.7% ⦁ May unemployment rate: 4.0% ⦁ Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,474 ⦁ Percent of adults with a college degree: 24.0%
Hammond, Louisiana ⦁ High school graduation rate: 74.0% ⦁ May unemployment rate: 5.2% (highest 25%) ⦁ Median income, less than high school graduate: $20,495 ⦁ Percent of adults with a college degree: 20.1% (bottom 25%)
Tucson, Arizona ⦁ High school graduation rate: 73.9% ⦁ May unemployment rate: 4.0% ⦁ Median income, less than high school graduate: $17,936 (bottom 25%) ⦁ Percent of adults with a college degree: 31.9%
Jackson, Mississippi ⦁ High school graduation rate: 73.6% ⦁ May unemployment rate: 4.2% ⦁ Median income, less than high school graduate: $18,681 (bottom 25%) ⦁ Percent of adults with a college degree: 29.9%
According to ProPublica/Miseducation, Hammond High School students of color lag behind White students in a variety of Categories. Retrieved from https://projects.propublica.org/miseducation/school/220168001304
Hammond High School Data on Opportunity to Learn & Disparities ⦁ White students are 3.2 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students. ⦁ A comparison between Hispanic students and White students enrolled at least one AP class is not available. ⦁ A comparison between Asian, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian students and White students enrolled at least one AP class is not available. ⦁ A comparison between students of Two or More Races and White students enrolled at least one AP class is not available. ⦁ A comparison between Native American or Alaska Native students and White students enrolled at least one AP class is not available.
Hammond High School Discipline ⦁ Black students are 4.2 times as likely to be suspended as White students. ⦁ Hispanic students are 2.5 times as likely to be suspended as White students. ⦁ A comparison between Asian, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian students and White student suspensions is not available. ⦁ Students of Two or More Races are 3.8 times as likely to be suspended as White students. ⦁ A comparison between Native American or Alaska Native students and White student suspensions is not available.
The majority of these disparities could be the result of a long history of enforcing America’s Housing Act Policies which barred prosperity for far too many of her citizens. Over the years, red zones have taken a harsh beating. Landlords and homeowners in too many cases are simply not financially able to repair the severely aging homes. Therefore, they sit and rot along with abandoned cars. There are organizations who pay $50 to $100 dollars to take guns off the streets. The same should happen for the massive number of abandoned cars. The City of Hammond should provide $100 to the owner or so for all the inoperable cars and give them to surrounding scrap yards or technical schools which improve outcomes. I’m sure with collaboration between aldermen, councilmen, the community, and mayor, good ideas can become reality. No need to compound poverty with harsh demands which force the underserved population to pay.
Shame, Shame, and Shame on the city for spending taxpayers’ money to glamourize and most of all commercialize the way life used to be in Louisiana. I am referring to “Peter Hammond’s” burial site and the unnamed slave boy. A favorite of Peter’s. What type of message are we sending to so many of Hammond’s minority and majority citizens? Think of minority students having to face these awful reminders of slavery while walking to school everyday for years. This is traumatic to say the least. Take a play from the former Mayor Landrieu’s play book. “New Orleans is a mostly black city of nearly 390,000. The majority black City Council voted 6-1 in 2015 to take the monuments down, but legal battles held up action.
Landrieu, a white Democrat, proposed the monuments’ removal and rode to victory twice with overwhelming support from the city’s black residents. Opponents of the memorials say they are offensive artifacts honoring the region’s racist past.” Retrieved from: https://apnews.com/75a1d88fbef7440782907d5a3e5cd93e
The Visible-Invisible Line The corner of North Holly and East Church Street makes it explicitly clear there is a Visible Invisible line that separates devastating neighborhoods and neighborhoods who now benefit from laws that supported and enforced “White Privilege” from Reconstruction 1877 through Jim Crow years, which ended on books in the 1960s by LB Johnson. I actually stood in the middle of the street at the corner of Holly and East Church. I looked South and North without moving my position. While looking south, one is able to see homes, opportunities, and wealth.
As a native of Hammond, the view hasn’t changed. Yes, I am actually surprised and disappointed. I too am a victim of the same harsh conditions. Much of my early years have been erased. I decided to visit my Great Grandmother “Mama Picky’s” home on Noah James Drive, only to find a sidewalk to nowhere. Just faded memories of throwing my GI Joe Parachute doll into the air and watch it float to the ground. The days after church and Mama Picky would take her hair piece off and insisted the great-grand kids take turns scratching her scalp.
The Impact of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects
For the purpose of providing explicit clarity, it’s necessary to provide research study findings which clearly show that neighborhoods have an impact on people’s beginnings as a child and their outcomes as an adult (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). “Neighborhoods in which children grow up shape their lifetime income, college attendance rates, and fertility and marriage patterns” (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). The researchers analyzed more than 7 million families by analyzing de-identified families with IRS records from 1980s. The results of the findings show “neighborhoods affect intergenerational mobility primarily through childhood exposure” (Chetty & Hendren, 2017).
The findings also revealed, place matters. Children who grow up in poor environments tend to mimic the same income and outcomes in adulthood as the permanent residents in the community. The same can be said if a child is exposed to improved environments. Secondly, neighborhood matters largely because of diﬀerences in childhood exposure, rather than the diﬀerences in job market conditions. Third, each year of childhood exposure matters (Good or Bad environments) roughly equals that of a child born in the neighborhood. However, age of the child’s move to an improved environment does matter. For example, moving to an improved environment has less of an impact on adults who are 23 years old compared to a child who moves to an improved neighborhood by age 9 or 10 (Chetty & Hendren, 2017). Retrieved from: http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/assets/documents/movers_paper1.pdf
So, we must improve conditions in which we live. This can only be accomplished with enduring collaboration from all stakeholders such as taxpayers, community leaders, TPSD, councilmen, churches, and others. The research did not suggest moving to other neighborhoods, though there is nothing wrong with moving. Nonetheless, the research findings do suggest improved environments or improving our environments in which we reside. Retrieved from: http://www.equality-of opportunity.org/assets/documents/movers_paper1.pdf
As I conclude, we must acknowledge Hammond as we know it today, only gets worse with an uneducated population. The superintendent of schools and BOE must increase their efforts as it relates to educational outcomes and disparities. 26% of high school students fail to graduate in 4 years (Miseducation, 2018). Abandoned homes and cars, violence, and poor opportunities are not alluring to companies and industries. Industries do not move to cities where subpar school districts are still fighting desegregation from the long gone Jim Crow Era.
What will the Mayor of Hammond, Aldermen, Superintendent of Schools, Community Leaders and others do to combat these harsh conditions? To remain silent is to remain complicit. These awful living conditions for too many have nearly destroyed Hammond, Louisiana. By the Grace of GOD, let’s save her now!!
This is an awesome article and I had to share this with my colleagues and friends.
By: CLAUDIO SANCHEZ February 2018 Mark Seidenberg is not the first researcher to reach the stunning conclusion that only a third of the nation’s schoolchildren read at grade level. The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child’s brain.
Seidenberg is a cognitive scientist and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In his latest book, Language at the Speed of Sight, he points out that the “science of reading” can be a difficult concept for educators to grasp. He says it requires some basic understanding of brain research and the “mechanics” of reading, or what is often referred to as phonics.
I talked with Seidenberg about what it will take to improve reading instruction. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
So how do you explain this to teachers?
Success in reading depends on linking print to speech. There’s a massive amount of behavioral research, neuroimaging research, on brain organization and brain development, which conclusively shows that skilled reading is associated with children’s spoken language, grammar and the vocabulary they already know. It’s about teaching kids the correspondence between the letters on a page and the sounds of words.
And you’re saying that teachers don’t know this?
This basic science does not go into the preparation of teachers. More often they’re told it’s not really relevant, that the science is sterile and has no connection with what teachers do in the classroom.
What I point out in the book is that in order to grasp the research, [teachers] need basic scientific literacy to be able to understand it. They can dismiss [what I’m saying] or they can share my outrage.
Is that the reason you wrote Language at the Speed of Sight? Outrage?
I was motivated by accumulating frustration. I’ve reviewed the science of reading and documented how little impact it has had on educational practice, and I think this is bad. It has put kids at risk for failure.
Reading scientists have been talking about this for a long time and tried to communicate with educators and failed. We have not been able to get the science past the schoolhouse door.
In your book, you wade into the reading wars and argue that the debate over phonics vs. whole language is largely to blame for the poor reading skills of American students. But you say it’s not a question of “either/or.” Kids need to be exposed to great books and rich literature and they need to know the symbols and sounds of letters. Where are we on that front?
The reading wars are over and science lost. Phonics is just one specific component of learning to read that’s important at a particular point in a child’s development. The reading wars did not focus on this, so the conflict was set up in a bogus way.
You say the conflict has been political.
The political solution was called “balanced literacy,” which called on teachers to use the best of both approaches. But it left it up to teachers who had been trained to dismiss phonics and brush off the science.
One interesting recommendation you offer is that college graduates who sign up for Teach for America be hired not as classroom teachers but as an army of reading tutors.
Yes. They could be trained to provide supplemental reading instruction, one-on-one or in small groups. That’s what wealthy people do. They pay for tutors. Poor people can’t.
So I would say yeah, put more people in the classroom or after-school programs who focus on reading and language. This would be helpful.
What about legislation like what Michigan passed recently that prohibits schools from promoting third-graders to the fourth grade unless they can read at grade level? Educators have been supportive of the new law but say the funding for it is sorely lacking. Do you think such a mandate is a good idea?
I don’t think its a good idea if they merely passed a law that says, “You better read.” That’s punishing the kid. There have to be programs and investments to support teachers, students and parents.
You insist that the training and credentialing of teachers is also inadequate, and you single out colleges of education.
It’s clear that ed schools are setting teachers up to fail. [The teachers are] plopped in the classroom to learn on the job because the ideology in ed schools is a “learning by doing” philosophy. I think it’s really a mess.
At the end of your book you recommend that schools of education overhaul the curriculum to make sure newly minted teachers leave with a basic understanding of linguistics and child development. You say states must change their teacher-licensure requirements. And, finally, you want school districts to vastly expand tutoring for children who are struggling to read.
Yes. It’s necessary to get all these folks on board. And indeed, one could see how parents and community leaders would also get on board. I don’t pretend to know how to approach them. What I can do is explain how reading works, how children develop and how we can teach children to read better.
Education policymakers are too driven by fads—at the expense of tried and true approaches By Mike Schmoker May 1, 2018
I’m against innovation in education—as currently conceived and conducted. I’m not against small-scale educational experimentation, where new methods are tested, refined, and proved before they are widely implemented. But I’m against our inordinate obsession with what’s new at the expense of what works—with exceedingly superior (if much older) evidence-based practices. The difference in impact isn’t slight: Michael Fullan, an international authority on education, believes that our best high-leverage methods produce “stunningly powerful consequences” in schools. And they will do so, as professional-development expert Bruce Joyce has noted, “very rapidly.” Our willingness to recognize and act on this difference may be the central educational issue of our time. Consider John Hattie’s research on the power of formative evaluation and feedback. His exhaustive studies confirm what we’ve known since the 1960s: that ongoing monitoring and adjustments to teaching, informed by feedback, may have more impact on learning than any other instructional factor. Doug Lemov concurs. In his mega-best-selling book, Teach Like a Champion, he identifies “checking for understanding” as the pivotal element in an effective lesson. I know teachers in two different schools in the same district whose adoption of these methods contributed to enormous one-year, whole-school gains on their state writing exam. After learning of these incredible gains, I joined these teachers to advocate the expansion of their efforts in their district—but their successes were entirely ignored. To our astonishment, their respective school leaders opted to pursue a string of popular—but weak or unproven—innovations, including SmartBoard training and standards-based grading.
Or what of New York City’s New Dorp High School? With the struggling school in danger of closure by city officials, the principal decided to go all in on exceedingly traditional instruction in reading, public speaking, and writing in every discipline. In just two years, the school made immense gains and is now a mecca for visitors. As author Peg Tyre explained in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, the school’s success was not a function of innovation or experimentation, but of old, proven instructional “fundamentals that schools have devalued or forgotten” (my emphasis). As Tyre points out, the fundamentals-first instructional model on which New Dorp based its program “would not be unfamiliar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950.” And then there’s the simple power of curriculum. Nothing cutting-edge here. Yet meta-analytic evidence from Robert Marzano and other researchers indicates that a coherent curriculum—if implemented—has more impact on learning than any other in-school factor. Not long ago, I attended an award ceremony for a school in Arizona that ranked in the top three for statewide gains in math. They achieved this in a two-year period, a direct result of having teams of teachers map out, for the first time, what they would teach in each math course, by grading period. I’m friends with an elementary school principal in Boston who persuaded his faculty members to do the same for every course at his high-poverty school. Scores rose, in his words, “with amazing speed”: from the bottom to the top third in the state, in a single school year. Finally, consider working-class Brockton High School, in Massachusetts. Brockton was among the lowest-achieving schools in the state. The faculty responded to dire performance indicators by making “reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning” in every subject area their mantra. In 2001, the first year of their effort, the state’s education commissioner called to inform them that Brockton had made the largest gains in the commonwealth. In the next few years, Brockton rose from the bottom rungs to the top 10 percent in Massachusetts. Perhaps the most promising fact about the best evidence-based practices is that they are currently the least implemented. Because of that, their use would have a swift and substantial impact in thousands of schools and on millions of students. But not if they continue to be supplanted, as they now are, by innovations like the flipped classroom, student-centered learning spaces, teaching with mobile apps, gamification, or the now-ubiquitous variations on personalized learning. Not one of those ranks high on any list of what’s most effective. What researchers Thomas B. Corcoran, Susan H. Fuhrman, and Catherine Belcher wrote years ago in their study of professional development is still true: Those in charge of what teachers learn are not an “evidence-based community.” They are driven, on the contrary, by “whims, fads, opportunism, and ideology.”
When I donated a kidney to my sister, the doctors didn’t experiment on her with the latest anti-rejection drugs. They gave her the best, evidence-based anti-rejection medicine available at the time—Cyclosporine. And it saved her life. We have a pretty stark choice: We can either implement the best we know or continue to treat students and teachers like lab rats. It’s time for education to make the leap to a more authentic professionalism—by giving innovation its due, but never letting it supplant or precede those practices that would produce “stunningly powerful consequences” in our schools and in the lives of students. Mike Schmoker is an author, speaker, and consultant. He is the author of Focus (ASCD, 2011) and Leading with Focus (ASCD, 2016).
Just today May 23, 2018, my colleagues were talking to me about the “Achievement Gap” and “Equality.” One stated, “After so many years, very little has changed as it relates to closing the gap which continues to linger between Hispanics and White Students as well as African American and White students.” My reply, “Well that’s absolutely true.” Due to reflecting on that conversation, I have been motivated to write out my thoughts.
So, I am wondering how do we educators and the implemented systems or barriers contribute to the widening of the ever pressing achievement gap that shows up on multiple metrics such as the American College Testing (ACT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Measurement of Academic Performance (MAP), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as well as state assessments such as the LEAP of Louisiana. Research consistently provide evidence, despite ethnicity and social economic status of students, there is a smaller and more manageable achievement gap when students enter kindergarten. Consequently, as students persist through secondary schooling the gap widens. “Why?” What happens for students who attend school 90% of the time but still suffer from the achievement gap?
These questions led me to think about our mental models. Mental Models are “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action (Senge, 1990). Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior” (Senge, 1990). Sometimes we are not aware of the negative impact on certain students’ academic success.
Explanation of the Achievement Gap
There are many thoughts as to why there is an achievement gap. For example, there are views on what happens at home or in the community and what happens within the walls of the schoolhouse (Ford, 2008). It is clear educators cannot control what happens at home. However, at school many times teachers’ mental models of poor students or students of color are extremely low. As a result, we get what is known as a dumb down curriculum. In other words, Algebra II of the 1990s is not the same Algebra II in the 21st Century. To many teachers severely do not believe all students can learn if given increased time on task, necessary supports, and interventions supported by prioritized standards with aligned common formative assessments.
Nevertheless, teachers and principals are in control of the schoolhouse and they should be using data sets to drive instructions every hour of the school day for every student. Subsequently, strong negative mental models of certain groups of students may very well impede teachers from operating in good faith in regards to students of color and their parents who do not have loud voices and possibly less educated ( Noguera, 2012).
It is imperative for principals, department chairs, and administrators to challenge the mental models of implicit biases. This should be a non-negotiable. Those responsible for educating students should be held accountable. Why? Because for many students its truly a matter of life or death. Education breaks poverty. Educated citizens have more opportunities because doors are open for them. Educated citizens are more likely to have insurances such as health, vision, dental and opportunities for homeownership. “The American Dream.”
As of 2014, there are more children of color in public schools than there are students from the majority group. I point this out in order to make the case of how important it is to hold all accountable. There are now more students of color in public school. The very populations who tend to significantly lag behind white students.
“Of the projected 50.7 million public school students entering prekindergarten through grade 12 in fall 2017, White students will account for some 24.4 million. The remaining 26.3 million will be composed of 8.0 million Black students, 13.6 million Hispanic students, 2.8 million Asian/Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.5 million students of Two or more races. The percentage of students enrolled in public schools who are White is projected to continue to decline through at least fall 2026, as the enrollments of Hispanic students and Asian/Pacific Islander students increase” (National Center Educational Statistics, 2017).
As leaders, we must lead with integrity and we must lead with students at the core of every decision that we make. Stay WOKE!!
By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter |April 10, 2018
Fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have made little to no gains in math and reading since 2015.
While the average reading scores for eighth-graders increased compared with 2015, there were no changes for reading at fourth grade or for math at either grade, according to results from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress, also called NAEP or The Nation’s Report Card.
Moreover, the latest results reveal a disturbing trend in which the country’s poorest-performing students scored worse in both subjects than they did in 2015, while the highest-performing students posted increases, reflecting a growing gap between those at the top and bottom of the achievement spectrum.
“I’m pleased that eighth-grade reading scores improved slightly but remain disappointed that only about one-third of America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students read at the NAEP Proficient level,” said former Gov. John Engler of Michigan, the chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which along with the National Center on Education Statistics, the Department of Education’s research arm, administers the test.
“We are seeing troubling gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students,” he said. “We must do better for all children.”
To be sure, results varied considerably among states and the 27 large urban school districts that volunteered to have their scores individually analyzed and included in the 2017 Trial Urban District Assessment, which was also released Tuesday and is known as TUDA.
When it comes to breaking down NAEP scores by state, this year Florida was the stand-out.
Florida was the only state to see an increase in math, as the average scores of both fourth- and eighth-graders increased between 2015 and 2017. Most states’ average scores remained unchanged in math, though 10 states saw declines in fourth-grade math and three saw declines in eighth-grade math.
Most states’ average scores were also unchanged in reading, with the exception of 10 states whose eighth-graders posted increases.
“Something very good obviously is happening in Florida,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, though she stopped short of correlating those increases with any specific policy change. “Florida needs to be commended.”
In addition to an uptick in the Sunshine State’s math and reading scores, Florida saw increases in almost all student subgroups inching up their proficiency rates, including students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and those still learning English.
Moreover, two of Florida’s three large school districts that volunteered to participate in TUDA, Duval County and Miami-Dade, also posted similar increases.
“I can’t tell you why,” Carr said. “But something interesting is happening in Florida.”
Tuesday’s results, however, were undercut by the fact that the test was administered digitally for the first time via a tablet device. Research shows students tend to score worse on digital assessments than on traditional paper tests, prompting some state education officials and policymakers to dismiss the results ahead of their release, despite Carr’s insistence that NCES researchers properly accounted for the change.
“We’re going to learn a lot more about what students know and can do, not just their answers, but more about how they arrived at these answer through this more digitally based assessments,” Carr said to reporters on a press call Monday.
When researchers at NCES analyzed the scores more than 200 times and compared them to the smaller cohort of students who took the test as it has been traditionally administered with paper and pencil, they found very few inconsistencies with the results. In fact, Carr said, in the handful of the inconsistencies they did find, it was often the case that students who took the test digitally performed better.
“We are just ecstatic about being able to move these assessments to a digitally based format,” she said. “Students are communicating, living, they learn and are taught in a digitally-based world, so assessments such as NAEP are moving toward a digitally based assessments.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s results, policymakers and advocates were bracing for students to fare worse than in years’ past, concerned about what the the country’s most cited indicator of student achievement will mean for the trajectory of education policy across the country, despite a chorus of attempts from education researchers to caution against making causal claims.
“We’ve come to anticipate NAEP results as an indicator of student academic achievement, but we shouldn’t base our perceptions of education in America, or in individual states or cities, so heavily on this one data point,” said Chris Minnich, the CEO of NWEA, an organization that designs K-12 assessments.
“The concerns I hear from education leaders center on making sure we use multiple measures of student learning to inform our opinions on how our schools, districts, and states are doing,” he said, stressing that student growth data is a better representation of education progress.
In addition to reporting math and reading scores by state, this year’s release also includes the results of fourth- and eighth-graders in 27 urban school districts that volunteered to have their scores reported out separately via the 2017 TUDA.
Again, mirroring the flat-line trend that occurred among states, most of the average scores for the city school systems remained unchanged in both subjects since the last assessment.
A handful of outliers include San Diego, where fourth-graders increased their average scores in math and reading; Duval County, Florida, Fresno, and Miami-Dade, where fourth-graders posted increases in math; Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit, where average scores declined in fourth-grade math; and Albuquerque and Boston, where eighth-graders increased average reading scores.
“Today’s release of The Nation’s Report Card confirms that there is still much work to be done to close achievement gaps and ensure that our young people are ready for success in college, careers and life,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that represents every state’s top education official.
“State chiefs recognize the urgency of improving outcomes for all students, and these recent results from the Nation’s Report Card only further demonstrate this call to action,” she said.
Standards are skills and knowledge students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a lesson, chapter, unit, semester, or school year. Standards are constant and tend not to change from grade level to grade level. What students should know and are expected to do comes from various cross sections of society such as schools, parents, military, businesses, colleges & universities, and communities. Curriculum on the other hand is flexible and can change from day to day. It’s the material and resources used to help students master the necessary skills or improve readiness.
Since knowledge is intangible or unable to be grasped because it’s inside students’ head, educators must administer assessments or other forms of measurements for the purpose of determining what students know, do not know, or partially know. Formative assessments which are assessments for learning, provide the instructor tangible insight as it relates to what students know or their readiness level. This valuable insight should be used by educators to adjust their actions or strategies. Therefore, formative assessments are essential for progress monitoring knowledge gained or not while proceeding with teaching and learning. Just as a doctor who uses diagnostic tools to determine health levels such as a thermometer, a stethoscope, or blood work and prescribe a treatment plan, a check of mastery by the teacher can design the treatment the student needs in the form of pathways to enable students to attain the skills that have been determined necessary for the student to know. During the teaching and learning process, formative assessments or checking for understanding should be immediate in order to provide students with immediate descriptive feedback that allow students opportunities to work toward meeting the identified purpose, goals or targets.
You’ve probably heard it before: Too many black students don’t do well in school because they think being smart means “acting white.”
Just last week, Columbia University English professor John McWhorter mentioned it in a piece for Vox to support his critique of elements of the Black Lives Matter platform. Key to his argument was the assertion that the similar goals of the 1960s “war on poverty failed,” in part, due to black people’s “cultural traits and behaviors.”
While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.
At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.
Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.
Where the “acting white” theory came from The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”
The acting white theory has since become a go-to explanation for the achievement gap between African-American students and their white peers, and is repeated in public conversations as if it’s a fact of life.
Authors such as Ron Christie in Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Stuart Buck in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation have written entire books (heavy on personal observations, anecdotes, and theories) dedicated to the phenomenon.
Even President Barack Obama said in 2004, when he was running for US Senate, “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”
Perhaps aware of some of the research debunking this as an academic theory in the intervening years, he noted in 2014 remarks related to the My Brother’s Keeper program that it was “sometimes overstated.” But he still offered the theory in the form of a personal observation, saying that in his experience, “there’s an element of truth to it, where, OK, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly?”
It’s no surprise that the “acting white” narrative resonates with a lot of people. After all, it echoes legitimate frustrations with a society that too often presents a narrow, stereotypical image of what it means to be black. It validates the experiences of African-American adults who remember being treated like they were different, or being smart but not popular in school. And for those who are sincerely interested in improving educational equality, it promises a quick fix. (“If they would just stop thinking being smart was ‘acting white,’ they could achieve anything!”)
The “acting white” theory also validates a particular social conservative worldview by placing the blame for disparate academic outcomes squarely on the backward ideas of black children and black cultural pathology, instead of on harder-to-tackle factors like socioeconomic inequality, implicit racial bias on the part of teachers, segregated and underresourced schools, and the school discipline disparities that create what’s been called the school-to-prison pipeline.
The “acting white” research was weak to begin with “The acting white theory is difficult to assess through research,” Ivory Toldson — a Howard University professor, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities — wrote at the Root in 2013. “Many scholars who claim to find evidence of this theory loosely interpret their data and exploit the expert gap to sell their finding,” he said.
Despite abundant personal anecdotes by African Americans who say they were good students in school and were accused of acting white, there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about “acting white,” social stigma, and academic outcomes.
Even those who claim to have found evidence of the theory, Toldson explained, failed to connect the dots between what students deem “white” and the effect of this belief on academic achievement.
“Observing and/or recording African-American students labeling a high-achieving African-American student as acting white does not warrant a characterization of African-American academic underperformance as a response to the fear of acting white,” he said.
Studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones A prime example of a shaky study on this topic, according to Toldson, was Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer’s 2006 research paper “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and the Brightest Minority Students.” Published by Education Next, the paper purported to affirm Ogbu’s findings by using Add Health data to demonstrate that the highest-achieving black students in the schools Fryer studied had few friends. “My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools,” he wrote.
But the numbers didn’t actually add up to support the “acting white” theory, Toldson said. To start, the most popular black students in his study were the ones with 3.5 GPAs, and students with 4.0s had about as many friends as those with 3.0s. The least popular students? Those with less than a 2.5 GPA.
It seemed that the “social price” paid by the lowest-achieving black students was actually far greater than the price in popularity paid by the highest academic achievers.
Fryer conceded this. He said there was “no evidence of a trade-off between popularity and achievement” for black students at private schools, poking another hole in the theory.
Plus, Toldson pointed out, even if the results had shown that the highest-achieving students at all schools had the fewest friends, that would have indicated a connection between grades and popularity, but wouldn’t have supported the core of the “acting white” theory itself. “Methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white,” he explained.
In 2009, the authors of an American Sociological Review article, “The Search For Oppositional Culture Among Black Students,” concluded that high-achieving black students were in fact especially popular among their peers, and that being a good student increased popularity among black students even more so than for white students.
McWhorter has dismissed this study as one that “encourages us to pretend,” because he says that black kids may be dishonest when asked if they value school. It’s unclear why the suspicion of dishonesty only applies to black students and not the white students who were also studied. He’s also written the self-reports can’t be trusted because, according to reasoning he attributes to Fryer, “[a]sking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex.” That may be fair, but it doesn’t explain the stronger link between being a good student and self-reports about popularity for black teens than for white teens.
In 2011, Smith College’s Tina Wildhagen, in the Journal of Negro Education, tested the “entire causal process tested by the ‘acting white’ theory,” using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, and found that “the results lend no support to the process predicted by the acting white hypothesis for African-American students.”
Research suggests that black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students There is an established phenomenon called the attitude-achievement paradox, which refers to the way positive attitudes about school can fail to translate to successful academic outcomes among black students. Originated by Roslyn Mickelson in 1990, it’s been the subject of extensive sociological research.
For example, in a study published in the American Sociological Review in 1998, James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas Downey, using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, found that black students offered more optimistic responses than their white counterparts to questions about the following: 1) the kind of occupation they expected to have at age 30, 2) the importance of education to success, 3) whether they felt teachers treated them well, 4) whether the teachers were good, 5) whether it was okay to break rules, 6) whether it was okay to cheat, 7) whether other students viewed them as a “good student,” 8) whether other students viewed them as a “troublemaker,” and 9) whether they tried as hard as they could in class.
Findings like these fly in the face of the idea that black students think academic achievement is “white” or negative, or that it’s something they must actively shun for acceptance and popularity.
When Toldson analyzed raw data from a 2005 CBS News monthly poll of 1,000 high school students who were asked their opinions on being smart and other smart students, he saw this reflected again.
Students were asked, “Thinking about the kids who get good grades in your school, which one of these best describes how you see them: 1) cool, 2) normal, 3) weird, 4) boring, or 5) admired?” The responses of black boys, black girls, white boys, and white girls were around the same. But black boys were the most likely (17 percent) to consider such students “cool.”
Students also answered this question: “In general, if you really did well in school, is that something you would be proud of and tell all your friends about, or something you would be embarrassed about and keep to yourself?” Eighty-nine percent of all students said they would be “proud and tell all.” Black girls were top among this group, with 95 percent saying they’d be proud. Meanwhile, white boys, at 17 percent, were the most likely to say they would be “embarrassed or keep to self” or report that they “did not know” how they would handle the news that they were doing very well academically.
As recently as 2009, researchers have revisited the theory and confirmed the findings of pro-school attitudes among black students.
All racial groups have nerds Fryer’s research found that the very highest-achieving black kids were the least popular — but this likely had much less to do with beliefs about acting white and more to do with the fact that the very smartest kids of any race tend to suffer social stigma.
“In my own research, I have noticed a ‘nerd bend’ among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards,” Toldson said. “For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.”
In a 2003 study titled “It’s not a black thing: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement,” published in the American Sociological Review, researchers concluded that the smartest black and white students actually had similar experiences and that the stigma was similar across cultures:
Typically, high-achieving students, regardless of race, are to some degree stigmatized as “nerds” or “geeks.” School structures, rather than culture, may help explain when this stigma becomes racialized, producing a burden of acting white for black adolescents, and when it becomes class-based, producing a burden of “acting high and mighty” for low-income whites. So very high-achieving kids of all races experience social isolation at times. This is why there are plenty of high-achieving black kids to provide anecdotes about being socially shunned (and there are probably plenty of white kids who could do the same, but there isn’t the same appetite for collecting these stories to explain the white experience). There are also plenty of black kids — many of whom are also smart — who have been accused of “acting white.” But there doesn’t appear to be much of a basis to connect the two experiences.
Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect:
As a nerdy black kid who was accused of “acting white” on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge. Why it matters that we get this right The “acting white” theory is tempting to believe because it does contain pieces of truth. Yes, there’s a racial academic achievement gap. Yes, there are plenty of African-American adults eager to tell stories about how they were shunned because they were brilliant.
(McWhorter has vigorously defended the “acting white” theory against academic critics primarily by citing 125 letters he says he received from people describing their experiences that reflect the theory. While he argues that accounts in these letters should be accepted without question, he disregards data such as the scientific study responses indicating pro-school attitudes among black kids because of his view that “personal feelings are not reachable by direct questioning.”)
And, yes, some high-achieving black kids — like kids of all races — experience social stigma. These individual facts are painful, and they resonate with people in a way that makes it easy to blur what’s missing from the “acting white” equation: an actual, causal connection between the accusations of acting white, social stigma, and lower academic outcomes. There isn’t one.
It’s particularly troubling that this myth persists, because stories about the sources of educational inequality can shape public attitudes and policy. A perfect example is in McWhorter’s recent Vox piece. Readers who believed his assertion about the “acting white” theory may have been more likely to be convinced of his larger argument that “cultural orientations” of black communities are a cause of inequality. That is, of course, a very damning charge that could shape attitudes about black people and perpetuate racism. But the most glaring problem with it is that it’s an outdated theory that has fallen out of favor with actual sociologists.
A continued willingness to believe that solutions lie in simply repairing backward attitudes about getting good grades will continue to distract from the real problems: poverty, segregation, discipline disparities, teacher biases, and other structural factors. Unfortunately, none of these issues are as easy to fix as simply changing the beliefs of black students.
This is an ongoing debate throughout America’s school districts. I enjoyed this article by Anya Kamentez. It could make a great debate for middle and high school students.
By Anya Kamenetz JANUARY 25, 2018
“If something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”
“Students are doing so much in class, distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about.” How should teachers — both K-12 and college — deal with the use of computers and phones by students in class?
On the one hand, those sleek little supercomputers promise to connect us to all human knowledge. On the other hand, they are also scientifically designed by some of the world’s top geniuses to feel as compelling as oxygen. So where does that leave teachers? Should you ban these devices in the classroom? Let students go whole hog? Or is there a happy medium?
This seemingly simple topic ends up being what one professor and pedagogy expert calls “a Rorschach test for so much that’s going on in education.” Recently, the California state teachers’ pension fund weighed in — as a large investor in Apple, the makers of the iPhone. In an open letter, along with another activist shareholder, they called on the company to study digital distraction among youth and to make it easier to limit young people’s use.
The letter cited a national survey that found two-thirds of K-12 teachers said the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing. Of those teachers surveyed, 75 percent said students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.
Research at the college level backs that up; a small, 2017 study at the University of Michigan found students in an introductory psychology course spent up to a third of class time surfing the web to non-academic sites — even though they knew that the researchers were tracking their computer use. Sounds ominous. But the debate over devices in the classroom has many more perspectives. I spoke with four professors, a high school teacher, a psychiatrist and a technologist to get a range of different views.
No way, no how
Allia Griffin teaches in the Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University in California. Her policy is simple: “Phones/devices must be turned off and not visible during class time.”
Her reason is simple too: “Phones are distracting. My experience has been that no matter how invested a student may be in a class discussion or lecture, if something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”
And she worries about missed opportunities to socialize face-to-face. “Beyond being distracting, students also use phones/laptops/devices as objects to hide behind to avoid participating in class or interacting with their peers.”
Frequently, Griffin adds, “I will walk into a classroom on the first day of the quarter and will find 30 students sitting silently in their seats and individually texting or Instagram-ing on their phones. This is a tragic scene. The college classroom is … a unique space to exchange ideas and thoughts and develop the ability to communicate with a variety of people.”
“Candy” is unhealthy
Katherine Welzenbach teaches high school chemistry in Overland Park, Kan. She, too, bans cellphones — and even backpacks, where phones often hide — in her classes.
These devices are worse than distracting, she says. They can connect teens to cyberbullying, hate speech, sexting and other “unhealthy” experiences. Welzenbach is vocal about her stance, despite what she calls “shaming” of teachers like herself who take a hard line. “Teachers who see cell phones as distractions are often labeled as being ‘unengaging.’ ”
She understands the argument that teens need to learn to use the Internet appropriately. But she uses healthy eating as an analogy: Don’t give kids unlimited access to “Halloween candy and Christmas cookies while they are still learning to eat a balanced diet.”
Distraction has an upside
What you’re really talking about when you talk about laptop bans, says Jesse Stommel, is student freedom.
“Ultimately, I see strict laptop policies (and especially blanket bans) as a form of control,” explains Stommel, who directs the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
And that, he tells NPR, is a bad thing. “I don’t think the attention of students is actually something teachers can or should control.”
Stommel, who’s been engaged in many debates over laptop bans on Twitter, calls the issue “weirdly divisive” but also, in the end, “a red herring.”
Instead of an “authoritarian approach,” he suggests a conversation. “We can talk to students about attention and have them talk to us about how attention works for them,” Stommel says. “This is the kind of metacognitive work that is the stuff of learning.” Distraction, he adds, can actually be a gateway to learning. It can be necessary for “peak experiences like making connections, having epiphanies, understanding abstract concepts.”
There may also be times, he says, that the phone or computer can be an in-class tool. “We can also ask students to use their devices in ways that help them and the rest of the class, looking up a confusing term, polling their friends on Facebook about a topic we’re discussing or taking collaborative notes in an open document.”
On the other hand, says Stommel, there may be times and places to shut it down, too: “We can ask students to close their laptops at particular moments, recognizing that it is useful to learn different things, at different times, in different ways.”
Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also believes that blanket bans are a bad idea. But her concern is a little different than Stommel’s. She’s thinking about students with special needs.
“Federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], extends to protect students’ classrooms,” she tells NPR. “If a student needs to use a laptop as an accommodation, they have a right to do so.”
But making the student ask to bring a laptop could be seen as an invasion of privacy, Prendergast says. Better to allow them for all: “The ADA enjoins us to affirmatively seek to remove barriers to education and to make our classrooms more inclusive, not less.”
Some students need to be device-free
Victoria Dunckley, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, has a different perspective. She prescribes strict limits on screen time to young people who are suffering from a variety of psychological ills. She says she’s encountered “pushback” when trying to shield her patients from using devices at schools that have integrated them into the classroom.
If your students are distracted, then improve your teaching. Derek Bruff is a mathematician and director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He says research finds that note-taking by hand can lead to better recall than note-taking by typing on a computer. The reason is that when you write more slowly by hand, you have to think through what you’re hearing and put down only the most important bits; touch-typers tend to transcribe what a person is saying without doing much processing of what they’re hearing.
However, Bruff adds, comparing those two scenarios misses a point that’s backed up by even more research: Lecturing while someone takes notes is not a very engaging or effective mode of teaching to begin with.
“If you’re going to spend 80 to 100 percent of your class time lecturing, phones are going to be distracting to students,” he says.
What works much better? Getting students to collaborate and debate in small groups, for one thing. He’s also seen anecdotally that, “If you give students something productive and on-topic to do with their devices,” it reduces idle browsing. He calls this the “Google jockey” approach.
Like Stommel, he believes there is a time and a place for laptops and phones, but also a time and place to exclude them. “Sometimes you want three students around a piece of paper.”
Fight technology with technology
Alanna Harvey is the co-founder and marketing director of Flipd, a phone app that limits the use of your phone. You can set a timer to lock yourself out of all functions except for basic texts and phone calls.
Not long after launch, they noticed that college students were among their biggest user base, and began aiming the app at educators.
“Our research and discussions with customers have consistently found that digital distractions are negatively impacting the learning experience for students and educators,” she says.
Harvey argues that Flipd offers a fresh, not coercive approach. Rather than instituting a ban, the company encourages professors to offer extra credit for installing the app and using it during class.
Highly engaging lesson plans, as Bruff advocates, are all well and good, but they’re no match for the latest game or social network, Harvey says.
“Some of the most engaging professors I know are Flipd customers,” she says. “Which I believe suggests that the problem isn’t the professor, it may not even be the students, but it’s the devices we know that are designed to influence and manipulate our behavior in many ways.”
Bring policies in line with values
John Warner, who teaches English at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has been on both sides of the device divide.
As recently as four years ago he had a policy of “no laptops in class, except for specific, designated activities,” and banned cell phones except for emergencies. But after engaging in debates online with Stommel and others, his position shifted.
He sees himself as “more of a catalyst for learning, rather than a conduit of information.” In order to live up to that value, he in turn needed his students to be what he calls “self-governing” over technology.
Warner says it’s been working well. He has small writing classes, with about 20 students, and he almost never asks them to simply sit and take notes. “Students are doing so much in class,” he says, “distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about. They’re too busy.”
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