Monday, March 3, 2008

The Black-White Student Gap

True or False: Blacks in our neighborhood, on average, are dumber than whites.

The question is undoubtedly offensive but the responses I’ve gotten are far more abhorrent. Based upon conversations I’ve had with residents of the community and people connected to the school district, I feel confident saying that most people in our neighborhood, at every level, believe we should have lower expectations for our black students. Sure, they’ll couch their inclinations in politically correct terms – “Diverse Community”, “Economically Disadvantaged”, “Working Poor”, etc. – yet, they’re always referring to the African American community in Cliffwood. Buttressed by low test scores, these people view themselves as realists or “Progressives”. I view those same test scores and see nothing but self-fulfilled prophecies.

First, a note a caution: The facts I’m presenting are from 2006 and do not reflect the school’s noticeable improvement this past year in all areas excluding SAT scores. Still, I believe the following information is relevant if not quite timely.

In 2006, following guidelines under “No Child Left Behind”, the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District exceeded the state average in the percentage of students making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The one group whose progress was conspicuously below the state average was Black.

Black students didn’t make AYP in HSPA Grade 11 – Math, GEPA Grade 8 – Math, NJASK4 – Language Arts Literacy, NJASK4 – Math, and NJASK3 – Language Arts Literacy. Among Elementary schools, Cliffwood has the lowest scores in Reading, Language, and Math. A disproportionate number of students receiving Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are African American.

The discrepancy is greatest in Math. In New Jersey’s Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment for Math, among 52 African American students, zero achieved advanced proficiency compared to 23.4% of white students. As a category, black students also have lower test scores than the “Economically Disadvantaged” in virtually every assessment exam above 3rd grade.

Every reason I’ve heard (and I’ve heard quite a few) can be characterized as follows: Blacks are “Different”. There’s the biological difference promoted in “The Bell Curve” by Hernstein and Murray. There’s the cultural difference promulgated by the late Dr. Ogbu, an anthropology professor at Berkeley who theorized that Blacks view education as “White”. There’s the oft-cited correlation between the number of books at home and test scores. Poor black families can’t afford the same resources. Black children are more likely to come from “broken” families. The tests have an inherent cultural bias. Etc. and so on.

When taken together, these arguments are supposed to somehow explain why, out of 52 black students in 8th grade, not one was advanced proficient in math.

Others are quick to argue that test scores aren’t everything to which I like to paraphrase the old sports line “If grades don’t matter, why keep score?”

If people believe that African American students in our community are dumber than whites, they should have the courage to say so. Otherwise, they need to admit we are failing our black students. I recognize that, first and foremost, parents are responsible for educating their children. However, when parents neglect their responsibilities, it then becomes the community’s obligation to teach that student.

I believe our children are suffering from the “soft bigotry of lowered expectations”. Rather than constantly pulling black children out of the classroom for “special education” and reinforcing a negative stereotype, I would prefer to see more at-home tutoring. Our community has an army of semi-retired and other able-bodied folk looking for meaningful work. Rather than have them working at the local ShopRite, why not train a contingent of tutors to provide at-home tutoring. 100 tutors providing 10 hours of tutoring a week at $20 an hour would cost $700,000 – about the same as the district’s Response to Intervention (RTI) program and far less than we spend on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

When it comes to success, we would all do well to heed Sam Walton, founder of Walmart – “High expectations are the key to everything.” All our students can do far better but especially our African American students. We need to expect more and work for it.

>>> Read more!


Anonymous said...

My reality is the following.

For many years teachers have decided or been told to "TEACH TO THE TEST". This sadly is the accepted change in the educational structure, coupled with the complete and total advancement of liberalism and the "WE ARE THE WORLD" the "It takes a village" (BS), type of thinking we hear daily. This is part of the problem that has allowed all of us, every color,nationality and every socio-economic background to expect less from all of our students, schools systems and even our workplace environments.

No one really looks for the truthful root causes of our societies ills. Why test scores are lowered for police and fire exams for example, just to fill quotas and possibly field minority candidates. My friend in this exercise who is caucasian many years ago took an exam for a position having to score a 94 or better to pass , while myself as a certain minority candidate was allowed to score a 74 for the same position. How would that have best served the community at large ?

The black-white student gap goes far beyond the student part it in truth, if anyone cares to know the truth any longer. In truth it goes all the way home on the bus to a home which has historically had a
complete and total lack of a solid family structure. The sad thing was that family dinners with my relatives pointed to the same root causes and blame going back to my fathers days in school in the early 40's and his father before him. Sure my own black communities, from within, had that label and suggested blame BUT every race has it now, for many more reasons. The economic, social, racial, religious and many more human aspects all comes down to one basic thing. Teachers are no longer expected to teach the 3 R's. Now they do everything else but teach. They raise our children because too many of us do not want too, are too busy too, or just will not do it.

We should all ask from within ourselves and from our own minority communities, to succeed on our own. In addition people should not be scorned for expressing anger or distrust of the systems free-bes,gimees and quotas, as we are right to feel cheated for being given a shot at a position, scholarship or any advantage based solely on the supposed belief that we need that extra foot in the door, based on a perceived level of failure. This perception is pervasive before they even get to apply or take their first test.

Get real! All you have to do is watch the pandering of politicians like Charles (on the spot with an opinion and supposed concern for every issue imaginable) Schummer, or the Rev. Al Sharpton, another man on the spot for any cause or concern, as long as he makes money or draws attention to himself.

These men who promulgate themselves most often on the backs of those they purport to care about most, sickens me. Men like those and even others like Jesse Jackson are a far cry from the proud men who fought the true battles for minorities, who would in truth be ashamed of the present educational systems, and all of the other "different" levels of reverse racism in our present day society.

Reverse racism allows the societal problems to continue with no search for true achievement, without a give-back or special consideration based on societal ill and past racial considerations or acceptances is insulting to most everyone of us. I earned everything I have and am proud to say yes I fought racism tooth and nail, all the way to being my own man. Nobody offered me something extra just because I was black.

All you have to do is look back in every race and in some cases religions for the degrading of the core principles of every society.

The real proof is in our present immigrant communities, where in order to instill the necessary root structure for their childrens achievements they rent out our schools, churches and sometimes fire-houses on weekends to have extra, and in most cases intense instruction, for their children. This successful practice and community involvement collectively is present in the fact that 65% of valedictorians nationally, are from varying and diverse cultures, mostly of asian descent.

This has occurred without a doubt with far less costs and with far greater successes from the billions spent in our normal educational systems, that have repeatedly and unashamedly have failed us for years.

We must go beyond black and white and expel the supposed allowances our government has fed us all of these years. Dedicate do not placate is my motto.

Look at all of our children whether it be the rappers they admire as they abuse and malign women, or the country bumpkins that just want to make enough money to just get by.

We all want the best for our children, we need to watch out for our own, but also not allow those who did not even try, to just be allowed the inside track for supposed injustices of the past. What ever happened to earn your own way?

Anonymous said...

Those who make excuses for other races are racists. Help a person who needs help. Period.

Anonymous said...

Special education is for students who have legitimate disabilities. Kids who have fallen behind because they haven't been taught well do not qualify.

The RTI program, I strongly believe, will only work on those kids that are caught early in the elementary grades.

A tutoring program, paid by the district, would be a great idea for older kids. However, the tutors need to be certified teachers, not Joe Schmoe off the street. Nothing against those who want to help, but someone who is not trained to teach can instill the wrong information and cause a world of bad habits.

I'm not for state testing, but as you said, there it is, so we have to keep score. Volunteers teaching kids are not necessarily going to get the kids up to proficiency on the tests. Private lessons with a teacher, however, might.

Also, the thought of having this done at home will never fly. Having some random stranger, who volunteers to work with kids come into my home to spend time with my kid? Not so much. Just the set up to have something very bad happen. I don't think any district would take on that liability.

An after school program with a trained teacher, tutoring one-on-one would be amazing.

Never going to happen in this district.

Aberdeener said...

Does an after-school tutoring program need to be done through the school? What if we set up an independent non-profit organization and registered it as a school vendor?

The issue of liability is still a good question. Under certain circumstances, a lawyer could sue the district for the actions of a vendor.

However, I believe the benefits would still outweigh the costs. We could probably even find 100 active and retired teachers willing to tutor in the evenings. I'm not concerned about the teachers being certified since private schools appear to do fine without certified teachers.

As for special education, I believe the term "disability" means something very different inside a public school. Eight percent of our high school students are labeled "learning disabled" which is down from nine percent in the previous year.

Anonymous said...

Once again, you sound exactly like someone who has just moved into town from some pearly white neighborhood and have no idea how to relate to people who have different fortunes other than yourself. I have read some of the other posts, and know where you are getting some of your phrases from. WELL THE WORLD IS NOT PERFECT. And the problems you bring up are NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE. SOCIO- economics play a huge part. Alot of the white students that you do not speak of who probably had some of the same deficiencies as the ones you mentioned - have the same problems. Labels make excuses. Facts are facts - people (of any color) who have resources - money, books, computers, 2 parents, 2 paretns who can, have the ability, or care to help - WILL DO BETTER THAN THOSE WHO DO NOT. Scores from affluent districts are mostly higher than those from non afluents. Scores from the rural or down trodden areas of West Virginia or Reservations in Wyoming or poor areas of blue collar towns in Ohio will have poor scores and there may be no people of color to blame it on.

AND THEN YOU SAY SPEND $700,000 on people off the street to go to students' homes to train them. WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? This takes time, training, background checks - at least RTI, if nothing else, is an attempt that is safe and practical. AND DO NOT FORGET LEARNING DISABILITIES !!!! Those students are helped by some of the very programs you rip in your article. You can do so much good with this blog - as in your next article about the lawyer, and then waste space with this utopian meandering about PROBLEMS THE COUNTRY IS FACING - not just Aberdeen and Matawan. No child left behind is not perfect, but it is AN EFFORT - spent more money than previous administrations and offers more to lower income communities and areas than any other plan from presidents in the last 30 years - IT WAS AN ATTEMPT.

Aberdeener said...

Please forgive me if I mischaracterize your remarks but it seems you're saying that if I have a poor student from a broken home then I should lower my expectations for that pupil. If so, I'd have to disagree. That student may need to work harder but he can achieve just as much as the rich kid.

As for the tutoring program, you're correct in suggesting there would need to be a screening program and a training process. I think such a program warrants the time and effort. While I, too, would prefer teacher volunteers, I'd also be happy with the retired professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, financiers, architects, accountants, etc. that we have in our area.

At the very least, I think we can afford a trial program.

Anonymous said...

If you want volunteers ( the very word means "a person who performs a service willingly and without pay") ask for volunteers and form your own organiztion. Don't ask the school board to pay or be responsible for your "instructors". But note that anyone who works with children should be criminally background checked AND finger printed. Working one on one with children is a pedophile's dream. Tutoring after school, in the school, by qualified teachers is the safest way. I don't know about this year, but in the past there has always been free (for students)tutoring after school in small groups. High school teachers post hours after school when extra help is available. Lloyd Road had tutoring during lunch/recess. Teachers sign up to tutor in homes. Students in high school mentor younger students through organizations like Key Club. Teachers are constantly monitoring student progress even before RTI and progress reports are sent home regularly. Help is available- just ask.

Anonymous said...

Really there is tutoring available? That's funny I was told by one the elementary schools that my kid had to be failing in order to qualify. Then when my kid was failing, I was informed that they were watching schoolhouse rock videos in the "RTI" program as a means to help with the subject at hand. Give me a break. This is what our tax dollars are being spent on. I don't see the purpose of paying a teacher for these afterschool programs if their idea of teaching is sticking my kid in front of a tv. I can do that at home - for free actually.

Anonymous said...

My child is from a broken family, whose parents were only 19 when he was born. We are are black. I could not afford a computer nor books but my library card was free. Now he is in the enrichment classes because he is advance proficient in both Math and Reading. As a parent you have an obligation to help your child by any means neccesary there are no excuses.