Thursday, June 11, 2015

Improving Black Education

By Walter E. Williams

Last summer's Ferguson, Missouri, disturbances revealed that while blacks were 67 percent of its population, only three members of its 53-officer police force were black. Some might conclude that such a statistic is evidence of hiring discrimination.

That's a possibility, but we might ask what percentage of blacks met hiring qualifications on the civil service examination. Are there hundreds of blacks in Ferguson and elsewhere who achieve passing scores on civil service examinations who are then refused employment? There is no evidence suggesting an affirmative answer to that question.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the Nation's Report Card, nationally, most black 12th-graders' test scores are either basic or below basic in reading, writing, math and science. "Below basic" is the score received when a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. "Basic" indicates only partial mastery. Put another way, the average black 12th-grader has the academic achievement level of the average white seventh- or eighth-grader. In some cities, there's even a larger achievement gap.

Black students and their parents believe that their high-school diplomas are equivalent to those received by whites. Therefore, differences in employment or college admittance outcomes are likely to be seen as racial discrimination. The fact of business is that if seventh- or eighth-graders of any race compete with 12th-graders of any race on civil service exams or the SAT, one should not be surprised by the outcome.

In terms of public policy, what to do? It all depends on the assumptions, implicit or explicit, one makes about black mental competency. If one assumes that blacks cannot academically compete with whites, the "solution" is to eliminate the "disparate" impact of civil service exams and college admittance requirements by dumbing them down or eliminating them in order to achieve "diversity." I do not make that assumption, so then what to do?

Many black parents want a better education and safer schools for their children.

The way to deliver on that desire is to offer parents alternatives to poorly performing and unsafe public schools. Expansion of charter schools is one way to provide choice. The problem is that charter school waiting lists number in the tens of thousands. In Philadelphia, for example, there are 22,000 families on charter school waiting lists. Charter school advocates estimate that nationally, over 1 million parents are on charter school waiting lists.

The National Education Association and its political and civil rights organization handmaidens preach that we should improve, not abandon, public schools. Such a position is callous deceit, for many of them have abandoned public schools. Let's look at it.

Nationwide, about 12 percent of parents have their children enrolled in private schools. In Chicago, 44 percent of public-school teachers have their own children enrolled in private schools. In Philadelphia, it's also 44 percent. In Baltimore, it's 35 percent, and in San Francisco, it's 34 percent. That ought to tell us something. Suppose I invite you to dine with me at a restaurant. You find out that the restaurant's chef doesn't eat there and neither do the servers. That suggests they have some inside information from which you could benefit.

Politicians who fight against school choice behave the way teachers do. Fifty-two percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have school-age children have them enrolled in private schools. Thirty-seven percent of members of the House of Representatives and 45 percent of senators who have school-age children have them enrolled in private schools.

The education establishment says more money is needed, but more money does not produce higher quality. New York City spent $20,331 per student in fiscal 2013. Washington, D.C., spent $17,953, and Baltimore allocated $15,050. Despite being among the nation's highest-spending school districts, their education quality is among the lowest. Parents, given vouchers and choice, could do a far superior job in the education of their children — and at a cheaper cost.


Walker's Budget Makes Important Education Reforms

Wisconsin is moving closer to repealing Common Core

As Scott Walker tours the country on his campaign for the presidency, he has not forsaken his state, turning in a budget that would make important reforms in education policy. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyze the budget in full - it contains rather more spending and borrowing than most conservatives would like - but in the area of education reform it takes some pretty important steps forward.

Most importantly, the budget would prohibit the State Superintendent, a vocal proponent of Common Core, from advertising or promoting the standards to local school districts. This is important because, while school districts in Wisconsin are permitted to opt out of the standards, few have done so as a result from pressure from the Department of Public Instruction. Walker’s budget would relieve that pressure, and allow schools to determine their own destiny. Last July, Walker came out strong against the standards, saying “Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The reason most of the districts have adopted Common Core standards is because the statewide mandated tests are aligned with them. Walker’s budget calls for new tests, which would make it easier for schools to opt out without fearing failure on the tests.

In other parts of the budget, Republicans in the state legislature are taking education proposals farther than Walker originally intended. These include lifting caps on the number of school vouchers in the state and expanding the opportunity to open independent charter schools.

Not everything the legislature did was an improvement, though, with the rejection of some large spending cuts that would contribute towards balancing the state’s budget. After the amendment process is complete, the legislature will have to vote on the two-year budget and resubmit it to Gov. Walker for his signature.

These state-level reforms come just as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new bill, under the name The Every Child Achieves Act, would maintain federal testing mandates, but would also forbid the Department of Education from incentivizing or coercing states into adopting Common Core or similar standards. This would free up states like Wisconsin to ditch Common Core for good without having to worry about losing funding as a result. Until now, this has been the biggest hurdle for many states who would like to lose the standards, but feel unable to due to pressure from the federal government.


UK: Children from poor homes 'facing bias': Teachers less likely to consider pupils from lower incomes families as bright

Because that is what is usual.  These findings simply say what teachers mostly experience

Poor children are less likely to be considered bright by their teachers, according to new research.  Even when youngsters from lower income families perform as well as their classmates on independent tests, they are still less likely to be judged as 'above average', it suggests.

The study, by University College London's (UCL) Institute of Education concluded that teachers can have unconscious biases that influence how they see the abilities of children in their class.

Teachers do not just under-rate the abilities of disadvantaged children, it found, they are also more likely to judge boys as good at maths and girls as good at reading.

The research involved analysing information on nearly 5,000 seven-year-olds at English state schools who are being followed as part of the Millennium Cohort Study, comparing teachers' perceptions of the youngsters' reading and maths abilities with their results in these key subjects on independent tests.

Overall, the findings indicate that teachers tend to perceive children from poorer homes as less able than their richer classmates who achieved similar scores on the tests.

Pupils from higher income families had a 48 per cent chance of being rated as 'above average' in reading, compared to 37 per cent of those from lower income backgrounds, the study found.

In maths, wealthier children had a 42 per cent chance of being judged as able, while poorer youngsters had a 32 per cent chance.

The study also concluded that 29 per cent if children from lower income families were rated below average at reading by their teachers, compared to 20 per cent of their equally bright classmates from richer backgrounds, while in maths, higher income youngsters had a 19 per cent chance of being rated as below average, and poorer pupils had a 26 per cent chance.

Researcher Tammy Campbell said: 'This is not a conscious thing. It's an unconscious stereotyping by teachers that's going on. It's down to the information they are bombarded with about which children are expected to perform at what levels.'

The findings show that boys were more likely to be judged above average in maths by teachers compared to girls who has scored equally well on the tests, while in reading, the opposite was the case.

Children who were reported by teachers as having special educational needs (SEN) were also likely to have their abilities under-rated compared to youngsters without SEN but with similar scores on the tests.

And while in general, teachers' assessments did not appear to be linked to a youngsters' ethnicity, once other characteristics were taken into account, black Caribbean girls tended to be under-rated in reading and maths, while Pakistani girls were more likely to be under-rated in reading and Bangladeshi boys' maths skills were more likely to be over-rated.

The study suggests that the results are important as teachers' assessments of pupils make a significant part of pupils' scores in primary school.

Ms Campbell said: 'These findings show that there are factors affecting attainment, as evaluated by teachers, which are outside of children's and parents' control. Unless they are addressed, they may continue to play a part in creating and perpetuating inequalities.'

She added: 'National statistics and education policy could inadvertently contribute to the problem. Initiatives such as the pupil premium may convey the message that children from lower-income families are inherently less able.

'This might make it more difficult to recognise a low-income child who is performing well, or at least at the average. This is something policymakers could take into account when implementing new initiatives.'


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