Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A cure found in Boston for the black/white gap in educational achievement: segregation!

With help from very long hours, an "academically rigorous" curriculum, "ordered, structured classrooms", "high behavioral expectations for students" and Statewide dumbed-down standards.  In other words, a heavy dose of old-fashioned conservative teaching methods got the kids up to the undemanding standards of the Massachusetts syllabus.

I felt however that the story below was still implausibly rosy.  So I did some digging.  I was particularly interested to find out how breaches of  "high behavioral expectations" were dealt with.  Official statistics  were not very helpful. They give  no data on dropout rate but do record an 18.9% rate of students being disciplined by "Out of School Suspension".  So that continued my suspicions.

I then went to see what the parents say.  And that was very revealing.  I reproduce below two comments.

"I was really disappointed with this school. They do not value family life. They have extended hours and extended homework after school which makes it impossible to have a home life. It is apparent by their policies that they have little regard for parents and believe that inner-city parents are incapable of raising their own children. The students that go there are so burnt out by school work that there are some that exhibit extreme behavior problems. The principal, Molly Cole, has no tolerance for children with special needs and implements policies to weed them out. They love to suspend children which prevents them from receiving the education they need."

"Edward Brooke is the worse school I ever been apart of. It lack the resource and trained staff as a regular school. It seems as though they have their own set of rules and standards. And if you have a child with social, emotional or behavioral issues you are kicked out. Instead of them helping the family and child. The principals of the middle and elementary schools are no professional at all and should be replaced with the right professionals. Also BPS should evaluate and step in to help the families/students whom are struggling with the Edward Brooke School."

Clearly, the black and Hispanic kids are pushed very hard and those who can't take that get eased out somehow.  The result is a highly selective school with pupils not at all representative of their intake area.  One cannot avoid the impression that all stops have been pulled out to prove a point. That so many stops have to be pulled out does however testify to how large is the black/white educational gap

One of the best schools in this city — and perhaps the whole state — sits on the edge of Mattapan, a stone’s throw from Blue Hill Avenue. It has the feel of a high-end private school: Kids wear khaki pants and monogrammed shirts bearing the names of universities like Harvard and Yale, their homeroom teachers’ alma maters.

It also gets results like a private school: Sixty-seven percent of eighth-graders scored “proficient” or better in science and technology on the MCAS tests. Translation: They beat Boston Latin.

But there’s something else notable about Brooke Mattapan Charter School: Out of 508 students, just three are white, including the codirectors’ daughter.

Forty years after a judge ordered that busing be used to desegregate Boston’s public schools, charter schools are upending conventional wisdom about how academic excellence for black and Latino students is achieved. For decades, we’ve tried every trick in the book — from court-ordered busing to magnet schools — to get poor black and Latino kids into classrooms with middle-class whites. Integration was billed as not just a moral and legal imperative, but a panacea for the racial achievement gap.

Many charter school educators today, however, say that way of thinking is itself rooted in racism.

“There’s nothing about a school that makes it better by having more white kids,” says Kimberly Steadman, codirector of Brooke, who is white.

What about “separate can’t be equal”? Is that wrong?

Steadman doesn’t flinch.  “Yes,” she says. “I don’t believe separate schools are inherently unequal.”

And why settle for equal? Steadman has set her sights on superior. Her students routinely outperform those in predominantly white schools across the state.

Nobody argues anymore over whether Linda Brown, a black third-grader in Topeka, Kan., deserved the right to attend her local school, along with the white girls on her street. Nearly every American agrees with that landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down laws mandating segregation in public life. But considerable disagreement remains over just how far we should go to ensure racial mixing in schools, in a country that remains heavily divided along geographic lines of class and race.

After decades of mandating that school districts combat segregation by adopting race-conscious school assignment plans, the Supreme Court reversed course and limited the use of race as a factor in 2007. Nevertheless, some communities continue to find ways to promote integration.

Hartford has spent $2 billion over the last decade building magnet schools — including one with a planetarium! — to attract white families. It’s an impressive effort. And yet, only about half of Hartford’s kids get into a magnet school.

To Steadman, that money might be better spent building excellent schools for black and Latino kids. Instead of bending over backward to attract white, middle-class families, Steadman avoids them. The dance studio with the ballet bar, the music room full of xylophones, and the computer room aren’t featured on the school’s website. Too many white people might apply.

It’s not that middle-class white kids aren’t welcome here, she says. It’s just that those families have other good options. Why should they take a space from a kid that really needs it?

Steadman’s way of thinking flies in the face of the social science behind the Brown decision, which said that separation is inherently harmful to black kids.

“Racial separation has powerful and injurious impact on the self-image, confidence, motivation, and school achievement of Negro children,” Owen B. Kiernan, the Massachusetts commissioner of education, wrote in 1965. His report aided the passage of the Racial Imbalance Act — one of the most progressive laws of its time — which deemed any school that was more than 51 percent minority “racially imbalanced,” while a lily white suburban school got a clean bill of health.

Back then, people who cared about black kids’ education measured their level of exposure to white kids in school just as obsessively as we measure MCAS scores today. To veteran racial justice activists like Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, the drift away from those metrics is a tragic step backward. In 2010, Orfield released a report accusing charters of helping to “re-segregate” America’s schools.

But if we really care about the academic success of black and Latino kids, shouldn’t we look at where they’re doing the best?

In Boston, black and Latino kids in the top charter schools outperformed their peers in traditional public schools by significant margins, with just a few exceptions. That’s incredible, given that Boston’s top charter schools are overwhelmingly black and Latino, while most of the top traditional public schools are disproportionately white.

Steadman argues that integration can actually be more harmful than separation if it sends the message that blacks and Latinos can’t achieve.

In Boston public schools, black and Latino students make up only 41 percent of “advanced work classes,” even though they’re 75 percent of the student body.

And here’s a stunning statistic: Nearly 40 percent of black American boys in middle school were classified as “special education” students. To their credit, Boston school officials involved with the “Boston Compact” set out to study schools that were doing better.

“They came and asked us about our special programs for black boys,” Steadman said. “We told them we didn’t have any special programs. We just treat them like everybody else. We teach them to read. To think. To stand up for their thoughts.”

Charter school critics suggest that they do better because they have fewer English language learners than the school population itself. There’s some truth to that. State statistics say just 5 percent of students at Brooke Mattapan are learning English in a school district where 30 percent are English language learners. But guess what? That’s also true of sought-after non-charters as well. For instance, at Mary Lyon in Brighton, only 6 percent are learning English.

Others suggest that charter schools do so well on the MCAS because they teach to the test. But if you visit Brooke Mattapan, you won’t see any sign of that. You’ll see second-graders explaining how they programmed a computerized bird to walk in a circle. You’ll see sixth-graders discussing “Crispin: Cross of Lead,” a novel about feudalism. You’ll see eighth-graders writing a “white paper” on immigration for Donald Trump. You’ll see boys in cornrows pecking away on scientific calculators in algebra class — a subject that only a third of eighth-graders in this city get to take.

Others suggest that charter schools get good results because they kick out the bad apples. But Brooke has one of the lowest attrition rates in the city.

Perhaps the biggest factor in Brooke’s success is how much school the kids attend. They go from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, except Wednesday afternoon, which is reserved for teachers’ professional development. That’s about two hours a day more than most of Boston’s public schools. Their school year lasts 192 days, instead of 180. That adds up to more than 350 hours of additional instruction.

For a quality education like that, Boston’s black families seem more than willing to give up the ideal of integration. Diversity has become a luxury, not a necessity.

“Diversity is important, but I don’t think it’s a magic bullet,” said Kim Janey, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, who was bused from Roxbury to Charlestown as a child. “The desegregation fight . . . was really a fight for quality. I want to be very respectful of those who came before me and were fighting for something better, but we did not get there. I did not get a better education in Charlestown. It was not a better school.”

Janey said many blacks of her generation became disillusioned with Boston’s public schools — and the obsession with “racial balance” — after experiencing racism and rejection as kids during the tumultuous busing era. We’ve all heard about the white flight that followed busing, but black flight has also taken a toll. The number of black kids in Boston public schools has been steadily declining. Today, nearly a third of all black school-aged children in this city don’t attend a traditional public school. Fifty percent of all charter students are black, in a school system that’s just 35 percent black.

In fact, black leaders have always debated how prominent a role integration should play in the struggle for civil rights. In 1935, WEB Dubois wrote that as long as white teachers looked down on their black students, black kids would fare better in their own schools.

And here’s a forgotten bit of history: In the 1960s, black activists in Roxbury grew so frustrated by white teachers’ low expectations for their kids that they set up their own “community” schools. Mel King — a black activist elected to the state Legislature in 1972 — tried to obtain government funding for them, as a compromise in Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr.’s school desegregation case.

“We wanted the system developed in the way that each community could run its schools in the way that they saw fit,” King told me. “The white reps went and talked to the teachers union, and they told them no, it would cost them jobs. Because of that, we could not go to Garrity and say ‘Look, we have a different plan.’ ”

King, who went to an integrated school in the South End as a child, knew that there was nothing magical about sitting next to white students in class. He saw the Garrity case as the second-best option to the problem of how to get more resources and more black teachers into black children’s schools.

And for the most part, it worked. According to Berkeley economist Rucker C. Johnson, black kids who grew up in school districts that were under desegregation orders had higher graduation rates, went to better colleges, earned more money, and were less likely to go to prison, all without a measurable impact on whites. But a large part of that success was money. Desegregation led to huge boosts in per-pupil expenditures on black students, especially in the South. School districts that integrated but did not increase funding failed to see the same results.

What’s the lesson for today? Integration alone doesn’t produce a quality education. And as important as it is for all children to learn to live, work, and play with kids of other races, it can’t be our only strategy for success.

This is going to become even more true going forward. As our nation heads toward a not-too-distant future when whites will be a minority, demographic realities will make integration more difficult. White students are scarce in most Boston public schools, not just because of white flight, but because fewer white babies are being born. If white kids are an essential ingredient for quality schools, we’re in trouble because we’re running out of them. Luckily, schools like Brooke are proving that black and brown kids can achieve excellence on their own.


Can you believe this essay is handwritten? Chinese school forces pupils to write English letters like a computer

A Chinese middle school rose to fame this week after its pupils' English handwriting amazed internet users.

Photographs from Chinese social media show the students at Hengshui Middle School, central China, were required to write English letters as if they were printed off from computers, reported People's Daily Online.

They were even told to write each letter in the exactly same way every time.

Pictures of the freehand compositions denoting a wide variety of social and cultural topics, from prejudice against female authors to the importance of keeping healthy eating habits.

Although the pupils' grammar needs improving, their handwriting is so neat that they could be easily mistaken for being written on computers.

However, despite the pupils' perfect spacing and fine grasp of italics, their teachers still found room for them to improve.

Comments from the teacher such as 'definitely need more practice' and 'better' can be seen at the top of the compositions. One pupil received the comment 'Not one stroke more; not one stroke less' for a tendency to write letters too short. The teacher told one pupil, named Hu Yingchen, to 'see me for criticism' due to her bad handwriting.

Chinese web users are awed by the neat handwriting and compared them to their 'textbooks'.

Some of them feel envious of the pupils' English teacher and wished they had got teachers like that when they were studying.

Hengshui Middle School, in Heibei Province, is one of the best in the country.

The military-style boarding school has more than 5,000 pupils between the ages of 15 to 18.

The school is famous for helping pupils achieve high scores in the yearly University Entrance Examination.


UK: Anger as poorer pupils with low 11-plus marks get selective school places while middle-class children miss out

It rather vitiates the purpose of selection

Children from poor homes are being given coveted places at top grammar schools despite scoring significantly lower marks than others taking the same entrance exam.

A group of schools have taken the controversial step of lowering the 11-plus qualifying score for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in a move denounced by critics as ‘social engineering’ that discriminates against the middle classes.

At one leading grammar, children whose family income means they can claim free school meals were admitted with a score of 26 marks below that of other candidates, and in another the gap was 24 marks.

The initiative is the latest attempt by the highly oversubscribed selective schools to counter criticism that they are dominated by children whose parents can afford to first send them to fee-paying prep schools, or pay for tutors to get them through the exams.

As thousands of children sit the tough exams for next year’s entry, it has emerged that at least seven grammars have lowered the 11-plus bar for children from poor backgrounds – five in Birmingham and two in Rugby, Warwickshire.
If your child lost out you'd feel aggrieved

Figures from the schools, among the highest performing in the country, show that children eligible for free school meals who took the 11-plus last year for King Edward VI Five Ways School in Birmingham were able to gain a place with a score of just 206 marks, while the lowest needed by other candidates was 232.

At King Edward VI Camp School for Boys, the gap was 24 marks, at King Edward VI Camp School for Girls it was 21, at King Edward VI Aston School it was 17, and at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls it was ten.

Both Rugby High School for Girls and Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby say they save up to ten places for disadvantaged children whose scores are up to ten marks below the qualifying score. Many of the other 157 grammars in England are expected to follow suit.

Government figures show that about 60 per cent of them are allowing, or considering allowing, poor children whose schools get extra payments worth £935 per child under the ‘pupil premium’ scheme some form of preferential treatment, although only a handful have altered their exam pass marks.

Defending the initiative, Denis Ramplin, a spokesman for the Foundation of the Schools of King Edward VI, which runs the Birmingham grammars, said that 100 pupils now had places who would not have done so a year ago.

Mr Ramplin said the schools were aiming to fill 20 per cent of their intake with children from disadvantaged homes, but added that other youngsters were not losing out because they had created extra places. He added: ‘People with disposable income are paying tutors £30 an hour in the hope that their children get into the schools. But the Government is telling us to be more diverse and socially mobile.’

However, Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign For Real Education, said: ‘This is very worrying because it is using social engineering to make up for the failure of teaching in many schools.

‘The next step would be to say, “This child is from a poor background so let’s make it easier for him or her to pass GCSEs or A-levels”, but poverty should not be used as an excuse for low standards.

‘This discriminates not only against the middle classes but anybody who needs to get the normal pass mark, some of whom will be from pretty poor families that earn just too much for children to be eligible for free school meals.’

Robert McCartney, chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: ‘The big danger is that it is social engineering.  ‘If you were the parent of a child who has lost out to another child who has got fewer marks, you would feel aggrieved.’


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