The Achievement Gap, Rural, Poor, Distant and Tribal – Two Americas for Opportunity


You may have heard of this book, ” Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.

Invisible Man is narrated in the first person by the protagonist, an unnamed African-American man who considers himself socially invisible. His character may have been inspired by Ellison’s own life. The narrator may be conscious of his audience, writing as a way to make himself visible to mainstream culture; the book is structured as if it were the narrator’s autobiography although it begins in the middle of his life. Today with technology, the invisible man would have to think again about how to tell his story. Would he tell it on a computer? In a digitized story? Make a video? Probably he would not have the resources to use the technology.

Maybe he would be a rapper?

In the beginning, the narrator lives in a small town in the South. A model student, indeed the high school’s valedictorian, he gives an eloquent, Booker T. Washington-inspired graduation speech about the struggles of the average black man. The local white dignitaries want to hear, too. First, however, in the opening “Battle Royal” chapter, they put him and other black boys through a series of self-abusive humiliations. Are these the white folk whom Washington thought blacks could look to as neighbors? Probably not–but they do give the narrator a scholarship to an all-black college clearly modeled on Washington’s Tuskegee University.

One afternoon during his junior year, the narrator chauffeurs Mr. Norton, a visiting rich white trustee, out among the old slave-quarters beyond the campus, stopping by chance at the cabin of Jim Trueblood, who unintentionally–in his sleep–committed incest with his daughter, who’s now pregnant. After hearing Trueblood’s scandalous story, and giving him a $100, Norton feels faint and calls for a “stimulant.” Which means the narrator must take him to the Golden Day, a local tavern-cum-brothel patronized by black World War I veterans who, presumably suffering from war-related disorders, are patients at a nearby mental hospital. It’s a brutal, riotous scene, and Norton is carried out more dead than alive. Read the book…

The story is told from the narrator’s present, looking back into his past. Thus, the narrator has hindsight in how his story is told, as he is already aware of the outcome.

In the Prologue, Ellison’s narrator tells readers, “I live rent-free in a building rented strictly to whites, in a section of the basement that was shut off and forgotten during the nineteenth century.” In this secret place, the narrator creates surroundings that are symbolically illuminated with 1,369 lights from the electric company Monopolated Light & Power. He says, “My hole is warm and full of light. Yes, full of light. I doubt if there is a brighter spot in all New York than this hole of mine, and I do not exclude Broadway.” The protagonist explains that light is an intellectual necessity for him since “the truth is the light and light is the truth.” From this underground perspective, the narrator attempts to make sense out of his life, experiences, and position in American society.

Life, Experience and Position of American Students …

Defining the Achievement Gap

It doesn’t take a college degree to see that there’s a big difference in how well kids from different backgrounds perform in school. This Achievement Gap has been described by the U.S. Department of Education as “the difference in academic performance between different ethnic groups.” The No Child Left Behind legislation was aimed at measuring these performance differences and making schools accountable. But the truth is, it takes much more than that. The Gap has both social and economical roots, and it’s a problem that not only affects the futures of individuals, but costs our country billions of dollars a year. Without addressing these underlying factors, the very prosperity and leadership abilities of our country is threatened. Under the accountability provisions of NCLB, districts and campuses are required to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as measured by three factors: Standardized tests scores in reading/language arts and mathematics, Graduation rates for high schools, Attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.

Root Causes

Intensive study has revealed that while many factors contribute to the problem, the sources for the gaps can be broken into two categories: those factors that occur at school which result in a gap between minority and majority students, and those that occur at home which result in a gap between low-income and higher income students. Education Is Freedom is a program that works to address the factors in both places.

Sources of the Achievement Gap

Beyond Academics

The Achievement Gap does not just relate to how well an individual performs in school, but how well they will perform in life. Statistics and studies have shown that those individuals who fall into the Achievement Gap are relegated to a life of low wages, poor health, and an increased rate of imprisonment. These consequences are far-reaching and affect not just individuals, but the nation as a whole. An undereducated workforce means billions of dollars lost annually in GDP alone. And it’s not just a domestic issue. Recent reports on international educational attainment show that the US is losing ground. During this economically challenging time, these and other findings should be the final catalyst for closing the achievement gap, domestically and globally.

Today, Ralph Ellison’s” Invisible Man” is joined by other groups, the Native Americans, many Hispanics and some Asians as well as distant, remote and regionally challenged groups of students. School as delivered to them does not work. They don’t have the tools, or teachers who have been educated to help them bridge the gap. Those who have the tools forget them. Broadband does not reach them.

We march forward with the technology leaving teachers , students and some communities in the dust. The report at the end shares some ideas.

They don’t have the resources to leap the digital divide, nor the teachers to create the possibilities with the use of transformational technology, and the learning landscape and their lives are under the radar. Often the programs that would vault them into technology are dependent on skills that are not developed in their schooling.

The Achievement Gap was the first research that told me about this in ways I could share.

One solution?
“Beyond SATs, Finding Success in Numbers”
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/beyond-sats-finding-success-in-numbers/?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=thab1#

Further,

K-12 findings:

  • Even before they enter first grade, lower-income high achievers are off to a bad start – only 28 percent of students in the top quarter of their first grade class are from lower-income families, while 72 percent come from higher-income families.
  • From first to fifth grade nearly half of the lower-income students in the top 25 percent of their class in reading fell out of this rank.
  • In high school, one-quarter of the lower-income students who ranked in the top 25 percent of their class in eighth grade math fell out of this top ranking by twelfth grade.
  • In both cases, upper-income students maintain their places in the top quartile of achievement at significantly higher rates than lower-income students.

Tanner Mathison, a student featured in the report who is now a freshman at Dartmouth College studying medicine, said: “There are a ton of smart, low-income students in this country who do not have someone to speak for them – no one to get them access to the programs and enrichment they need. In modern society we tend to associate monetary gains with success, and sadly with this paradigm, we often fail to recognize that academic talent can rest within lower-income students.”

College and graduate school findings:

The significance of a college education is underscored by our nation’s growing knowledge economy, which demands more than a high school degree. More than nine out of ten high-achieving high school students attend college, regardless of income level-a great success at a time when only 80 percent of all twelfth graders enter postsecondary education.

Although high-achieving lower-income students are attending college at impressive rates, they are less likely to graduate from college than their higher-income peers (59 percent versus 77 percent). In addition, lower-income, high-achievers are:

  • Less likely to attend the most selective colleges (19 percent versus 29 percent)
  • More likely to attend the least selective colleges (21 percent versus 14 percent)
  • Less likely to graduate when they attend the least selective colleges (56 percent versus 83 percent)
  • Much less likely to receive a graduate degree than high-achieving students from the top income half.

“These extraordinary students are found in every corner of America and represent the American dream. They defy the stereotype that poverty precludes high achievement. Notwithstanding their talent, our schools are failing them every step of the way,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises and a co-author of the report.

(The report can be downloaded at the following address: http://www.jackkentcookefoundation.org or www.civicenterprises.net)

Do You Know Shodor.org? This is a different organization that seeks to change the world of education.

Interns mentor workshop students at Shodor’s Broad Street office (2003)

Since its incorporation in 1994, Shodor has come a long way, pursuing the mission of improving math and science education through computational science. At the core of Shodor’s dramatic growth and effectiveness is its authentic use of computers in transforming science and mathematics education through the internet and network technologies.

From the beginning, when many other education-focused organizations were utilizing CD’s to capture and share their resources, Shodor recognized the power of the internet and networking, and developed those components of its activities through tools likeInteractivate.

In the beginning, with just three computational science tools to its name, Shodor was able to easily demonstrate the engaging world of computational science. Through real-time manipulation of data representations on a computer screen and showing how the end results take shape “right before your eyes,” the message was clear. Educators marveled at the instructional opportunities and students began to learn math and science concepts in a much more realistic and meaningful way.

SUCCEED Workshop students outside Shodor’s Broad Street office (2002)

As internet and networking technologies advanced and as connectivity became faster and more powerful, Shodor responded with more effective tools and saw continued growth in its audience of educators and students.

Today, Shodor’s bank of computational science education tools has grown to a substantial level. They are widely utilized on national and international levels. Today, the Shodor websites garner 3-million to 3.5-million page views per month. Tools such as Interactivate and the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD) are not only website award-winners, but they are widely popular among students and educators alike and help to improve math and science education. Usage and linkage has been so extensive that a “Google” search for nearly any term in math or science (try, for instance: acid base, stoichiometry, pie chart, histogram, bar graph, stopwatch, arithmetic quiz, among others) will return Shodor resources at or near the top of the list.

A workshop at Shodor’s current, larger office in the Durham Centre (2007)

Shodor has grown to a staff of 16 scientists and educators, and proudlyinvolves more than 30 interns and a dozen apprentices in many aspects of our internet and network design, creation and maintenance — a unique and meaningful “real world” hands-on learning project for all of the students. Dozens of college faculty who are graduates of theNational Computational Science Institute (NCSI) workshops are active collaborators, and more than 1,000 NCSI alumni participate in the review process of the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD) .

 

 Jack Taub had an idea of transforming education nationally. He had the dream of transforming education in new ways. in 1983 the White House issued a report called “A Nation at Risk” stating that “If a foreign power had tried to impose on America the mediocre educational performance of our schools, we might well have regarded it as an act of war.” Even before this report came out, I began to realize after 2 years of studying the K-12 system that the whole nation was in peril. We were turning out high school graduates that knew virtually nothing. Most people were focusing on the dropouts. I believed then as I believe now, that the graduates were an even greater risk to America in being unable to perform the job skills necessary in a rapidly changing, technology-based global economy.Now to the bottom line. I decided that if customizing education was the law for ‘at risk’ students, and that virtually every student was being socially and economically disabled as a result of the current education system, then virtually every child was at risk (granted some at greater risk than others). Why not customize education for every child, thereby eliminating student boredom and reduce the risk for all children? I realized that the current system was legislated by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 and the activities in many of today’s classrooms look disturbingly like they did in the 19th century. In 1982 I was still naïve enough that I did not understand that to customize education for all students the whole K-12 public education system would have to be transformed.In addition to committing my life and fortune to this task I made one other major commitment as we designedimplemented and tested a solution which was not to sell individual pieces of a solution to schools until it was part of the greater plan for transformation. The reason for this decision was that as a vendor I would be distracted from the journey. Besides, I thought I would have accomplished the goals of my journey before 1990. Sadly Jack has died, but his dream lives on in those of us who carry it forward.Well, here we are 30 years later, having finally cracked the code to transforming our entire K-12 public education system, by customizing education for every child. To solve this problem, about $100M has been spent. Far too much of it was my own money. In fact, as I began to realize the complexity of the goals and the journey, I was sure that my commitment was so complete that it was reasonable to believe that I would die broke.

We now have over 8,000,000 hours of student and teacher classroom experienceand results and truly have solved all of the problems of scalability, funding,

*** NEWS RELEASE ***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 20122

CONTACT:  UCLA Civil Rights Project; 310/267-5562

School Integration Linked to Positive Leadership and Better Community Relations
Teachers’ perceptions differ widely by the racial and socioeconomic makeup of their school

LOS ANGELES—A new report from The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA zeroes in on teachers’ perceptions of the everyday climate in schools and explains that teachers working in racially diverse and stable schools perceive their school and community environments in significantly different ways than do teachers working in either more homogeneous or less stable schools.  At a time when statistics show a steady increase in the number of segregated schools, this study shows serious consequences for teachers, as well as for the parents and students who are part of segregated school communities.

Spaces of Inclusion? Teachers’ Perceptions of Integrated and Segregated Schoolsis based on a large national survey of teachers designed to investigate teachers’ beliefs and practices related to racial diversity, which was disseminated to over 1,000 educators nationwide. Teachers were asked a variety of questions dealing with fair student discipline practices, non-discriminatory assignment to Special Education classes, whether students from different groups mixed together in extra-curricular activities and the strength of family and community support for a school.

Teachers of all races viewed schools with high percentages of students of color and low-income students as less likely to have family and community support. In contrast, teachers in stable and diverse learning environments — with or without a white student majority — report more positive student relations and more support from parents and the community (with some variation according to the race of the teacher).

Since the support of families is considered crucial to educational achievement, weak relationships between schools and parents in segregated minority environments highlight a critical disadvantage that racially and socioeconomically isolated schools must overcome, on top of a myriad of other well-documented deficits, including high teacher turnover.

“We are in a period of intense national debate on issues of school performance, one that has been largely critical of our teachers,” said Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, co-author of the report. “This report shows that stable and diverse schools lead to more inclusive partnerships between teachers and communities and to better overall achievement. Isn’t it time that policymakers fostered these types of educational environments?”

New figures from the 2010 Census show that more than half of the nation’s poor population now resides in the suburbs, and minority racial groups make up 35% of suburban communities. School districts in suburban areas are experiencing these rapid racial and socioeconomic changes at the ground level. Confronted with making critical decisions related to rising diversity in schools and classrooms, few of these school systems and the teachers working in them have prior training in how to foster positive, inclusive educational environments for their diverse student populations.

Says Co-author Erica Frankenberg, “As the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act proceeds, this report reminds us that paying attention to the racial and socioeconomic integration of schools remains important—and that schools and teachers need support and guidance as their student populations continue to transform.”

Civil Rights Project Co-Director Gary Orfield called on the Obama administration and state education officials to “provide leadership to help communities threatened with resegregation to use magnet schools and other methods to create and support integrated schools.”  He said that the survey shows that “teachers of all races know how much better these schools work.”

Key Findings 
  • Teachers in stable racially diverse and middle-class schools reported the most positive indicators of inclusivity, including that their administrators were capable of dealing with diversity issues effectively, discipline practices were fairer and tracking was not a critical issue.
  • Nonwhite teachers across all school contexts reported more serious issues around racial disparities in Special Education assignments.  Almost 17% of nonwhite teachers thought that there were significant Special Education disparities by race, versus roughly 9% of white teachers. In predominately white school settings, nearly 40% of teachers of color felt that disparities in Special Education assignments were significant, compared to just 6% of white teachers.
  • Teachers in racially stable diverse environments were significantly more likely to say that students rarely self-segregated (13.8%) compared to teachers in non-stable settings (7.2%).  Teachers in stably diverse schools were also less likely to report that tension between students of different races was significant (5.1%) than teachers in transitioning schools (10.5%).
  • Less than 30% of teachers in segregated minority schools felt that their school was supported by the community.  That figure is significantly lower than the 56% of all teachers responding to the survey who believed that the community is strongly supportive.

The report stresses that these results have important implications for state, district and school-level policies. Policies that encourage teachers who stay and invest in creating a supportive and inclusive environment are sorely needed. Federal policy also could help foster productive external relationships by providing incentives for family and community involvement through the school assessment process. Preparation and technical support from local, state and federal agencies could also help address some of the concerning trends documented in the report.

Spaces of Inclusion?is the final report in a three-part series based on a nationwide survey of teachers. The first report, The Segregation of American Teachers, documented serious patterns of racial isolation among the faculties of U.S. K-12 schools.[1] The second report, Are Teachers Prepared for Racially Changing Schools?, analyzed the preparation and teaching practices employed by educators across different grade levels, finding a dearth of focused training for racial diversity.[2]

For a copy of this report, go to www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu


About the Civil Rights Project

Founded in 1996 by former Harvard professors Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley Jr., the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP) is now co-directed by Orfield and Patricia Gándara, professors at UCLA, and housed in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.  The CRP’s mission is to create a new generation of research in social science and law on the critical issues of civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States.  It has commissioned more than 400 studies, published more than 15 books and issued numerous reports from authors at universities and research centers across the country. The Supreme Court, in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, cited the Civil Rights Project’s research.

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