Keeping Equity at the Center of Reform
Keeping Equity at the Center of Reform
By Pedro Noguera on November 18, 2012 8:00 PM
I’m glad to hear that your travels across the country have left you feeling inspired and encouraged about possibilities for change. I am too. I just spoke to over 400 school board members (CABE Connection Association of Boards of Education) in Groton, Connecticut on Saturday and I was pleasantly surprised to see how open they were to embracing a broad reform agenda that rejects our narrow fixation on using assessment as a weapon to judge teachers and schools. I’m still not sure about what it will take to get the Obama Administration to adopt a different approach to education reform, but I think this is what we have got work at doing for the next few months as they begin plotting their direction for the next four years.
One thing I know for sure is that we have got to make a commitment to equity in education a central component of whatever we they do. It is remarkable that despite all the rhetoric about education being the civil rights issue of the 21st century, our leaders make no mention of the need for equity in educational opportunities, or conversely, the need to address the profound inequity, that characterizes so much of American education today. I suppose this may be because they are confused about what equity is. As I’ve pointed out before, several civil rights organizations have supported NCLB because they see it as a way to guarantee accountability in academic outcomes. However, what they and others have largely ignored is the profound inequity in learning opportunities caused by concentrating our most disadvantaged students in racially segregated and under-resourced schools.
In a report entitled “E Pluribus…Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students”, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA has documented that a growing number of Black and Latino students attend racially isolated public schools. The report also points out that “The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration, has taken no significant action to increase school integration or to help stabilize diverse schools as racial change occurs in urban and suburban housing markets and schools.” It is important to note that this retreat from the commitment made by the Brown decision to reduce segregation “with all deliberate speed”, is occurring as our nation is becoming more racially diverse. We should be doing all we can to prepare young people to function in a more heterogeneous society. Instead, not only are our schools becoming more racially homogenous, they are also blatantly unequal.
Many people do not realize that ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was initially part of the civil rights laws that were enacted in the 1960s to insure that economically disadvantaged children received supplemental support. Though schools serving poor children continue to receive Title I funds, the larger commitment to addressing the challenges faced by poor children came to an end with the adoption of No Child Left Behind. Ironically, NCLB is premised on equity in that it requires all children within the same state to take the same exams. We do this even though it is widely known that children are not being educated under the similar conditions. For example, though we spend far more to educate children in Scarsdale and Beverly Hills than we do to educate children in the South Bronx or Compton. Students in California and New York are required to take the same state exams regardless of where they live or whether or not the schools they attend have libraries, science labs or any of the other inputs associated with quality education. Some states like Virginia and Florida have recently adopted different targets for different sub-groups presumably to address these inequities, but they have done nothing to address the unequal learning conditions or the vast inequities in per pupil spending among schools.
As you know, the US Supreme Court is presently hearing arguments in the case of Fischer vs. the University of Texas, the latest attack on affirmative action. The case is important for a number of reasons. If the court rules the university’s policy to be a violation of the constitution it will be a major setback to efforts to maintain some degree of racial diversity in higher education. What makes the University of Texas’ policy so important is that it was introduced to counter the effects of racial segregation in Texas schools. By guaranteeing admission to students from the top ten percent of each high school’s senior class, the University of Texas was able to insure that students throughout the state had access. One could argue that rather than compensating for the effects of segregation it would be even better to promote integration in K-12 schools and insure the students throughout Texas had access to equal educational opportunities with respect to funding and school conditions. If the policy is ruled unconstitutional not only will public k – 12 schools in Texas remain segregated on the basis of race and class, but higher education will increasingly mirror this pattern.
Deb, nine states, most recently Oklahoma, have adopted bans on affirmative action through voter referendum. The federal government cannot simply allow states to resolve these issues on their own. On matters pertaining to minority rights leadership from the courts and the federal government is essential. I know the Obama administration has a lot to contend with – the so-called fiscal cliff, the brewing conflicts in Israel-Palestine and Syria, the implementation of the healthcare law, etc. but they cannot afford to ignore the challenges the nation faces on issues broadly related to equity, diversity and education. We both know that education is still the foundation of a democratic society. That is even more the case as our nation becomes more diverse and increasingly unequal.
I look forward to hearing from you.
How to Reduce Students’ Anxiety About Tests
How to Reduce Students’ Anxiety About Tests
A certain amount of student anxiety about tests is normal and even helpful to performance, says SUNY/New Paltz professor Spencer Salend in this
Kappan article. But between 25 and 40 percent of students experience severe test anxiety – they are extremely nervous and apprehensive, have physical symptoms (perspiration, nausea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness), have difficulty concentrating, and engage in negative self-talk – all of which has a serious impact on their ability to perform well and harms their development and feelings about themselves and school.
Salend distinguishes test anxiety from the more generalized “trait anxiety”, which applies across a wide range of situations. A number of factors can produce test anxiety, including:
- Anxiety, attention, or obsessive-compulsive disorders;
- Perfectionist tendencies and unrealistic expectations;
- Negative self-esteem, self-statements, and procrastination;
- Stereotype threat;
- Inadequate study and test-taking skills;
- Poor performance on previous tests;
- Pressure from family, teachers, and peers;
- Unfavorable testing environments;
- Invalid, flawed, and timed tests;
- Ineffective teaching that leaves students unprepared to handle a test.
One or two of these factors can snowball to others, working a student into an anxious and unproductive mental state.
Salend suggests a number of strategies to alleviate test anxiety. These are helpful to all students, not just those with extreme test anxiety.
Make tests student-friendly. This includes crystal-clear test directions, using questions that relate to students’ lives, giving students choices, and spreading tests out so students aren’t over-tested in any one time period.
Maximize validity. It’s important for teachers to know the topics, concepts, vocabulary, and skills that upcoming tests are going to assess so they can align the curriculum accordingly. The number of test items for each area should correspond to the amount of instructional time spent during the year. Some aspects of the curriculum may lend themselves to observations, clickers, performance assessments, and portfolios rather than paper-and-pencil tests.
Make tests graphically accessible. This includes clear layout and format, clear transitions from item to item, not too many test items on a page, grouping similar types of questions, and providing students enough space to respond.
Enhance readability. This means using as few words as possible in short sentences; using comprehensible vocabulary, sentence structure, and voice; avoiding pronouns, double negatives, abbreviations, acronyms, and parentheses; using readable type fonts and sizes; not putting too many words per line; and avoiding right-justification.
Foster motivation during testing. This includes embedding prompts at strategic points in a test to help students stay focused, remain calm, and succeed.
Teach anxiety-reduction strategies. This might include advising students not to arrive early for a test (to avoid tense conversations with peers); using meditation, prayer, yoga, smelling fragrances, deep breaths and breaks; and using positive self-talk, guided imagery, and focusing on past successes.
Teach test-taking strategies. These include developing and reviewing study guides, using effective study techniques (e.g., spaced practice, self-testing), getting students working in collaborative study groups, using memory strategies, using educational games to prepare, thinking through possible test questions, doing a memory dump at the beginning of the test, scanning the whole test before beginning, budgeting time efficiently, and highlighting key words in the directions. Students whose IEPs entitle them to accommodations should take full advantage of them.
“Teaching Students Not to Sweat the Test” by Spencer Salend in
Phi Delta Kappan, March 2012 (Vol. 93, #6, p. 20-25), http://www.kappanmagazine.org
20 Amazing Stats About Asian-American Achievement
Note: Thanks to Carol Brown for sharing this link from
20 Amazing Stats About Asian-American Achievement
For decades now, Asian Americans have been regarded as a “model minority,” with high
achievement in school and doing well overall, particularly at the top of the curve. But there’s much more to the achievement of Asian Americans than that, and we’ve set out to share some truths about just how well Asian Americans are doing today. We’ve discovered that although Asian Americans do live up to their reputation, there are disparities, including failures to make it to top positions like CEOs, as well as significant difficulties for certain Asian groups. Read on, and we’ll discuss 20 amazing and surprising statistics concerning Asian-American achievement.
Asian-Americans are excelling in academics. In fact, they represent 15-25% of Ivy League enrollment. However, Asian-Americans make up less than 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and corporate officers. It’s not clear how exactly this works out, as Asians are more likely to value power and compensation, aspire to top jobs, and speak up for a raise. Asians are simple less likely to get a raise or a promotion, and often, feel stalled professionally with less job satisfaction.
Asian-Americans enjoy good representation in entry-level and middle management positions, but somehow don’t make it to the top. Despite not filling out the Fortune 500, Asian-Americans still enjoy high achievement in employment, with 45% of Asian-Americans in management, professional, and related occupations, a figure that is higher than the total population, which comes in at 34%.
Although certain groups still struggle with educational attainment, overall, Asians are completing high school in large numbers. About 86% of Asians in the U.S. 25 years and older have at least a high school diploma, and 50% of Asian-Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree. This is huge compared to the 28% of the total U.S. population with a bachelor’s degree.
In an exploration of Tiger Mother parenting, the
New York Daily News discovered that the typically high achievement of Asian-Americans may not be due to harsh parenting, but rather, because they spend more time studying than other kids, and not necessarily because their parents force them to. In one study cited by the article, it was found that Asian-American 11th graders spent six more hours per week studying than white students of the same age. The article points out the extra study time can improve feelings of competence, self worth, and joy from completing a monumental task.
Although high achievement and hard work are stressed by both parents and students in the Asian-American culture, studies have found that they typically don’t experience more stress than other groups. University of California, Irvine, psychology professor Chuansheng Chen studies almost 5,000 11th-grade math students and found that Asian-Americans and white Americans typically reported the same high level of stress. Asian-American students are, however, slightly more academically anxious. Still, Chen concluded that high parental standards and intense studying didn’t seem to cause noteworthy psychological stress.
Asian-American families earn $15,600 more than the national median income for all households. But while Asian-Americans are doing well overall, there are larger numbers at the bottom of the scale as well. 10% of Asian-Americans live at the poverty level, and 2.2% of Asian-Americans live on public assistance, compared with 8.2% of Caucasians at the poverty level, and 1.3% of Caucasians on public assistance.
At some of the best universities in the United States, Asians are the biggest or one of the largest groups on campus. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the student body is 28% Asian-American, and the University of California at Berkeley is 39% Asian-American.
Asian-American men are more likely to ask for a raise, but less likely to actually get one. Even with a bachelor’s degree, Asian-Americans will earn less than their Caucasian counterparts. In fact, according to
Forbes, it adds up to a lot: $400k less over the course of a lifetime.
Across the U.S., Asian-American and Pacific Islander students often have trouble completing their degrees, with issues in high school and college completion. In Hmong adolescents, 40% do not complete high school, almost half. In Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups, bachelor’s degrees are scarce, with only 14% of students achieving this goal, compared to 28% of Americans with a bachelor’s degree.
Although certain Asian-American groups may struggle with earning degrees, overall, Asian-Americans earn the highest college graduation rate. Asian-Americans have 65% college graduation rates, followed by whites at 59%. Additionally, Asian-Americans are the only racial group that does not have young men falling behind their predecessors in postsecondary attainment.
Chinese-Americans and South Asians personify the high-achieving Asian stereotype most people have come to know, but there are other Asian-American groups who are struggling to make things work. According to
Asian Nation, for every Chinese-American or South Asian with a college degree, there’s an equal number of Southeast Asians struggling to adapt to living in the U.S. Specifically, Vietnamese-Americans only have a college degree attainment rate of 20%, and Laotians, Cambodians, and Khmer have a rate less than 10%.
Students from Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos come to the U.S. with issues that can impact their education, specifically war-related trauma and educational disruptions prior to immigration. While living in the U.S., many of these students deal with poverty, racism, and even limited access to educational resources, which can clearly put them at a severe disadvantage compared to other ethnic groups and even Asian-American families who have lived in the U.S. for multiple generations.
The gap between Asian-American students and everyone else is large and growing. Nationwide, Asian-Americans in the upper echelons of standard math exams were scoring 17 points higher than white students, and has widened in recent years according to the Center on Education Policy. Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, remarks that other groups should learn a lesson from Asian-American students, who are “working harder, doing better, and getting ahead.”
Asian-Americans typically do well on the SATs, and in the math section, Asian-Americans earned 42 more points than the average white student did. However, the same can not be said about the reading and writing section, with Asian-American students scoring seven points lower in writing, and 17 points lower in reading. This is perhaps due to language differences in families who have immigrated recently.
Newly immigrated Southeast Asian students often have limited English proficiency, and as a result, some are misdiagnosed as “learning disabled” and placed in special education. Asian-American and Pacific Islander students are 1.24 times more likely to receive special education and related services than all other racial and ethnic groups combined.
Asian-American students may be doing well overall, but often, they’re simply not ready for college. In California in particular, students are really struggling. The Education Trust published a study,
Overlooked and Underserved: Debunking the Asian ‘Model Minority’ Myth in California Schools. In this study, researchers found that about 7 out of 10 Asian students and 9 out of 10 Pacific Islander students are not prepared for college-level coursework upon high school graduation. Further, less than 10% of Filipinos, Cambodians, Laotians, and Samoans are ready for college math.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008, Asian-Americans overall achieve a higher per-capita income than all other groups. Asian-Americans had per-capita incomes of $30,292, compared with whites, who had a per-capita income of $28,502, and blacks with a per-capita income of $18,406. This is likely due to the fact that Asian-Americans are well represented in management positions.
There are certainly quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to educational opinions, and that may shed light on why Asian-Americans seem to do so well in school. In one study, most Western mothers (70%) believed that “stressing academic success is not good for children” and that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” Chinese mothers feel completely different, with 0% of the Chinese moms responding positively to these statements. Rather, they believe that their children should be the best students, and that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting.”
Each day, Chinese parents spend about 10 times longer per day teaching and pushing children to engage in academic activities than their Western counterparts do. With this extra time, Western kids seem to spend it playing sports instead of studying.
Overall, Asian-American students are doing well and living up to their status as the “model minority.” Interestingly, 30% of Asian-American and Pacific Islander students attend high-poverty schools, meaning that they’re not just doing well, they’re doing well at schools that are chronically underfunded and lacking in resources that other schools may have to offer.