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Race Matters


California’s standardized test scores are in and the news isn’t good. The scores reveal that the performance gap between ethnic groups is more than just a question of wealth vs. poverty. On state math tests, white students who qualified for subsidized lunch scored two and eight percent higher, respectively, than their Latino and black peers who did not qualify for subsidized lunch. Scores on the standardized English tests were about equal for low-income white students and their non-poor Latino and black peers. “These are not just economic achievement gaps,” said state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell. “They are racial achievement gaps, and we cannot excuse them.”

In response to the test results, Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust West, criticized state policymakers who she said have done little to put well-trained teachers in the schools that most need them. Others variously attributed the gap to low expectations for minority students, biased test language, and teaching strategies that don’t accommodate alternative learning styles. According to Sharroky Hollie, a professor of teacher education at California State University, the key question is, “How can the instruction be reshaped to validate and affirm [different] cultural behaviors as a segue to standards-based learning?"


As a profession we are allowing our students to suffer unnecessary. Our black and latino students are suffering because we still believe they are beneath their white counter parts. I agree with the article; this is unacceptable. We need more teachers who highly qualified but by passion. We need to make sure all students are making the grade and not just who we feel can do it.

The racial achievement gap is of great concern to me so much so that it is the focus of my doctoral research. As a black woman, I have had to overcome many obstacles to arrive at this point in my educational endeavors, but it was the unwavering belief in my abilities (internally and externally) that moved me forward. I continually ask myself, "How can educational research concretely inform the instructional practices for African American and Latino students?" Something is missing. We all have the capacity to learn, so what is the problem.
I am coming to realize that the problem is systemic and connected to monolithic and homogenized views of mainstream culture. Not everyone believes that all children can or should be afforded the opportunity to learn. It wasn't too long ago that blacks were not even seen as a whole person and furthermore were beat and killed for attempting to educate themselves.
Remnants of these perspectives have been woven into the fiber of our educational system despite the constitutional laws that prohibit such perspectives and despite the "talk" that all can learn. Inferiority assumptions consistently perpetuate the view of "who" should be educated and "how". Poverty does not have to be an issue nor does race, yet we find that these are the targets of our attention. Why is this? It comes from somewhere, doesn't it? Instead of focusing on factors that students have little control over, why not see them as the students they are and continually seek ways to teach them effectively without the option of giving up on them so that they don't give up on themselves.
I find that I must echo the previous comment; it comes down to teacher beliefs and a school culture that promotes such. When students are immersed in an environment where there is expressed belief in their ability to achieve greatly, they will because it transfers into the belief that they have in themselves. I know this to be true, because I am a product of such belief. If it happened for me, I see it as my life's work to make it happen for someone else.

I know that test scores are used to show difference between the Black, White and Latino students but the percentages points listed in the article are not enough in my opinion to be that concerned about. BLack students have been short changed for years in schools by deeply ingrained racism. So it is not surprising that they continue to lag behind in test scores.

Intelligence cannot be measures by test scores alone.

It is easy to point fingers at teachers. It is even common to blame teachers for the various "gaps" and problems within education today. I have taught inner-city or in poor neighborhoods all of my career as an elementary school teacher. I have served exclusively African American and Hispanic students. The teachers I worked with do NOT lack passion, skill, dedication, or high expectations. If an issue is the same accross the state you need to look outside of the individual classroom.

It would be rediculous to place the failures in Iraq on the shoulders of the soldiers and say that it is because they lack passion and didication. It is clearly the lack of planning, cultural awareness and leadership that are called into question.

This gap needs to be researched at a level that looks at the larger issues both inside the culture of our educational system and at the society. I think back to statistics that came out a few years ago indicating that a disproportionately large number (based on population ratios) of African Americans and Hispanics had been identified as ED (Emotionally disabled) and SED (Severely Emotionally Disabled) and placed in special education classes. The solution to the problem within LAUSD was NOT to research causes for this and to address these, but to make it almost impossible to identify children from these cultures as SED and ED.

If we don't understand the causes we cannot address them. To blame the teachers is easy and assumes that there is a single magical answer to closing the gap.

I agree with Mr. Goldstein. I have solely worked in schools with large minority populations, and I have not yet met a teacher who believes minority students cannot learn at the same level or pace as their Caucasian peers. I believe the disparities in achievement are largely based on systemic factors. The way in which we deliver instruction and the content itself needs to be reevaluated for all students.
One thing not addressed is whether the students attend NCLB sanctioned schools. I believe we are hindering these schools even further by making them focus on teaching to the test, when in fact the students at these schools may be the ones who most need a more open-ended curriculum including music and the arts.

This is a good debate and many of the comments are extremely good and interesting. One issue that needs to be brought to the front is language. I am not placing English second or first to any language, but when it becomes the only one, to the detriment of students of other races and cultural/language backgrounds, we are making a mistake. The issue then goes beyond the classroom into our societal biases in general. When are we going to acknowledge that we are a multicultural and multi-language society both in the US and the world? Patchwork is good when it is done by expert hands, and when it is placed as a prize and not just a "show case". We have advanced a little with the bilingual education, and we still have a long way to go. How exciting it could be for our future students and the nation as a whole if we elevate education as a preparation for life in a round world!

It is unfortunate that after years of fighting for the ability to have equal opportunities for education, Af. Americans, Latinos, and other minorities are still lagging behind. I agree with those above who believe the problem is systemic. Of course it is! I am a product of the "hood" and when provided with mentoring, parental support, belief in my abilities,teacher support, etc.; in essence nurturing from the adults that were in my life. I was also provided with opportunities presented y Pres. Johnson's War on Poverty. The programs provided summer jobs etc. Those programs have almost literally disappeared. At age 55 I am in school working on a PhD. I attribute this late life change to those who encouraged me in my youth. Most of these kids live in war zones, could you think and prosper if it were you? When we acknowledge our society has created this "lack of vision" for economic purposes, then maybe we can address it. I wonder!

That "lack of vision" for the minority and poor has got to be one of the main (if not THE main) focuses in education. Where are the job opportunities, the bilingual education, the music and arts...? As a teacher, I believe that there still needs to be an existing pressure on teachers to perform, because I grew up with many teachers who skated by and I am now left re-learning what I should have already learned. However, I also firmly believe that there should be a system that forces and monitors parent involvement in the education of their child. More parent involvement will equal more arts, music, jobs, etc. Parents that get involved have opinions (they ALL have opinions) and will not just give them, but follow up on them with fervor. With checks and balances, we can see who is not paying attention. Why is it that in NYC we not only need to have 6 report cards throughout a school year, but we must also send in progress reports and notify home (often multiple times) because of a child failing or messing up behaviorally, etc.? Doesn't that seem redundant? These measures are there (I'm assuming) so that we teachers can cover our bums when someone comes to us and says that we let the child slip, but don't the report cards (all 6!)come often enough? Maybe not, but this is not coming from a place of laziness- My point is, that in the poorer communities, the parents are involved less, and when parents aren't paying attention- the children will slide on by. I am a product of the type of environment I am teaching in- drug addicted parents, gang activity, domestic violence, moving from home-to-home, etc. I am now here to tell kids that they can rise above it and I believe I will have many of them coming back to thank me with or without their parents involvement- but many more could just use a caring and loving eye, and any initiative that can encourage (force?) parents to do THEIR duties is one that I'll be behind.

I was born in the pre-immigration wave in Europe and I never had anybody in my classroom that was not Caucasian. With this learning experience I moved to South Carolina 3 years ago and started teaching in a rural area. In my middle school 87% of the school population is African American. Of course this is only a legal classification because my students know that I only believe in ONE race, the HUMAN race.
I guess I am used to the European way of measuring student achievement. Our statistics only reflect income and foreign nationality. There is no official form in any discipline that asks you for your race. When I moved to the United States I was furious because in every form I have to put a check mark in the race question.
I had long conversations with my students and found out that they do not like to see races reflected in statistics and that this separation of data causes a negative influence in their performance. It is like being African American implies that nobody expects you to succeed.
This wonderful country will start getting a full integration the very same day that the race of a child stops being one of the parameters used to measure student achievement. If we let students to feel equal the results will dramatically improve. The law states that everybody is equal regardless of race, religion or political affiliation but we still insist in grouping people attending their color. How are children going to be equal if we separate them by groups at the moment of birth?

We also must note that for "finacial" reasons, the obvious solutions to educational woes, whether racial, economic or regional are ignored: Smaller class sizes, increased differentiated and individualized instruction, continuous and topically relevant professional development of teachers. Almost every educator believes children can and will learn- but when the climate of our public educational process is left in the hands of politicians (who send their children private schools), then education becomes a lower priority behind defense, pork projects, ridiculous subsidies, etc. When the politicians really and truly care, then the proper money will be put in place to allow us exceptional teachers to do our jobs without handicap.

You often hear teacher that say "I've taught for a long time, I am dedicated and we can't blame teachers" or something to that effect. But as a young teacher, I have to place blame on teachers. I have heard too many bigotted comments in faculty rooms to believe that all teachers are trying their hardest. Above and beyond needs to become the standard in education. How many teachers do you know leave right when the bell rings at the end of the day? How many negative comments have you heard in your careers? I DO blame teachers, because we have seen that a positive environment can overcome any learning obstacle, but we don't have nearly enough of these for the students that need them. We need to acknowledge that there are more racists in education than we would like to believe. I hear them everyday. I work with them.

If the system we live under is truly the reason for the decline or curve in the educational system of blacks, latinos and other minorities when do we stop talking about it and do something about it. It benefits the rich to send their children to schools that will give their children educational advantages over children from middle class and poor communities that is one system that will NEVER be uprooted. Lets speak realistically. Ther will NEVER EVER be equality in America. This country has sustained itself through inequality and by the deliberate miseducation of a an enslaved race. That injustice BENEFITED not just America but those who united with her to commit that crime. Then laws were created to assure no one could ever retaliate against what was done to create that system therefore, the best we can do is to expose the evil that was done and begin to rewrite own educational systems so the poor and disadvantaged can compete with the super rich, through active entrepreneurship. If they didn't create it they can't take it from you.

No,the blame should not lay only at the teachers' feet. I believe all of us who are educators play a role in the ability for this achievement gap to sustain and remain a drawback that hinders our children's opportunities for success.
We must become aggressively
"missionized" to grasp the vision of no"achievement gaps". Once the vision is internalized, then the mission can be fulfilled. This, my cohorts, is a task for most educators, not some.

Why is it everyone thinks that education is the teachers problem. Education according to the federal government is your right (how they came up with that is a different story). If it is your right then it also is your responsibility. To much emphasis is placed on what teachers do or do not do. When we all know that the majority of the students do not come to school to learn but to socialize or the school is used as convenient child care by working parents. I think maybe students performance on tests should be examined in conjunction with their behavior record in class, their attendance, the overall performance, and the amount of effort they make to be successful. Oh, but people don't want to be responsible for themselves in our country. We have become a nation of people who blame others. Sad!

Blaming teachers for student performance on any tests, is like blaming doctors for the results of their patients tests. Not everyone listens or follows the advice or directions they are given as they were given. We all know that everyone contributes to the problem. Why is it we always need a scapegoat. Because it is about the money. If education didn't have big dollars and political connections to the process there would be no problem. Just as you do not hear about the problems in private schools where everyone works together to produce a quality student or they are no longer a student. The key is not the parents or the teachers, it is the student. Time to realize that youth may be desired but it is not KING!

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