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References on the Web

Posted By: Jack Willis on February 27, 2002
To follow up this review, let me push a four resources available on the Web. Two deal with racism and schools. Two deal with the crux of instituting and sustaining education reform politics.

Gordon, Rebecca, Libero Della Piana & Terry Keleher. (2000). Facing the Consequences: An Examination of Racial Discrimination in U. S. Public Schools. An ERASE Initiative. Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center. http://www.arc.org/erase/FTC1intro.html .

“Racial Justice Report Cards” are given to 12 large public K-12 school districts located across the United States and “pass/fail grades” recorded for dropout rates, graduation rates, graduates entering college, student suspensions and expulsions, enrollments in gifted and AP classes, teacher demographics, access to bilingual ed programs, staff training, and several other indicators. On every key indicator studied, from drop-out and discipline rates to advanced placement courses, students of color are placed at a serious disadvantage.

- African American, Latino, and Native American students are suspended or expelled disproportionate to those of their white peers. This was true in every school district surveyed.
- Students of color are much more likely to drop out and less likely to graduate than white students. For example, in San Francisco, both Latino and African American students represented a percentage of drop-outs in excess of their percentage of the population.
- Students of color have less access to advanced classes and gifted programs. In Durham, NC, African American students represent 58 percent of the district population but are only 26 percent of students in advanced courses.
- The racial make up of a teaching corps rarely matches that of the student body. Most school districts do not require anti-racist or multi-cultural training for teachers and administrators. None of the twelve school districts had teaching staffs as diverse as their student population.

Johnson, Tammy, Jennifer Emiko Boyden & William J. Pittz. (2001). Racial Profiling and Punishment in U. S. Public Schools: How Zero Tolerance Policies and High Stakes Testing Subvert Academic Excellence and Racial Equity. An ERASE Initiative. Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center. http://www.arc.org/erase/profiling_summ.html .

Nearly 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision students of color continue to receive disparate treatment in our schools. This report discusses certain “critical flaws” in current education policy trends that impact students of color, including:

- Fair treatment, full access, and equal opportunity are still intangible notions for many students of color. Although the Guns Free Schools Act mandates expulsion for the possession of firearms, many school districts have expanded the policy beyond its original scope, suspending students for having Midol, chains attached to Tweety Bird wallets and organic cough drops. This occurs despite research showing that high school sophomores who have dropped out of school were three times more likely to have been suspended than those who stayed in school.
- Many policies, such as those fueling the proliferation of standardized tests, assume that all students are on a level playing field. In California, for example, only 24 percent of Blacks and 25 percent of Latinos passed the math portion of the state¡¦s exit exam this year, the higher failure rates occurring in resource-deprived districts with high populations of students of color.
- High-stakes testing and excessive school security measures are big-ticket items in terms of expenditures. For instance, in the 2000-2001 school year Chicago Public Schools spent over $35 million on school security services. These expenditures directly compete with the kinds of programs and policies that would improve academic performance and school safety for all students.

The assertion that these policies fail to address the needs of students of color is supported in the report by essays from notable academics such as Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford University), Beverly Cross (University of Wisconsin), Michelle Fine and Linda Powell (City University of New York), Russ Skiba (Indiana University) and Peter Leone (University of Maryland) and Linda Mizell (Tufts University). The essays address issues such as teacher quality, small schools, discipline and security measures, and high-stakes testing.

David Hornbeck has said that the failure of schools “is not one of analysis of data, study of the problems, and formulating and reporting recommendations. Rather it is a failure of imagination, creativity, courage, resolve, and collective will and capacity to implement and sustain the necessary changes in the organization and culture of schools.” Supporting this are:

McDermott, Kathryn A. (2000). “Barriers to Large-Scale Success of Models for Urban School Reform.” Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis, 22: 83-89. http://eris.knue.ac.kr/e-eepa/f-eepa2000-1/lkf001164.pdf

Within many cities, there are effective classrooms and even clusters of such schools, but there are few if any examples of a reform being expanded to the scope of an entire district. How to achieve this sort of expansion, often called “going to scale,” has become a major question for scholars and practitioners of urban school reform. The author argues for focusing attention on the political obstacles rather than thinking of the problem as one of disseminating information and helping individuals work through their fears about change. In the heat of the struggle to implement a particular program or strategy, it may appear as if central office staff are either allies or enemies bent on thwarting the reform entirely. However there are many institutional and political incentives for maintaining the status quo.

Noguera, Pedro A. (2001). “Racial Politics and the Elusive Quest for Excellence and Equity in Education.” Article # ER010930002. In Motion Magazine. http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/er/pnrp1.html .

This paper examines the factors that influence the development of educational policies and practices designed to ameliorate the achievement gap in relatively affluent school districts. To provide a context for understanding the issues surrounding efforts to promote educational equity, the paper begins by describing initiatives undertaken by schools in the recently established Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN). The remainder of the paper draws on research collected from a four year study carried out at Berkeley High School (BHS) to illustrate how racial disparities in academic outcomes are influenced by the structure of opportunity within schools, and how efforts to address inequities often become politicized. The goal is to use the case of BHS to show how political factors complicate efforts to reduce racial disparities in student achievement, and to make it clear why political rather than educational strategies alone are needed to respond to the racial achievement gap
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 References on the Web by Jack Willis on February 27, 2002
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