Archive for the ‘ELL’ Tag

Being minority or poor should not dictate level of academic achievement   9 comments

DISCLAIMER: Sorry for so many numbers!

As I perused the AJC’s ‘Get Schooled’ blog this morning, I came across Maureen Downey’s post about a new study by the Southern Education Foundation. Interesting read.The South has become the first region in the country to have both the largest population of poor and minority students. Other than that exact statement, I am not too sure why this topic is newsworthy. Demographics are changing. Didn’t we already know that? If I am not mistaken, back in 2000 experts predicted that Hispanic/Latinos would become the largest minority group, surpassing Blacks/African Americans. What I find disturbing is the correlation between minority status and/or poverty with low academic expectations by the ‘experts’ and public education institutions. I guess I missed that lesson during my certification program. For the record, let me reiterate my platform: I do not buy into stereotypes and I refuse to become one. What I would like to see is some research that emphatically (and empirically) proves that if you are poor and/or minority, you cannot and will not learn anything or perform on par with White, Asian, and affluent students. I don’t want to see NAEP stats or AYP data; I want to see research that says minority students are incapable of learning, must accept someone else’s limitations, and resolve to be underachievers. That is essentially what this correlation is saying. By the way, wasn’t a similar correlation spewed before? Like in The Bell Curve?

It’s time for these so-called education foundations and think-tanks to call a spade a spade (no racial overtone intended). When are we going to really start digging and revealing what is really going on in the South? I will share some statistics on Georgia, since that is where I live. Let’s look at the population growth/changing demographics in Georgia for the past 5 years (3-5 years is a good span when tracking change):

2004-05 State Student Enrollment: 1,515,646

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 8%
  • ELL: 4%
  • FARL (low-income): 48%

2005-06 State Student Enrollment: 1,559,828

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 8%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 50%

2006-07 State Student Enrollment: 1,589,839

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 9%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 50%

2007-08 State Student Enrollment: 1,609,681

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 10%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 51%

2008-09 State Student Enrollment: 1,615,066

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 10%
  • ELL: 6%
  • FARL: 53%

The above information is not awe-inspiring alone, but when we look at the state’s Special Education demographics for the same groups/years we get a completely different perspective. The following information is not available on the state’s web site; I obtained it through an Open Records Request.

2004-05 Special Education Enrollment: 242,565

  • Black/African American: 39.9%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 5.5%
  • ELL: 2.3%
  • FARL: 54.4%

2005-06 Special Education Enrollment: 241,773

  • Black/African American: 40.2%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 6.1%
  • ELL: 2.7%
  • FARL: 55.3%

2006-07 Special Education Enrollment: 244,210

  • Black/African American: 40.1%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 6.8%
  • ELL: 2.9%
  • FARL: 58.5%

2007-08 Special Education Enrollment: 235,016

  • Black/African American: 40.2%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.3%
  • ELL: 2.9%
  • FARL: 59.5%

*2008-09 Special Education Enrollment: 224,064

  • Black/African American: 40.3%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.8%
  • ELL: 3.1%
  • FARL: 61%

What does all of this mean?

  1. For at least 5 years, minority and/or low-income students have accounted for at least 50% of the students in Special Education (except 04-05. slightly under 50%). Believe me when I say the numbers for Gifted are almost the polar opposite.
  2. None of the think-tanks have factored in misdiagnosis, tracking, etc. into their formula for why minority and low-income students continue to underperform when compared to White, Asian, and affluent students.
  3. Georgia has a history of misdiagnoses and ‘directing’ African American students into Special Education programs. See here.

Simply put, does anyone find it strange that African Americans make up 38% of the state’s total student population, yet the enrollment in Special Education has been holding steady at 40%? Even more unnerving is the fact that 61% of students in Special Education are from low-income families. There is some overlap: Students from the other categories also fall into the low-income group. In my opinion, this is more newsworthy than the (obvious) fact that Georgia’s Hispanic/Latino student population has grown every year. The growth for Blacks/African Americans is not as noticeable. I await the critics’ rhetoric about single parent familes because you cannot tell form the SEF’s study or state data which students have two parents or which two-parent households are considered low-income. Pretty soon the superficial variables will be eliminated and people will have to admit the real problem. That should be interesting.

*Unusual drop in enrollment; waiting on Open Records Request from OCR to find if some form of corrective legal action was taken to address enrollment disparities.

Will race ever be obsolete?   1 comment

If the topic makes you uncomfortable, change the channel. For those with thick skin and a healthy dose of reality, I implore you to continue reading. This blog post is not meant to be a finger-pointing, make all White people feel guilty and/or uncomfortable rant. Instead, I thought I would point out some issues challenging states efforts to Race to the Top and close the ever-elusive achievement gap.

A historically significant ‘change’ occurred last November. I have not heard anyone debate whether Obama’s election as the first Black President of the United States has had an impact on the citizens of this country. Notice I wrote a change, as opposed to simply saying change. The difference may not seem important; however, when we juxtapose change against the new-found interest in overhauling public education we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of those making major decisions do not resemble those who are most disadvantaged, e.g., minority students. Essentially, there is no real change taking place in Education. Am I implying that non-minority educators are not qualified or compassionate enough to educate minority children? Absolutely not! What I am implying is that our country continues to have discussions about closing the achievement gap and how to best meet the needs of students in AYP subgroups, e.g., minority, low-income, ELL, and students with disabilities; yet, there are no representatives among the state superintendents, and few among the politicians and district superintendents. The actual number of minority superintendents is too small to make a significant impact.

Whenever I read the small amount of news covering America’s Education woes, I make a conscious effort to ‘check’ my racial blinders, but that is often difficult to do when your race is an obvious part of your identity. As a parent, I would certainly like to believe that race will become obsolete as my kids grow older. As an educator, I know better.  I am not basing my thoughts on some conspiracy theory about ‘the man.’ Instead, my conclusions are based on observation, research, and data. Numbers don’t lie: Black and Latino students are not as ‘test’ intelligent as they should be. They do not graduate at the same rate as Whites and the numbers attending 4-year colleges/universities are not where they should be, in my opinion. Yes these facts are disheartening, but we also need to consider that Blacks and Latinos have less access to rigorous academic programs, Advanced Placement classes, arts, technology, etc. There are a few educators, such as Dr. Steve Perry and Baruti Kafele, who have created learning environments where a ‘college is the only option,’ attitude is the norm. These two men are among the minority, both literally and figuratively, as they have worked, persevered, and are now making quality education and college feasible options for large numbers of minority students.

I would venture to say that for every Perry or Kafele, there are probably 100 minority educators who have tried to improve conditions for their students, only to be met with resistance from administrators, school boards, etc., who also happen to be all-White. I have been there and I am still fighting to bring school choice to the heavily minority community in which I live. In the coming months we will be bombarded by stories about states either lifting charter caps or scrambling to create charter legislation where it did not previously exist, all for the sake of Race to the Top funds. This Johnny-come-lately approach has not place in Education. The stakes are too high if these silver-bullet ideals fail. We have already seen the effects of lackluster leadership, ignoring the learning needs of students, and dismissing the potential contributions of our educators. As long as school districts continue to operate in this manner, we will continue to chase our tails in the quest to improve the quality and outcomes of public education.

Race will likely never be obsolete, but we must all ensure there is fair representation at each and every roundtable discussion.