Archive for the ‘Southern Education Foundation’ Tag

How many reports does it take to close the opportunity gap?   12 comments

Depending on your age, you may or may not be familiar with the commercial from which I borrowed (paraphrased) the blog title. Remember the Tootsie Pop commercial with the boy and Mr. Owl? The boy always asked, “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop?” Every time, Mr. Owl would take the boy’s Tootsie Pop and start licking; he eventually just bit into it. The boy could have saved himself the grief and just counted for himself, instead he continued to wait for someone to answer his question. What’s my point? Do we really need another report to tell us that the number of low-income school kids is steadily growing?  Didn’t we read a similar report from the Southern Education Foundation a few months ago? And yes, I weighed-in on that one too. I was surprised that Steve Suitts, the author of the January report and Vice President of the foundation, responded to my comments (and I asked how I could help). Here is an excerpt:

“The reality is that far too many students of color and low income students of all races and ethnicities aren’t getting the education they need. The students who need the most resources and support are now usually getting the least. For large numbers of these students to succeed, this pattern has to change. Our report is a call to arms in fighting for that change. Best wishes.”

So if the first report was a ‘call to arms in fighting’ for change, what does that make the second report? Better yet, what will that make the reports that we know will follow? By no means am I being cynical, but rather practical and realistic. Anyone who has spent time (as a teacher or volunteer) in an urban classroom knows the financial circumstances of the students. We know that the number of students now eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch has increased because the economy is in the crapper, and millions of people, with kids, are now unemployed. Did we really need another report to tell us that? How much money and human resources were spent on this study? Aren’t there better ways to use those resources? How about spending some time with lawmakers and educating them on the unseen effects of double-digit unemployment, e.g., families with fewer financial resources to pay for such novelties as food, school supplies, and after-school enrichment programs? Now I feel as though I sound like a broken record because I talk about the same issues, e.g., school reform, wasteful spending, etc., in almost every post. Stuitts has a valid point about the allocation of resources, but when will we see a detailed study on how these states (15 in the South), spend Title I and Special Education funds? Some districts spend more of those funds on administrative costs (unnecessary training, conferences, etc.) than instructional resources. And they get away with it because the federal government’s accountability system is weak. Unless and until stricter guidelines are developed, implemented, and monitored districts will continue to take advantage and waste free money our tax dollars.

Unfortunately, districts will continue to blame their AYP shortcomings on the fact that there are a large number of low-income students in their classrooms. And the madness will continue. So I am issuing a BOLO for the next study telling us that there are now more poor kids in America than ever before. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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.