Guilt by Color
You know I am getting a bit tired of the drumbeat that has been going on for multiple years. If you are African-American you are ipso facto, low achieving and need lots of special help to reach grade level. Sure that is true of some African American students. And it is also true that some Asian students are bad in math. The assumption that African American students is synonymous with low achievement isn’t just low expectations, it is NO expectations. These are the worst kind of stereotypes masquerading as caring educators.
Let’s look at a couple of cases on point. A recent article in Education Week discussed the dangers of the Every Student Succeeds Act because it does not disaggregate data in such a way that the scores of African American students are pulled out for separate analysis. The article cites a school that is now majority minority. In order to have the school maintain its reputation as a top quality school, “the principal has asked staff to help all students but with a special emphasis on low-income students and those of color.” REALLY! So we know that all the African American students are going to need special academic assistance. How do we know that? Are ALL the African American students in the school having academic challenges? Why am I thinking that a number of those kids with darker skin are doing just fine academically.
Another school, this one in Maryland, has also become majority minority. That principal is cited as being proactive to narrow the achievement gap between “all students and African American students.” So in this case, the high achieving African American students are included in the “all students” numbers and contributing to the gap.
Wouldn’t it make much better sense to concentrate on low-achieving students? What if schools looked at the lowest achieving 20-25% of ALL students and concentrate remediation on those kids. Could be that there might even be some white, Asian or who knows what color kids among that group.
There are lots of branded named programs out there that would make a marketing company proud. These companies are marketing their programs to help schools serve African American kids. This behavior is one of the basest forms of insults to minority kids.
Wouldn’t it make better sense to look at the freshman class and identify, regardless of ethnicity and socio-economic status, the lowest performing quartile and concentrate special recovery efforts on them? It might indeed turn out that a disproportionate number of that group is of a particular race or socio-economic status. So be it. But at least the kids in the remedial group would have earned their place by needing remediation- not by their color or economic status.