Racial Inequality In Education

Thursday, October 28, 2021 5:37:47 PM

Racial Inequality In Education

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What follows is a list of five policy lessons the U. The PISA report notes that the countries whose educational systems offered students the best outcomes and the least indication of inequality had instituted clear, carefully thought-through strategies with reduction of inequality in mind. For example, British Columbia in Canada developed a plan to improve the outcomes of Aboriginal students. Some countries have shown that adopting standardization programs—and making sure that low-performing schools are held to those standards as diligently as top-performing ones—have been successful in bringing schools and their students onto a more-level playing field.

Starting from the conviction that every student—no matter where in the country he or she lives—should receive a similar education will lead in the direction of a sound standardization policy. Since the United States faces a teaching shortage, especially in schools serving the most vulnerable populations, such changes would likely go a long way in improving the problem of inequality here.

Right now, American schools in higher-income regions see the benefit of higher tax revenues, only exacerbating the other advantages those students enjoy. Given that many schools and their students are starting from a deep disadvantage that has been decades and centuries in the making, it follows that policies should favor at-risk schools when putting in place programs like after-school mentoring programs, arts programs, teacher-hiring programs, and the like. Fryer and Ferguson agree that the achievement gap starts early. That suggests educational achievement involves more than just schooling, which typically starts at age 5. Key factors in the gap, researchers say, include poverty rates which are three times higher for blacks than for whites , diminished teacher and school quality, unsettled neighborhoods, ineffective parenting, personal trauma, and peer group influence, which only strengthens as children grow older.

The researchers say that family upbringing matters, in all its crisscrossing influences and complexities, and that often undercuts minority children, who can come from poor or troubled homes. Trauma also subverts achievement, whether through family turbulence, street violence, bullying, sexual abuse, or intermittent homelessness. Such factors can lead to behaviors in school that reflect a pervasive form of childhood post-traumatic stress disorder. At Harvard Law School, both the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative and the Education Law Clinic marshal legal aid resources for parents and children struggling with trauma-induced school expulsions and discipline issues.

Lakhani, an associate professor who is a crowdfunding expert and a champion of open-source software, has studied how unequal racial and economic access to technology has worked to widen the achievement gap. Interactive mealtimes provide a learning experience of their own, she said, along with structure, emotional support, a sense of safety, and family bonding. The achievement gap is a creature of interlocking factors that are hard to unpack constructively. Fryer tapped 10 large data sets on children 8 months to 17 years old. He studied charter schools, scouring for standards that worked. How long would closing the gap take with a national commitment to do so?

A best-practices experiment that Fryer conducted at low-achieving high schools in Houston closed the gap in math skills within three years, and narrowed the reading achievement gap by a third. Last spring, Fryer, still only 38, won the John Bates Clark medal, the most prestigious award in economics after the Nobel Prize. He was a MacArthur Fellow in , became a tenured Harvard professor in , was named to the prestigious Society of Fellows at age He had a classically haphazard childhood, but used school to learn, grow, and prosper. Gradually, he developed a passion for social science that could help him answer what was going wrong in black lives because of educational inequality. With his background and talent, Fryer has a dramatically unique perspective on inequality and achievement, and he has something else: a seemingly counterintuitive sense that these conditions will improve, once bad schools learn to get better.

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately portrayed details of Dr. Illustration by Kathleen M. Harvard staff writer Christina Pazzanese contributed to this report. Also in the Series Renaming committee seeks input from Harvard community. The costs of inequality: Across Harvard, efforts to improve lives. Over the past 30 years, a large body of research has shown that four factors consistently influence student achievement: all else equal, students perform better if they are educated in smaller schools where they are well known to students is optimal , have smaller class sizes especially at the elementary level , receive a challenging curriculum, and have more highly qualified teachers.

Minority students are much less likely than white children to have any of these resources. In predominantly minority schools, which most students of color attend, schools are large on average, more than twice as large as predominantly white schools and reaching 3, students or more in most cities ; on average, class sizes are 15 percent larger overall 80 percent larger for non-special education classes ; curriculum offerings and materials are lower in quality; and teachers are much less qualified in terms of levels of education, certification, and training in the fields they teach. After controlling for socioeconomic status, the large disparities in achievement between black and white students were almost entirely due to differences in the qualifications of their teachers.

In combination, differences in teacher expertise and class sizes accounted for as much of the measured variance in achievement as did student and family background figure 1. Ferguson and Duke economist Helen Ladd repeated this analysis in Alabama and again found sizable influences of teacher qualifications and smaller class sizes on achievement gains in math and reading. They found that more of the difference between the high- and low-scoring districts was explained by teacher qualifications and class sizes than by poverty, race, and parent education. Meanwhile, a Tennessee study found that elementary school students who are assigned to ineffective teachers for three years in a row score nearly 50 percentile points lower on achievement tests than those assigned to highly effective teachers over the same period.

Strikingly, minority students are about half as likely to be assigned to the most effective teachers and twice as likely to be assigned to the least effective. Minority students are put at greatest risk by the American tradition of allowing enormous variation in the qualifications of teachers. Students in poor or predominantly minority schools are much less likely to have teachers who are fully qualified or hold higher-level degrees. In schools with the highest minority enrollments, for example, students have less than a 50 percent chance of getting a math or science teacher with a license and a degree in the field.

In , fully one-third of teachers in high-poverty schools taught without a minor in their main field and nearly 70 percent taught without a minor in their secondary teaching field. Studies of underprepared teachers consistently find that they are less effective with students and that they have difficulty with curriculum development, classroom management, student motivation, and teaching strategies. Nor are they likely to see it as their job to do so, often blaming the students if their teaching is not successful. Teacher expertise and curriculum quality are interrelated, because a challenging curriculum requires an expert teacher. Research has found that both students and teachers are tracked: that is, the most expert teachers teach the most demanding courses to the most advantaged students, while lower-track students assigned to less able teachers receive lower-quality teaching and less demanding material.

Assignment to tracks is also related to race: even when grades and test scores are comparable, black students are more likely to be assigned to lower-track, nonacademic classes. Analyses of national data from both the High School and Beyond Surveys and the National Educational Longitudinal Surveys have demonstrated that, while there are dramatic differences among students of various racial and ethnic groups in course-taking in such areas as math, science, and foreign language, for students with similar course-taking records, achievement test score differences by race or ethnicity narrow substantially. In a comparative study of Chicago first graders, for example, Dreeben found that African-American and white students who had comparable instruction achieved comparable levels of reading skill.

But he also found that the quality of instruction given African-American students was, on average, much lower than that given white students, thus creating a racial gap in aggregate achievement at the end of first grade. These children, though, learned less during first grade than their white counterparts because their teacher was unable to provide the challenging instruction they deserved. When schools have radically different teaching forces, the effects can be profound.

For example, when Eleanor Armour-Thomas and colleagues compared a group of exceptionally effective elementary schools with a group of low-achieving schools with similar demographic characteristics in New York City, roughly 90 percent of the variance in student reading and mathematics scores at grades 3, 6, and 8 was a function of differences in teacher qualifications. The schools with highly qualified teachers serving large numbers of minority and low-income students performed as well as much more advantaged schools.

Most studies have estimated effects statistically. Another study compared African-American high school youth randomly placed in public housing in the Chicago suburbs with city-placed peers of equivalent income and initial academic attainment and found that the suburban students, who attended largely white and better-funded schools, were substantially more likely to take challenging courses, perform well academically, graduate on time, attend college, and find good jobs.

This state of affairs is not inevitable. Twelve states are now working directly with the commission on this agenda, and others are set to join this year.

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