Disproportionate Representation

African-American boys are placed in special ed at a disproportionately high rate.

Boys are subject to discipline much more than girls.

African-American boys are subject to discipline at higher rates than boys in general.

African-American, Latino, and South Pacific Islander students are under-represented in advanced learning programs. White students are over-represented in advanced learning programs.



RootCause said…
I'd like to see to what extent the correlation is due to poverty and lower education levels of parents. Are you sure race is the right explanation? Or is the disparity largely or even entirely explained by differences in household income and household education level?

The reason this is important is that the two explanations require different solutions. One says children of families in poverty and families with no parent with a college level education require extra attention in school. The other says that race is a factor in education and must to be considered. These are two explanations with very different solutions.
Anonymous said…
Right, root cause is never plain old racism or cultural bias? We wouldn't have any of that in Seattle. Right?

The disproportionality is even greater than it looks. Consider that nearly half of the white students have been siphoned off to private schools, and it's not the half bottom that are going private. The remaining white students by all reckoning should be over represented in special education (private schools don't provide special education except for a few). The remaining white students should be under-represented in advanced learning since there are many private schools providing that to able-bodied, mostly white students. The remaining white students should be more likely to be suspensed and require discipline, since that too isn't something private schools seek. Instead, we seek exactly the opposite. All that points to is a disproportionality that is even greater than that reported. SPS is around 20% African American, Seattle is around 8% African American. SPS is 40% white, Seattle is around 75% white. Clearly, the privates are taking mostly white students, or at least, disproportionatedly admitting them. And they seek the high achievers.

Pie in the Sky said…
Racism? I wouldn't think that is the major reason. Economic factors, which are frequently a vestige of racial oppression in this country, yes. How to solve? Dump cash into low performing schools. Coach kids who are failing wherever they are. Get rid of race labels and report scores by family income level. Don't bus kids(already stopped) but partner high and low performing schools for special projects or events, so kids can see close up their peers who seem so different on paper.
Anonymous said…
I wish there was some way to track the amount/quality of early childhood ed. received by students. In Seattle, many of the kids from middle and upper-income families of a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds start preschool by the age of two (through the various co-ops, etc.), if not sooner. We started with PEPS at 6-weeks, then moved into the Parent-Infant class at SCCC when my child was 6 months old. This is not the case for many children from lower income families. Could there be a correlation?

anonymous said…
Yes, Solvay I think there is a distinct correlation. In addition to pre-school kids from upper middle class families frequently get taken to the science center, and the museum of art, to bookstores and libraries, and on vacations. They play T-ball or soccer starting at age 4 and go to nature camp and science camp instead of daycare. They eat healthy foods instead of cheaper processed foods and and fast food. They have access to better medical insurance and health care, tutors, SAT study classes, and on and on and on. It all adds up and has a cumulative affect. But I don't think it is racism, I think it's socio economics and the education level of parents.
Show Me the Money said…
But why are the test scores always by race as well as FRL? I think that sadly the black community has people amongst them who encourage this race consciousness for their own gain, witness Pottergate. Some in the white community also profit by using race to gain political power, witness the tea party. The bottom line is ways the bottom line.
Charlie Mas said…
Lynn Varner wrote a little piece on household income and student achievement for the September 2 Times.
dj said…
There was a study that came out this summer, conducted by the Council of State Governments, which followed every single middle/high school student for six years in Texas. Suspensions/expulsions that were mandatory (if the student did X, Y happened no matter what) were pretty even cross-racially. Discretionary suspensions, on the other hand, produced a disproportionate number of suspensions of black and Hispanic students.
Anonymous said…
if success in society was determined by how quickly one could play a snare drum or how loudly one could blast a trumpet, then the kids growing up around the most skilled drum bangers and horn blasters would see good practices modeled, and pick up all kinds of appropriate behaviors, in the house starting before they could crawl.

so kids who come from "successful" parents learn ... ???

JvA said…
Thanks for linking to the Varner piece. It links to this "Teachnology" website:


The section that I'm reading cites a 1996 study in which researchers discovered that human relationships need to take precedence over academics, that teachers can only successfully communicate with parents if the parents trust them and if the parents feel they are accepted by the teachers.

This reminds me of incidents I read about in the TFA blogs, in which the (white, Ivy League) TFA members encountered resistance from (African-American, poor) parents when they tried to discuss with them the problems their kids were having in the classroom. I imagine that teachers need to have finely honed interpersonal skills, the kind that you can only develop over years of life experience, in order to successfully communicate with parents over socioeconomic, racial, language, and/or other divides. And I think that may be one of the inherent problems with that program, despite its members' academic achievements.
Anonymous said…
The percentage of students who fail the MSP and HSPE is more closely linked to race than FRL. That debunks the whole notion that we're done with racism and relatedly, cultural bias. So does the linkage of discretionary suspension with race. How many black or minority students do you know that privately test themselves into advanced learning programs? 0.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
I'm trying to figure out how it is that none of the boys in the advanced math program at my son's school exceeded standards on the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP). The girls did. The boys and girls are taught in the same language. At least one minority female exceeded standards, but none of the white males did, so it's heartening to not see anti-minority and misogynist bias reflected in the MSP.

But how do children who get "4"s and test scores in the 80+ percentile for math every year not exceed MSP standards on math testing? Can a teacher or developmental psychologist or test designer explain that to me?

--Confused SPS elementary parent
Anonymous said…
Our national economy changed dramatically the past few decades. There once were entry-level jobs in manufacturing, shipbuilding, longshoring, fishing, forestry. Many of our ancestors got their start this way! Anyone with a work ethic and muscles could find work here, that is no longer true. On-the-job training was once commonplace but has been offloaded from companies onto workers to continually retrain themselves at their own substantial expense. New jobs are most likely found in faraway suburbs. Kids notice that a college degree often gets you nothing but more debt. They watch their parents struggle. Schools in SE do not celebrate academic achievement by offering any real Spectrum anywhere close to home. There is no incentive for these kids to work hard in school. Show them believable goals to work toward. How would they know about Spectrum when there isn't any in their community? Spectrum is a point of entry for most kids into APP and it's never been available in SE or SW, in any genuine way. Add a Spectrum program filled with the highest-performing kids in the building until testing can begin to identify kids, that's what worked at Van Asselt. Then assign the top scorers in the region. Let the kids see what success looks like.

Programs like Husky Promise are another step in the right direction. Paid internships and apprenticeships. Stop voting for Congress who plans to cut 3000 kids in Washington state from Head Start next year.

-Less Talk More Action
Show Me the Money said…
where do you get your data on race vs. income and it's correlation to test scores? I looked at NAEP results on the OSPI site and I see similar numbers for advanced level scores in low income and black and hispanic - 2% for 4th graders. Whites show 10%,
As far as discretionary discipline studies, who's to say it's racism?
My point was racism and other discrimination still exists but non-poor people can fight it effectively while the poor cannot.I don't understand why everyone wants to show how racist the system still is. Like I said it's money, income, wealth distribution - and that's an uncomfortable truth for "liberals" as well as conservatives; blacks as well as whites. Look at Obama. He is attacked as the blackKenyan boogeyman to appeal to lingering race-hate in the white populace but it's the socialism attacks that are really the meat. He scares the wealthy and the want-to-be wealthy because he really is a populist reformer at heart. He comes from community organizing background and despite his capitalist friendly attitude, he is a European style socialist. He wants health care for all and income redistribution. He's clear on that.
So, race isn't the issue with him any more than it is in schools. It's money, it's poverty. Give poor kids the resources at school to succeed and they will.
RootCause said…
Following up on the last comment, an example OSPI report for 2009 Grade 8 Math is here:


It says that black and hispanic students had an achievement gap of 27 and 32 points respectively, low income students had an achievement gap of 28 points.

Without being able to cut the data by black low income students, black non-low-income students, hispanic low income students, etc. (does anyone know how to get that data?), it is hard to determine precisely what is responsible but, on the face of it, it appears low income is a big factor and perhaps even the dominant factor.

On a related note, nationally on the SAT, there is a very strong correlation between test score and family income:


Again, I think the question is whether race is primary issue or whether the primary issue is family income and education level. If we misdiagnose the core of the problem, we will pick a solution that will not be effective.
Zara said…
Does it have to be either or? I come to conclusions of racism quite reluctantly, but you only have to read Roger Ailes boasting about how he won the South for the Republicans to know it’s alive and well. I can’t believe that many individual teachers (in our area anyway) purposely single out black kids, but you have to acknowledge that the way the system itself is set up is based on centuries of racism, some subtle, some horrifying. The white flight that occurred after school deseg and busing left black kids in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Busing them into white schools many miles away may have helped some individual students, but it broke up functioning neighborhood schools in functioning black communities. And for many decades the newly integrated schools were truly racist. Black kids were air-dropped into an environment of low expectations (for them), comparative disadvantage both economically and educationally, and overt antipathy (teachers refusing to touch them, is just one tiny example). Also, black parents were understandably reluctant to become involved in schools that were majority white, unwelcoming, and far away, thus contributing, over time, to a culture of non-involvement, which is all the more detrimental in a time when, due to miserly budgets, among other factors, parental involvement is considered essential to a student’s success.

All that said, the socio-economic factors mentioned in these comments are, in 2011, at the core of differences in educational attainment. The practice of disaggregating student data by race makes me queasy for reasons you all mentioned, but also because it affects black kids’ (and their teachers’) expectations for themselves and for their chances in life. Don’t think they don’t hear the statistics. It’s true, though, that many black and minority leaders don’t want this practice to stop, mainly because they fear that attention to the unique problems of black kids will quickly disappear. As I see it, given the historic treatment of blacks in America, they’ll take the devil they know. It’s certainly possible that some people in the educational system see an advantage to themselves in these types of racial data, but that’s mostly a cynical and incorrect interpretation.

By the way, I thought that coverage of Potter-gate, along with the smearing of the AME and the Urban League, was racist. It was shocking, actually, to see the local media (and parents) go after these stories with such ravenous glee, when stories of the pro-rich tax structure that’s in large part responsible for the systematic de-funding of our state’s schools - and which has a disproportionate effect on minority and poor communities - are few and far between.

Ok. I’m incapable of posting a short comment, but this is not a simple issue. There are many more factors than have been mentioned in this thread.
Anonymous said…
The New Student Assignment Plan assigns students to schools based on residence address. Seattle has a history of segregated housing, including discriminatory covenant laws which persisted well into the 1970s. Middle-class minorities could not buy homes in certain communities for many years. Many of the neighborhood patterns we see today reflect that legacy. Minorities were locked out of more desirable neighborhoods and lost that wealth advantage when better areas were improved by the City, preventing inheritance transfer of that wealth to this generation. Our city geography adds disparity between view property and the valley, which segregates housing based on economic patterns. Lower-income areas became more concentrated with people from discriminated-against groups. Our southeast has fewer parks, walkable grocery stores or sidewalks, yet some even on this blog criticize minority parents for "not taking their preschoolers to the zoo" (LOL!) Services for immigrants and low-income are often located near the city core. Not all of this affects every family, but these are some of the factors which concentrate the effects of both racism and poverty in struggling schools.

Whatever happened to the district's promises to make "every school a quality school?" They used that cliche to justify this new student assignment plan which has re-segregated our public schools. Every citizen of Seattle should be demanding an answer to that question. Southeast initiative didn't change anything. Instead of a good comprehensive high school at Cleveland we get this overpriced experiment known as "STEM" and complete chaos at Rainier Beach where almost all the staff quit last year and the students did not have textbooks! What justifies Aki Kurose getting the TFA teachers, and why won't building leadership protect kids from being attacked by adults in the building, or call the police? Why won't the city provide police to keep the area around RBHS safe for kids to get into school? Why have other middle schools been upgraded and remodeled, but not Mercer or Aki Kurose? There is no accountability in district leadership!

-Separate Schools are Still Unequal
SMM said…
you make the points but what's the solution? I don't like busing. It sends the message that you need to be around a "better" class of kids and in a "better" neighborhood to get a good education. Pumping in cash to historically segregated andor under-performing schools sends a different message. More like, we want your school and you to succeed and we will make every effort to help you make that happen. Empowerment, not charity. The district is talking the talk and they need to be forced to walk the walk.
Charlie Mas said…
Two things are often cited as contributing causes for the over-referral of African-American boys to Special Education:

1. Teachers who are White, middle-class women and don't understand the culture of Black, low-income boys. The differences are along three dimensions: differences in gender culture, differences in class culture, and differences in ethnic culture. The result is mis-read signals so that student behavior (which is within the norms for their culture) appears outside the norms of the observer.

2. Incorrect presumptions about the root motivations of student behavior. Is the child disruptive because he is bored with a lesson because it is too simple for him? Is the child disruptive because he is bored with the lesson because it is beyond his abilities? Is the child disruptive because he is physiologically incapable of sustaining his focus on the lesson? Is the child disruptive because he has been unreasonably expected to sit still at a desk for hours at a stretch? Does the teacher make a presumption about the cause without really working to discover the cause?
Charlie Mas said…
I have certainly seen people deeply concerned by the disproportionate application of discipline on African-American students over White students. African-American students are disciplined about four times as frequently than White students.

Boys are disciplined about ten times as frequently as girls, but I haven't seen as much concern for this disproportionate application of discipline.

What's the difference? Why don't people worry about that disproportionate outcome?

If the disproportionate discipline of African-American students is proof of racism then isn't the disproportionate discipline of boys equally proof of sexism?
Anonymous said…
I think many on this blog have listed the solutions. Much of it hardly earth shattering or breaking news solution. But you do need a very dedicated person with the tenacity, toughness, savviness, and deep belief to stay to see things through, not just to do the talk and walk, but to dig deep and lay down roots...to stay in this community for a very long time.

I don't think ambitious and very smart people like our exec directors, the Super, and charitable philanthropists have the time and energy to do that. If we can get a dedicated soul like Geoffrey Canada, with his attributes and character (preferably who is home grown, but far apart from Silas Potter and his buddies) to fight for these schools, one by one, we could get somewhere.

I know it sounds lilke I'm waiting for superman, but I'm not. Given that up years ago as a 7 year old. But I still hope for a person who doesn't give in to the easy way, who is willing to bring back SAFE schools, bring back pride to kids by showing them they have people behind them, supporting them and believing in them, don't and won't make excuses for them, and expect them to work hard to learn.

For people like me who grew up with busing, in rough quarters (section 8), as immigrants or new arrivals from the rough and tumble cities of Detroit, Atlanta (before the boom), we made it because we had at least one person behind us, who often was not kind, but provided some order and push to keep us on the straight and narrow path to get out. I also had the experience of 2 good teachers (one in ES, and one in HS) out of 40+ who were tough and push me to belileve I can learn English (back then we didn't have ESL) and get an academic scholarship to a public university.

-staying hopeful
Anonymous said…
"If the disproportionate discipline of African-American students is proof of racism then isn't the disproportionate discipline of boys equally proof of sexism?"

LOL! omg Charlie hahaha sorry I am trying to type but hahahahahaha thanks, man! I needed a good laugh today!

-laughed 'til I fell off the chair
Anonymous said…
SMM, I think if the district made an honest effort to place well-run and in-demand programs such as Spectrum in undersubscribed schools, with all-voluntary busing, that would go a long way toward solving the problem. I don't have any data to support this opinion, only our family's good experiences. I think most people are against mandatory busing. There are also some who are against yellow buses being provided at all, but I believe that providing transportation is a necessary component of supporting good programs.

-my 2 cents
seattle citizen said…
Here is a guest column by Rudy Crew in the Seattle Times, entitled "Time for new strategies to create a sustainable vision for American education."

"Rudy Crew, professor at University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, was superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools from 1993-1995 and served as chancellor of New York City Public Schools from 1995 to 2000."

Some good points he makes, relevant to this discussion about race, poverty and education:

"Politicians need to stop the debate about No Child Left Behind and the love affair with charter schools despite the lack of compelling results. Instead, they must put forward a sustainable vision that will stimulate business, arts, philanthropic and university communities to weigh in more strategically to improve math and literacy skills and that offers a national internship program for high-school students. We need greater accountability and transparency for teachers, administrators and boards of education, but it's for far more than just testing our children.

A new set of strategies that goes well beyond standardized tests expands the notion of literacies to include:

• An occupational literacy that connects our students to the careers in which they compete;

• A civic literacy that allows our students to participate in our community as informed citizens, and

• A personal literacy that empowers our students with the social graces they need to comport themselves with dignity and to respect unique cultures, different values and new ways of thinking and understanding."
Anonymous said…
ShowMeTheMoney, Look at the test that everyone takes. And guess what? It aint NAEP. It's MSP, and it's EOC. They are needed to graduate. In the case of a test that everyone takes, the highest correlation to failure is race. Who the hell even takes the NAEP? I don't know anyone who did. And, why would they? It doesn't count for anything at all.

And yes. Charlie's right on the point. Disproportionate discplinary action against boys is a form of sexism. Except he seems to live in lala land, where there's neither racism nor sexism... and his big point is.... *gasp* wow, we also have sexism, therefore racism must not exist. ... in some sort of weird logic. Wow. As if it was unthinkable that there might be more than 1 "ism" working in the same place at the same time. Unthinkable!

But isn't it a happy world, when we can just blame everything on poverty? And then say, oh well, The poor ye shall always have. Se la vie.

Anonymous said…
re: sexism

The majority of discipline addressed in the code conduct has to do with behaviors more common in males than females. Girl on girl aggression is different than the types of aggressive behaviors typically "referred for disciplinary action." It is also far more difficult to identify, observe, and quantify as to the severity of its impact. Read "Odd Girl Out." Many of the aggressive behaviors that manifest in girls could fall under the "bullying" laws. However, investigation of incidents is problematic when it might just be a simple "Hello, (insert name)."
Charlie Mas said…
Thank you, observer, for telling me what I believe. Without you I would never know.
seattle citizen said…
Observer, you write that "In the case of a test that everyone takes, the highest correlation to failure is race."

I'm genuinely curious:
Could you show us the data that backs this up? Are race and poverty closely correlated? Which data are you using, and can you break it down for us so that your claim carries weight?
seattle citizen said…
Anonymous 5:39, your post might be deleted because there is no identifier (either a user name or just sign it at bottom so we can all follow "one person's" comments and get to know their mind. You can be anonymous, just pick a name and use it.)

I'm reposting your post in case it's deleted, because I think your information is important to remember:

"re: sexism

The majority of discipline addressed in the code conduct has to do with behaviors more common in males than females. Girl on girl aggression is different than the types of aggressive behaviors typically "referred for disciplinary action." It is also far more difficult to identify, observe, and quantify as to the severity of its impact. Read "Odd Girl Out." Many of the aggressive behaviors that manifest in girls could fall under the "bullying" laws. However, investigation of incidents is problematic when it might just be a simple "Hello, (insert name)."
seattle citizen said…
I'm still wondering what one (a member of the public; a policy maker; a teacher) is to do with the information that is a) generated merely by a student checking a box ("White"; "Black", etc); and b) the data deriven from that once tests are scored.

What are we to make of these categorized groups of test score averages, since we have no idea who the REAL student is (other than "White" or whatever)?

If we read that the average "Black" score is lower than the average "White" score, are there general policy decisions that follow, and if so, what?

If a teacher reads that a particular student of hers or his is "Black", what decisions might the teacher make, given that information?
True Story said…
Citizen, I have an example of what a teacher might do upon "reading" that a student is "Black". I puting reading in quotes because in this case if the teacher DID read anything about the student, that is ALL she read.

My child is identified as Black on district records. Upon entering
2nd grade, her new teacher gave each child a book. The book she chose for my daughter, who was reading a middle-school level biography and one of the Harry Potter's at the time was a beginning reader with a single word per page. But to be fair, it had a black kid talking in jive (I guess), saying "Yo!". So she sure got THAT right.

That began an entire year of fighting to get my kid the education she deserved from a teacher who never missed a chance to tell me where she needed to improve versus notcing any talents.

Do I think that maybe this happens with a number of teachers to a number of minority kids simply because of skin color? You betcha-I hear stories all the time. I know my story isn't isolated. Is there data, like Charlie wants to see? Beyond the test scores, probably not. But the stories are real.
Sceptical said…
True Story,
That sounds horrible, and your kid sounds very smart, Harry Potter and middle school level biographies. Frankly, it is incredible, I mean unbelievable. How about a name, teacher or school? Because if it's true it's actionable.
Anonymous said…
Dear Sceptical,
May I ask, why are you "skeptical?" Do you doubt this parent's story? I don't! IT'S NOT "UNBELIEVABLE" it's tragic and can make the student start to doubt their abilities too! Have you heard of Pygmalion effect? This stuff happens too often, as I've witnessed in more than one elementary school in which I worked! My job as reading tutor was to follow the teacher's instructions, even when the student was capable of more! It was so frustrating that I finally quit. I think that's why some parents, who experienced the same themselves as children, avoid placing their child in advanced learning where they may be the only minority child in a classroom!

I hope you will clarify why are you skeptical?

-There is none so blind as he who will not see.
True Story said…
Of course you don't believe it, "Sceptical" how could a black kid be so smart!? I don't think it was actionable for a teacher to give a kid the wrong book-but I certainly did complain, more than once, to the school as the year went on.

Perhaps you've heard of gifted children? My child is one of them, and reading is her strongest area. This was a school in south Seattle and it was 5 years ago. The teacher is long gone (I like to think we were not the only ones to complain).

"None so blind" you are dead on. By the end of the year, my child was so convinced she wasn't smart that she pretty much stopped trying. It took a summer of tutoring that allowed her to do work at her real level, and with an experienced teacher of color for her to get her grove back.

We're not in the Seattle district any longer, but we were fortunate that before moving we had some great teachers. Still, I run into parents of color with similar stories often enough to know that our experience was far from unique.
Still Sceptical said…
Firstly, I don't doubt that the child is very smart, that is a very high reading level for starting 2nd grade, but very possible. I, however, find it 1) hard to believe a teacher in 2nd grade would not recognize this advanced level and allow the child to read at her/his appropriate level and (2) that this was done with a conscious or subconscious racist intent. What school are we talking about and who was the teacher? If you are going to say people are that racist, you should back it up a little.
True Story said…
Sceptical, you weren't paying attention. I said this teacher gave her the book upon ENTERING school, not after she'd seen her read in class. She knew nothing but her race, since if she'd READ her file, she'd have seen her DRA scores. That she chose a book featuring a black child tells me it was chosen on purpose, so she DID look at my child's racial identifying information prior to seeing her.

Her attitude towards my child and other kids of color all year was less than ideal. You may think what you will but it was a different attitude than what she showed non-black children.

This blog allows anonymous parents to comment about their kids, their kids' teachers, principals, assistant principals and whole schools without outing themselves or their kids ALL THE TIME. I find it interesting that on THIS topic, you insist I name names and out myself.

The teacher is long gone, the principal is long gone, the ASSISTANT principal is long gone and my child is well into middle school in another part of King County. There is no need to out anyone at this point. I know what I know, and I know that I am not alone. I sat in on a meeting in S. Seattle recently between black parents and Dr. Enfield. Every parent had a story of their kid(s) being treated badly by a Seattle School District teacher because of their race. Someone was writing it all down-it's a public record. Go look into THAT. It's much more current than my own story. We're fine now.
Maureen said…
This line of discussion makes me sad and discouraged. It seems to me that a major problem here is that the adults involved can't seem to assume good intentions on each others parts.

The 2nd grade teacher gave a kid a book on the first day. The kid was capable of reading at a higher level. We don't know if every kid in the class was handed an easy book to start with (to get a baseline and to minimize the chance of stigmatizing slower readers). We don't know if white kids all got books with white characters (boys with boys? girls with girls?) or if it was random. We just don't know. From what we read here, True Story started the year believing the teacher thought her daughter was stupid because she was black and seems to have gone from there. I worry that black parents are more likely to assume that the teachers are underestimating their kids (probably with good reason based on their own experience) and don't assume good intentions.

Just as a counter to the above: my daughter is white and had a white 1st grade teacher who had me convinced that my kid was not particularly bright. I bought into it because her learning style was very different from her older brother. First grade was not a particularly great year. In 2nd grade the (white and more experienced with young kids) teacher raved about how brilliant my kid was and we ended up testing her for APP.

I don't really blame the first grade teacher, my kid had a tendency to sit under the table and cry (too much noise? bored?) and there were 27 other kids in the class. Point is, race had nothing to do with it. Sometimes teachers screw up. I wish every one could cut them some slack and at least initiate a conversation assuming good intentions.

The same kid had a 4th grade teacher who is black. She was very strict and structured. It sort of bugged me (rest of the school is pretty loose). I assumed she knew what she was doing and didn't complain even when my daughter came home whining. She turned out to be one of my daughter's favorite teachers.

Someone posted a link to this article in another thread. It's called What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.

I would love to read a corresponding article written by a black parent about what they would like to hear from teachers. I think it would help everyone communicate better. I wonder if that article has been written?
True Story said…
Maureen, the book my daughter was given had ONE WORD per page. It's for ages 3- 6 and one Amazon review says her *17-month old* loves it! It's called "Yo! Yes?" It wasn't the same kind of book she gave the white kids. And that wasn't the only issue we had with her, and we weren't the only family of color who HAD issues with her.

I suppose it seems like I went in based on that one incident assuming the worst, but trust me, I had only had positive experiences with teachers, black AND white until then, so I too, assumed she knew what she was doing. Until it was obvious that our child and those who looked like her were being treated differently. I don't think, to this day, that the teacher thought she was doing anything wrong. But she was making internal assumptions.

What I find sad is that in a thread about the disproportionality of the treatment of black kids in schools, I gave my opinion and experiences and people are trying to discount them. And people wonder WHY there are still problems. I'm out.

I know what we went through. I know the scars it left on my kid. Had it been just the 1 book, we could have worked around it, but it was constant underestimating what she could do, contant critique and favorable treatment of the non-black kids. What saddens me is that on this blog, I'm being doubted even though *I* was there.
Maureen said…
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to discount your opinion. It's hard not to base a blog response on just what we've read even though we know there must be much more detail to the story. I absolutely recognize that some teachers are flat out racist and sexist.

I think it is true that adults who don't have good memories of their own school days tend to bring those feeling with them to their kids schools (and vice versa) and that tends to create tense relationships between teachers and some parents. I have seen that play out in families of all colors when the parents take the kids' side against the teacher without even really hearing the teacher's side. I don't think that is good for the kids at all and ends up hurting them in the long run.

I don't mean to imply that you have done that True, just that I have seen it happen.
Scepitcal said…
OK, True, you're out. I didn't mean to offend you or disrespect your child, I just wanted to know if you were willing to name the school or the teacher. I don't care who you are but if this info would reveal your identity, I understand. Believe me, i wouldn't fess up to the stuff I've said about my school and people in the district. that's one of the beauties of an anonymous blog.
It is ironic, however, that you refer me to public testimony by parents complaining about the same issues who are still at their schools and have to see the teachers they are criticizing.
I think if a teacher is clearly racist they should be called out in public to answer for that. I think you could do it without revealing your identity.
Anonymous said…
This is the reason most of us who do experience stuff True described don't talk about in public, even anonymously. We chose to act( if we can by) pulling our kids out of the system. A good friend, also black, pulled her kid out because their plea to increase the "rigor" for their child went unheard (while other classmates got more difficult stuff). That child is now in private school and doing very well.

True is not alone. My kid's public school is 12% FRL, and about 75% white and they spend a lot time talking about the diversity in the school and how much it is appreciated. Fact is the diversity is great as long as our number is very small. Kids of color are spread out in 3 classes per grade to offer that diversity enrichment. Sometimes these kids would have liked to be in classes together in greater number, but that isn't going to happen. I won't even mention the stuff I hear from some of the "involved parents" and the pitying sigh and assumptions made about these kids and how their achievement gap affects the school's report card (could have been a 5 except for the gap). No one is outright "racist" in the way mainstream media depicts it. Still it exists and eats away slowly and silently.

-Long way to go
Anonymous said…

evidence requested by seattlecitizen that a racial gap occurs independent from income.


an article that eloquently expresses the frustration that people of color often feel when trying to discuss matters of race with whites.

--Thanks For Trying, True Story
seattle citizen said…
True Story,
I am glad you posted your child's experience here, as it is sooo important that we keep hearing that children are impacted sometimes (and some more than others, don't I know it) by false and possibly racist beliefs or understandings ot their teachers.

But I believe your comment is diected at something a bit different than what I was trying to ask about: I am wondering what educators (primarily, but also community and "general public") are to make of the various "data". What is the checking of the "White" box or the "Black" box or the "Native American/American Indian" box supposed to do to inform policy and instruction, at the macro and micro levels?
Then, when these checked boxes are gouped for reports on schools, etc, what policy/procedure/instruction might then follow?

I think you are getting me when you write that the teacher had no idea who your child was EXCEPT the checked box when the teacher handed your daughter a "Black-themed" or perhaps "Urban-themed" book. The teacher in that case was, by your account, blatantly racist BECAUSE of the checked box.

I'm still looking for answers, from anyone (the subject is so important it needs everyone's attention) about what these checked boxes, what these groups of "Whites" and "Blacks" test data, are intended to do? How will they make a child's education better? One would assume that that is the intention, otherwise why do it? So there must be some action that these things drive - what might it be?
I believe they drive some unintended consequences (one would have to be pretty cynical, not me of course! to think that some of the negatives were intended...no, not me...) are bad: They perpetuate the idea that people are this or that, and the this or that is monolithic, with prescribed cultural, social, intellectual ways and mores, when I believe all of us are a mix of things.
Yes, "cultural competency" (in the current usage) is necessary - teachers (and all of us!) should do our best to be aware of and act on the different ways people are. Teaches, especially, should not act on preconceived notions of who a child is. But do the checkboxes, the grouped test scores, provide some sort of benefit? If wo, what? If not, let's get rid of 'em because they label our kids.
seattle citizen said…
arruughh! True Story, I just wrote a long and of course quite eloquent follow up on our discussion but it was eaten by Blogger. Short version: I tink that teacher acted in a racist fashio. I think, from what you write, that this was based MERELY on reading that the child was Black, and then giving the child book "for Blacks."
This is what I fear the checkboxes do, and on a larger scale, what the grouped test scores do: tell a public there's this general problem, the problem is supposedly addressed in a general fashion, and child is lost in the generalities (or worse, hurt by them, "yo." Shudder.)
I'm still left wondering: What are the positive outcomes expected from checked boxes and grouped test scores? What sorts of policy changes are expected, what sorts of curriculum changes, what are educators expected to do with the knowledge that a child's parents checked "White" or "Black" and what are we citizens to do with the knowledge that "Black students, generally, in School X performed at a lower level of success than did Whites."
Worse still, in my opinion, what are children who identify as "Black" or have been thusly identified by their parents or by society to with the knowledge, acumulated over years of "test score data; grouped", that "Black children don't perform as well as White children." I mean, how could that possibily be a good thing for a young child to hear?
That it is predicated on boxes checked and on grouped scores leaves me wondering what the purpose is, what positive actions could possibly result that would mitigate what I see as the damage.
seattle citizen said…
Anon 6:47, thanks for the links. Glanced thru the McKinsey, loooong paper...didn't see what I was looking for, maybe you can point me right.

Observer wrote(is that you? It's so confusing):
"In the case of a test that everyone takes, the highest correlation to failure is race."
I asked:
"I'm genuinely curious:
Could you show us the data that backs this up? Are race and poverty closely correlated? Which data are you using, and can you break it down for us so that your claim carries weight?"

I'm hoping you can break down at least McKinsey, in simple form, so I understand. I'm not seeing it but I'll keep looking. Are race and poverty correlated?

Word Verifier has a dreampaw...!
seattle citizen said…
True Story, perhaps a "checked box" MIGHT help an educator put their "cultural competency" to work - be aware of differences, be open and caast a wide cultural net when teaching, listening, acting...that might prove helpful! Yet it is still just a checked box. "Black" could be soooo many different things, not the least of which is either "African American" perhaps generational, OR "African Immigrant."
So a teacher might say, "Black", okay, the reminder to think about the various possibilities of "Black" cultures was just lit. A good teacher would know a little about ALL cultures, and maybe be open to hearing a Black voice.
Might be beneficial.
But I still wonder about categorization, misudertanding of culture, mid-identification, and in the worst case, a racost reaction.
Anonymous said…
Sorry, meant to say to look on page 13 of Mckinsey report

--Thanks for trying, true story
Sceptical said…
So it's such a drag trying to talk to white folk about our issues. They just don't get it.
Well guess what TS and friend? You're right but you're wrong. Whites are just as mired in the legacy of race domination legacy of this nation as blacks. We all wonder just what our ancestors said or even did regarding slavery and Jim Crow. That is disturbing burden for many of us and we see the horrors of the past when we look at black people. I imagine it's the way Germans feel around Jews.
The fact is were in this together and whites need help and blacks need help. We have travelled a long time together and we are stuck with each other, like Siamese twins. Whites and blacks need to revisit the horrible past we shared, acknowledge it, and agree that our children cam use it as a way to come together. Our generation is making progress but the discomfort is high on both sides. I say, that's expected and we should accept it band keep trying. It's when we give up that we fail our children.
Anonymous said…
Dear Sceptical,

Please explain HOW this little girl's experience adversely affected you or your kids or any other white person? Please tell us, Sceptical, in what way has YOUR education been harmed by racism?

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU, SCEPTICAL. The system is unfair, and you are full of crap.

-there is none so blind as he who will not see
Sceptical said…
How does it affect me and my kids if there are racist teachers in SPS? For one, I don't want my kids to grow up with racist ideas and the teachers' attitude will surely rub off on the other kids in class. Secondly, racism hurts our whole society, of which I consider myself a member. I don't represent white people, but I can tell you that some of us need to better understand the perspective of black people and this story of this girl is a very valuable tool, I think, to look deeper at race in our city, school district and our country.
And it is about me. It's about everyone who cares if this kid and others like her grow up thinking white people are full of crap or if maybe some white people want to understand what really happened in this country between black and white and make it right.
Two sides said…
I realize that racism does occur, harming minority kids, but I've also seen the consequences when administrators are afraid to discipline kids because of their race.
A few years ago, a K-8 school had many uncontrolled middle schoolers who couldn't be disciplined sufficiently because of their race. A teacher was injured by a student running through the hallway and many other middle school students, especially smaller and younger ones, were constantly afraid.
Administrators shouldn't be afraid to discipline students because it will throw off their racial disciplinary categories, just like administrators shouldn't be afraid to discipline boys when needed (I have a son who needs discipline to keep him in line.)
seattle citizen said…
Two sides wrote,
"I've also seen the consequences when administrators are afraid to discipline kids because of their race.
A few years ago, a K-8 school had many uncontrolled middle schoolers who couldn't be disciplined sufficiently because of their race"

The statistics of detention, suspension, and other punitive actions taken by schools shows the complete opposite, Two Sides, they show Blacks and Latinos being disciplined at much higher rates than Whites.
seattle citizen said…
Sceptical wrote that "that some of us need to better understand the perspective of black people"

ALL of us do, Sceptical, ALL of us do.
seattle citizen said…
Thanks for the directions. The chart (Exhibit A) on p 13 of McKinsey does show that whites perform at higher levels than blacks and Hispanics at all income levels (again, I write that with the caveat that that shows performance as measured by these tests, not overall performance as full human beings, nor disaggregated performance as, say, African American or African Immigrant and all the other nuances lost in such categories)

The rates of growth on that chart seem to maintain the same relationships ("gaps")throughout income levels, interestingly. So, if I'm reading this right...there IS a racial component to the "gap" but I would posit, perhaps, that some of that component is based on racism and some of it is based on the lingering effects, generationally, of poverty. If what I've read is true, that Blacks,, as a whole, have only 1/8th capital of Whites, then one might imagine that even a Black family in higher income levels is still experiencing the effects of a lack of access to the benefits of wealth. The great-grandparents didn't know the secret handshakes of power, and the secrets haven't all been learned yet.

Thank you for zeroing in on "data" that helps this discussion along. I wonder what we can DO with it, what actions should be taken.
Two sides said…
Actually, administrators are often afraid to discipline minority children because they know that they have already disciplined minority children more than whites. Then administrators and teachers are often stuck with horrible behavior and are afraid to discipline the kids for it. Trouble-making kids figure that situation out quickly and take advantage of it. That does a disservice to the troublemakers (who will just dig deeper holes for themselves with no one to stop them) as well as all the other kids - of all colors - who have to go to school with them.
Now I'm Really.... said…
I don't know if I'm just curiouser than most, but McKinsey & Co that wrote that report about race vs. income and test scores has quite a track record. Check out their wiki page. From an alumni heading up Enron to telling ATT that cellphones would never amount to much to a resolution against them by SPS teachers. I looked at the US ED Dept site where they got there raw data and "parsed" out the racial factor and I couldn't find any such conclusion. What did Sam Clemens say about statistics? Talk about full of crap.
Anonymous said…
"Now I'm really", can you include the link to the raw data that you are looking at? Agreed that McKinsey isn't a great organization, but let's not do fallacious reasoning about the achievement gap data based on other flaws of theirs. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and all that. Let others have a look at what's informing your thinking.

--thanks for trying, true story
seattle citizen said…
I would like to see the raw data too (not that I'm very good at analyzing it!). I noted that it was McKinsey who wrote the report, remembered their somewhat sketchy past, but decided to see what I could make of what they said anyway....
My Opinion said…
The raw data is from 2002 ELS scores compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics. McKinsey states it is difficult to seperate race and income in test scores but they have done so (parsed it out), but if you read their report they compare poor kids by race across states, for exaample stating that poor black kids do 5 times better in Mass. than in DC. Or that such and such group in this or that state is on the level of Bulgarians. I mean the amount of data is staggering and overwhelming to the point of being meaningless.And look at who funds and advises on this study. I see the familiar Gates and other foundations plus my favorite racial profiteer, Al Sharpton. The bottom line question is this, Is poverty the reason kids fail in school or is it racism? As was stated in this thread before, people with money can effectively counter racism through political, judicial or social means(moving private). Poor people can't. So it comes down to economic power and neither the Gates Foundation, Al Sharpton or many of the white and black middle class want to admit to that.

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