Gap in Black Student Outcomes

A story in the Seattle Times today ('Alarming' new test-score gap discovered in Seattle schools) reports a significant gap in the pass rates on state-mandated tests for Black students when they are disaggregated by the language spoken in their home.

In short, immigrant Black students out-perform African-American students on state tests. 62% of black students who come from homes where Amharic is spoken passed the state math tests while the pass rate for black students from English-speaking homes was only 36%. Even in the Reading tests, those who come from a home where Amharic is spoken passed at a 74% rate while those from English-speaking homes passed at a 56% rate.


Charlie Mas said…
Here's a question:

Why were these students test scores lumped together in the first place? Just because they have similar complexions? What else do these folks have in common?

Our system is really screwed up if it lumps together Somali immigrants with African-Americans, but that's what it does. And they do it based exclusively on skin color.

Of course, our system also lumps together all Asian and Pacific Islander people from a wide variety of cultures. The system puts them all together whether they are recent immigrants from Southeast Asia or fourth generation Americans from a mixed heritage.

I'm not as troubled by the different outcomes seen in the disaggregated data but by the grouping of the students together in the first place.
Charlie Mas said…
By the way, another really good education story in the Seattle Times by Brian Rosenthal.
Anonymous said…
Just an FYI, Amharic is the language of Ethiopian people, not Somali people.

Seattle parent
Jet City mom said…
Just because they have similar complexions? What else do these folks have in common?

I have been working with immigrant populations in SPS & these score differences don't surprise me at all.

I imagine they have been lumped together because it is easier & yes because their income & skin color is similar.

In my mind at least it also emphasizes the importance of parental/guardian influence.
Jet City mom said…
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Jet City mom said…
I also want to add that while I have tutored in just three different schools, I have seen at times, lower expectations for African-Americans which the students pick up on & exploit.

African - American parents who want their children to be pushed, have had to really advocate for them to be placed in appropriate classes ( then again the same can be said for any parents whose children don't test into APP)
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Whelan said…
Let me throw out some propositions here for discussion, and I would be particularly interested in hearing from African American readers on their take on whether or to what degree the following assertions are true:

First, the recent African immigrant chose to come here and she was fleeing an awful situation in the hope of finding a better life. The African American with slave ancestry made no such choice, and for generation after generation has never had much reason to think of America as a place where her hopes could be fulfilled.

Second, there is, therefore, in the collective memory of African Americans of slave ancestry an understandable and justified resentment of white culture and its institutions--including, maybe most emphatically, its schools. As with the American Indian, schools were not so much the place you went to be liberated by knowledge, but where you went to get the blackness or redness bleached out of you.

Second, in the same way that the Jewish community would see it as a betrayal for one of its own to become a Christian to get ahead, or the Catholic in Ireland to become an Anglican or Presbyterian for the the same reason, it is similarly perceived among many African Americans as a betrayal of Black identity when an American black is ambitious to succeed on terms defined by white culture. Success is defined on any other terms, and too often by the ethos of the streets.

Fourth, White and Black educators of good will are understandably concerned about the achievement gap, but really what we have is an assimilation gap. We have a large group of Americans who have good reason to resist assimilation if assimilation is defined on white middle-class terms. Success in school too often means a betrayal of Black identity to the degree that Black identity requires resistance to assimilation into the broader "white" culture. Better to be poor and to retain some sense of cultural dignity than to sell out for conventionally defined success.

Fifth, poverty persists in the African American community so long as this historically understandable anti-assimilationist mentality dominates among so many in that community.
anonymous said…
And Marty McLaren explains it all here:

"McLaren, a former teacher, believes that black students whose families have been in the U.S. for generations often perform poorly because schools and general societal structures have imposed a culture of low expectations on them dating back to the days of slavery. It's heartbreaking," she said of the trend, which she classified as institutionalized racism.

These types of sweeping, all encompassing, generalizations about racism are harmful and divisive. It is disturbing to me that this statement was made by a newly appointed board director.

It is equally disturbing to me that Marty tried to explain away why she believed the low test scores were occurring, without offering a solution, or even her ideas, on how to improve them.

I'd like to find out if there is any shred of truth to Marty's generalization? Teachers I'm asking you. Do you have lower expectations for your African American students?

Anonymous said…
While certainly concerning and worthy of further examination, it should be emphasized that ELL students were excluded when comparing the groups. Had the scores of ALL African-American students been compared against the scores of ALL immigrant black students, there likely would have been a significantly different outcome.
anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jet City mom said…
Black identity requires resistance to assimilation into the broader "white" culture.

Don't the most successful students in SPS fall into the category " Asian"?

They do when you look at state or county graduation rates.
Every Student Counts said…
SPS has lumped "blacks" together for years even though the "black" community has asked for them to separate the groups to see what actually is happening with "black" students, yet they did not. Shame on them. It allowed them to say African American students were growing in academic achievement while the school district failed them.

There are many teachers who work exceptionally hard trying to reach and teach ALL students. Unfortunately our hands have been somewhat tied with the new latest trends"Readers and Writers Workshop" and EDM (to name a few).

While I believe we need consistent academic programs across the district, when the district removed individual teachers' ability to be creative, by exciting students in Reading, Writing, and Math in other ways, achievement for a number of students went down. Additionally, those creative teachers are burning out trying to "raise those MAP and MSP scores" teaching to the test, to get good evaluations.

How many people remember being inspired to learn by teachers whosliding show passion or creativity with what they were/are being required to teach?

Try as we might, we're being asked to jump through unnecessary hoops to make principals and downtown admin look good, making stupid standards posters, etc. vs spending that time creating fabulous lessons for students. Does anyone think students are looking at those stupid posters?!

Also, there are a number of recently hired principals who cannot lead teachers because they were teachers for only one or two years before jumping into mgmt roles. They don't know what they are doing, don't have the skills to help teachers be great teachers, fire those that are effective (Broadview) when they question them vs. sucking up to them.

Want more students to achieve? Start getting better, experienced administrators to run our schools across the board. Transfer some of those award winning and/or effective admin and teachers to struggling schools.

Sad to say, the district won't do that for fear of upsetting those communities where parents voices are strong.
Dorothy Neville said…
As much as I hate to suggest this, is the ability to do this dis-aggregation a direct result of the MGJ strategic plan with its way too expensive Data Warehouse? I know this is information folks have wanted for years, within and outside the district. Is it possible that now is finally the first time that it was feasible to create this analysis?

It should not be the case, one would think that a decent database ought to have already existed to do this. But we all know that SPS has been lacking in sophisticated tech skills.
One Observer said…

As an African American (Black) teacher I've yet to meet an African American parent who did not want their child to achieve for fear of "acting white" or "assimilating" (not quoting anyone here). Unfortunately it does pain me to say that while that may be the case the students who really struggle don't get the academic support needed at home to succeed. More often than not my experience has been that those parents don't show up for curriculum night or conferences. (White and Black).

Unfortunately though even though we have many successful educated blacks in America, those that are celebrated by Americans across the board are athletes and rappers.
Anonymous said…
Jack said: Second, in the same way that the Jewish community would see it as a betrayal for one of its own to become a Christian to get ahead, or the Catholic in Ireland to become an Anglican or Presbyterian for the the same reason, it is similarly perceived among many African Americans as a betrayal of Black identity when an American black is ambitious to succeed on terms defined by white culture. Success is defined on any other terms, and too often by the ethos of the streets.

This idea is put forth in the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, and the author, Bererly Daniel Tatum indicats that black kids did better before integration. With integration came an increased need to define onesself as separate from the white kids, and to adopt different goals. Black kids in the app classes report feeling that their black friends think they are trying to be white, and the kids in the app classes see them as "different from all those other black kids", and they feel like they somehow have to represent their race in the APP classes. Lotta pressure.

Interesting and unintended side effect of integration. Not saying separate but equal schools is ok in any way, of course.

lassen said…
I see this issue WAY differently.

I believe the issue is, once again, district irresponsibility with releasing unvetted data.

Mark Teoh, in the Rosenthal article, says this data is brand new, after they began the project just two months ago. Throughout the article, there are warnings that the data has not been analyzed and that conclusions should not be drawn yet, "officials said they need to study the new data further before speculating"... but "much of that distinction was lost on the parents in the audience."

Sounds like the 17% debacle to me -- releasing data before it's been vetted properly. In essence, bomb-throwing.

Why in the world would the district present data to a parent community meeting that hasn't been vetted and analyzed? Oh right -- that's what they do. They are sloppy and irresponsible with data.

I remember attending a parent meeting after the incorrect 17% college-ready data was released, then that was revised by Linda Shaw to 39% and that incorrect figure was distributed to parents, then that was proven wrong as well. The corrections came only after school staff and the newspaper did the work that the district's research and eval team did not.

Such data and stories have consequences. District: Be adults and do a thorough, thoughtful job and analysis BEFORE you release data to parents and start throwing numbers around.

Unless, of course, you have a vested interest in being inflammatory with data. i.e. If kids are failing so miserably, we must need ed reform really badly. This was absolutley the incentive of MGJ behind releasing the incorrect 17% number.

Please be wary of this recent release.
Anonymous said…
"Why were these students test scores lumped together in the first place? Just because they have similar complexions? What else do these folks have in common?"

Why do they lump all white people in together?
Anonymous said…
Mark Teoh couldn't statistically analyze his way out of a paper bag. Time for a true educational statistician as head of Research, Evaluation & Assessment, not another PhD in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Anonymous said…
I write this with great hesitation because the topic of the "black experience" whether they are African-Ameicans who have been here for generations or new immigrants that came here within the last 60 years and those who are somewhere in between a mixture of old and new and doesn't fall neatly into a category.

It is such a complicated world. Even within this world where I navigate among friends and families, I do so carefully. Unless you have some intimacy with it and feel comfortable speaking about it, I suggest readings and talking with people first (finding people to talk to about this honestly may not be easy as it requires a certain amont of established trust).

Some readings:

Brainwashed by Tom Burrell
Disintegration by Eugene Robinson
Any articles and books by Tim Wise and Joan Brasher

Seattle is still a perdominantly white city, around 70%, Asians near 14%, African Americans around 8% and Latinos, close to 7% (2010 census). It does not have a large African-American community like other cities in the East, Midwest, and South. If you go to NY, Atlanta, or DC, you will find a disaspora of black cultures and experience well represented. In Seattle, I would put it out there that it is easier to be invisible, especially if you fall into the lower SES (and true regardless of race/ethnicity). Which is why I fear that with NSAP, we will increase that invisibility (and I don't mean what gets put out by the media). It maybe something that majority of people find acceptable as trade off for access to neighborhood schools. So the district will work on increasing equity and educational opportunity. Personally, I don't know if in the end that is good enough, because the distance apart remains.

All mixed up
Anonymous said…
I do not think SPS helps students of any color with the current curricula, especially in math. The discovery math textbooks do not include examples for students to follow or enough practice lessons for students to become proficient. The result is a severe lack of progress when students reach high school, where passing algebra becomes a necessity to progress to higher math levels. Students are not trained sufficiently for vocational careers or college.

Better curricula can make a difference. Look at Mercer middle school and the progress they made when they switched to Saxon math. There are better textbook choices out there that can help students of poverty achieve more successful outcomes.

S parent
seattle citizen said…
Anonymous asks, in response to Charlie asking why the district lumps all Black people together, "Why do they lump all white people in together?"

Another, slightly tangential but relevant and important question might be: Why was Michael Healy "white"?

Healy was a respected and senior officer of the Revenue Service, commanding many NW ships and, by all accounts, "the gov-ment" in these parts and points north before states really got organized, yet he was able to be this commander only because this son of a slave passed for "white."

Was he White or was he Black? He was, of course, both...if one has to make categories to drop him into.

So in the "white group" (?) one finds all sorts of people, who are likewise grouped (by whoever is interested in grouping them.) NYC is famous for the varying degree of "whiteness" of its inhabitants of the past, and yet still: English on top, then in a changing order Italians, Greeks, Irish, Germans....Catholics...Jews (Hasidic, Reformed...)

Groups are, like race itself, political constructs, formed by the individual in the sense of who they are (as influenced by others); formed by groups themselves for some sort of celebration, historical coninuance, political or economic power...Or groups are formed by outsiders, seeking to categorize and place a "group" somewhere.

"Whites" of various "kinds" (? aren't we all sort of mixed by now?!) seem to have been "on top" for awhile (tho' this is changing, albeit slowly) and hence were able to decide groupings to their adavantage.

It wasn't to the benefit of "the whites" (as if this itself is some sort of homogeneous entity) to have Healy be white (competition, racism, etc etc): If we was "Black" he couldnt' compete and contribute equally in society. It was to the benefit of the "whites" to have him be Black. So he didn't tell anyone he was...

Whites ARE grouped, but in a sense they aren't, because if people think you're "white" and you don't tell them you're not, heck, you're white enough! The old distinctions of a hundred years ago, Italians, French, English etc, are slowly becoming unimportant - If you're in the white group as a whole you don't need to group yourself, or be grouped by others, because you're "in." It's those others that need to be grouped, your potential competition: It's wise to keep that stratification going to incite a little warfare between THOSE people: One, it makes it easier to ignore "them" ("heathens! fighting all the time! won't work!" etc etc) and two, it keeps them from looking up to see who is there at the top.
Catherine said…
One variable difficult to trace, and not accounted for, but that must have impact based on other studies, is that many now poor immigrant families, were of greater means in their home countries before they fled. The parents/grandparents were higher achievers, more schooled, and had greater opportunities, until whatever war/famine/regime change destroyed their countries. These adults can serve as effective mentors for their children here, even while the family exists at or below poverty because they have the background.

This excuses nothing, but comparing results, you have to factor in as many variables as you know affect results so you can know better what you're seeing.
Kate Martin said…
There are some pretty straightforward things we could do to improve this situation: 1. More book whisperers in the schools who can nurture an insatiable love of reading and learning in each student. 2. Develop and share a playcard with families and care-givers to emphasize the essential social and emotional skills the kids need for the classroom - urge everyone everywhere to model those behaviors 3. Share the playcard about the importance of diversity / tolerance training in the pre-kindgergarten years - urge everyone everywhere to model those behaviors. 4. Switch to more direct instruction in math as per the recommendations in the NMAP 2008 study. 3. Implement in-school suspension policies (like Baltimore) 4. Form advisories to connect families and students to their schools and help students craft and navigate their own personal development plans from pre-kindergarten on. 6. Tackle the problem of disassociation by creating more culturally relevant conditions and dual language literacy expectations for the diverse student body 7. Offer a wider menu of pathways that capture the interests and aptitude of many more students than our one-size fails most approach. There's many more steps that are proven strategies that we should adopt and adapt instead of doing more of the same which is exacerbating a problem that, granted, does have a foundation of poverty. But trying to help kids in high school to undo all the problems they've encountered in the last 12 years makes little sense. There are some things we can do and we should do them.
seattle citizen said…
Yes, Kate, there's plenty to do. The race/language/ethnicity categories, while sometimes helpful in making broad, generalized assumptions about "groups" and individuals, are increasingly a distraction from the real work of working with individuals AS individuals. In other words, all the meta-analysis is time and resource mis-directed - it should be directed at individual students, their educators, their parent/guardians, and their community - what does EACH STUDENT need? Not "What do THESE people or THOSE people do or need?
I also want to add that while I have tutored in just three different schools, I have seen at times, lower expectations for African-Americans which the students pick up on & exploit.

What do those lower expectations look like? Do teachers seem to give up after the first answer? Is it a behavior issue? I'm struggling to understand what that might look like?

Jack said:

"Success in school too often means a betrayal of Black identity to the degree that Black identity requires resistance to assimilation into the broader "white" culture. Better to be poor and to retain some sense of cultural dignity than to sell out for conventionally defined success."

I have read this before and while I could understand it to some degree, it seems so wrong to believe that doing well in school and getting a good job is "selling out." I agree that this is a pretty white-bread world but our country is certainly not the same place it was 40, 50 years ago.

Many black entrepreneurs ARE doing it their own way but you need the education and/or training to do it.

You need to know how to maneuver in the dominant world. This is for better or worse. Those of us who grew up in small towns or not middle class know - white or black or Asian - that learning the codes of the upper/middle class are a key to getting ahead.

You can be a smart person but fail on office behavior, being on time, etc. It makes a difference and I don't consider learning those differences to be selling out.
Anonymous said…
Melissa you wrote: "I have read this before and while I could understand it to some degree, it seems so wrong to believe that doing well in school and getting a good job is "selling out." I agree that this is a pretty white-bread world but our country is certainly not the same place it was 40, 50 years ago."

And you shouldn't believe it. It isn't about "selling out". Parents don't want their kids in gangs, commit crime, in jail, or shot dead. Not even gang bangers want this for their kids. By the time our youthful bravados come out of our penal system, they will have turned often for the worse. But I can tell you it is not what they want because theirs are short, unfulfilled lives. If you look at that world of incarceration, isolation, and segregation and the hold it has on black America, it is a very grim, unrelenting world. Seattle doesn't have the same meaness and violence as Newark or Oakland, but our kids do walk in that world and street codes do apply.

There is perception and reality and sometimes the two blur which makes life very confusing and hard to navigate. Are you stopped because you fit a description of an alleged suspect or are they just harassing you because they can? Lots of rational thoughts and irrational thoughts flicker and they form a perspective that isn't always verfiable, but happens often enough and you suspect it's beyond coincidental. That is the impression on one side. The other side may only see the "attitude" and hear enoug MFs and colors and that is enough to assume TROUBLE.

For some of our kids, they are not there yet to learn upper middle class codes. It would be great if they were and knew of guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson. They are still struggling to learn the street code, penal code, school code, family code, and what it all means to them and their lives.

All mixed up
dan dempsey said…
The immigrant families may have a higher percentage of two parent homes. Perhaps more likely to have a stay at home parent.

Phillip Solomon came with parents from Eritrea. He was the Student Body President at West Seattle High and went on to Johns Hopkins. Something good did come out of the Ethiopian Civil War.
lassen said…
Please stop for one second.

I would URGE you not to continue to speculate about this data until that data has been properly vetted.

This "data" was released prematurely, before analysis, etc. Critical thinking skills demand that everyone on this blog take a chill pill before putting so much faith in this latest district report.

After the 17% college-ready figure came out, everyone was speculating about why our kids weren't prepared to be accepted to college. Even the legislature was wringing its hands. And then, after all this energy about why we were failing so badly, it came out that that statistic wasn't just wrong, it was WILDLY wrong. It was a true Rosanne Rosanna-dana moment -- "never mind."

So before spending another second speculating about why the numbers are as they are, make sure the numbers are, indeed, correct, because they haven't been correct in the past.

Demand to see the raw numbers. Demand to study the metrics used. Demand to see which students were included, which were left out, as this can wildly swing the percentages.

Can't we learn a lesson from the past and just take a deep breath before trusting this latest report? Do your due diligence first.
seattle citizen said…
I agree with Lassen that we are all speculating on very nebulous data. I would want to see it more fleshed out. But at the root of it, I am disturbed by the continued use of such categories (at least they've finally made "Black" into TWO categories, but geez, aren't there more?) because data based on race seems to lead people to assumptions about race, there are way, WAY to many other factors that certainly pertain, and, well, it perpetuates racial classification.

This is one of the issues I wrestled with for years: How do we move past using race yet at the same time perpetuate it? Do individuals always WANT to be grouped with others from their country, their ethnicity, their skin color? Is it right to do so?

But in the meantime, yes, Lassen is right: We need more to look at than just what was in the papers....
BlArthurHu said…
My analysis with Asians. No one noticed top black group is one that is least "at risk". so behaving yourself is the big unmentioned factor, chinese, Japanese and Koreans dominate top scoring groups - Arthur Hu
BlArthurHu said…
Oops. link here: or search for "Seattle Schools Find African Immigrants Outscore Native English Speaking AfAms"
dan dempsey said…
OSPI releases list of 57 "persistent under-achieving" schools." December 19, 2011

Seattle has 5 "persistent under-achieveing schools"
Cleveland due to graduation rate
and four with achievement deficits
Rainier Beach
M.L. King, Jr.
Interagency Programs.

OSPI classifies by ethnicity sort of... and this is likely used for NCLB AYP

American Indian
Asian/Pacific Islanders

sometimes separating
Pacific Islanders
from Asians
dan dempsey said…
About levels of expectation...

Read RCW 28A 600.020 .... Exclusion of student from classroom — Written disciplinary procedures-etc.

In order to preserve a beneficial learning environment for all students and to maintain good order and discipline in each classroom, every school district board of directors shall provide that written procedures are developed for administering discipline at each school within the district.

Any student who creates a disruption of the educational process in violation of the building disciplinary standards while under a teacher's immediate supervision may be excluded by the teacher from his or her individual classroom and instructional or activity area for all or any portion of the balance of the school day, or up to the following two days, or until the principal or designee and teacher have conferred, whichever occurs first. Except in emergency circumstances, the teacher first must attempt one or more alternative forms of corrective action.

Over the last decade ... several high poverty / high minority schools ....... have done a big de facto .... ignore RCW 28A 600.020

Children need to be taught behavioral expectations from an early age.

Students need to be provided with appropriate lessons that contain proven highly effective instructional materials and use proven strategies and practices.

When there are few if any interventions provided when students begin to struggle .... what is the expectation?

When instruction practices and materials are so poor that large numbers of students are struggling ... interventions are not really possible ... after the fact.

Goodloe-Johnson's "one-size fits all insanity" never got anywhere near her lofty goals for students ..... and her bonuses revealed no-accountability. .... But left far too many students struggling and without interventions.

What is that level of expectation ... and is it uniformly applied ... check RCW 28A 600.020 and stroll around the District for your answer.

That beneficial learning environment for all students is not universally available.
Kathy said…
@Dorothy or Charlie, Which tests are being used for this analysis? MAP? MSP?
Are high schools placing test results into the Academic Warehouse? For some reason, I thought the Academic Warehouse was for elementary schools, but I could be wrong.

None the less, research continues to take dollars out of our classrooms. I'd always hoped philanthropic organizations would pay for data and research.
Anonymous said…
Well duh. Wouldn't you expect people with a history of slavery and oppression - to perform the worst? Wouldn't you expect immigrants, who have, for the most part, demonstrated great resourcefullness in escaping their situations, and have high expectations of a new place, and the demonstrated ability to "do what it takes" to make their situation work - to generally perform better than many others? Hasn't that been the experience of nearly all immigrants? Perhaps performing even better than LOW SES white students. How can that be "Alarming" or "New"? It's exactly what we should expect. Why would anybody expect that African-Immigrants' test scores to in any way be similar to African American non-immigrants' test scores? I guess the only alarming thing is that it really uncovers just how bad the achievement gap really is.

Anonymous said…
" I guess the only alarming thing is that it really uncovers just how bad the achievement gap really is."

You mean the 'parenting gap'.
hschinske said…
Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent articles on empathy are enlightening, I think (and much of the discussion following worthwhile as well): and

Helen Schinske
Guichon said…
@Jack Whelan: "Let me throw out some propositions here for discussion, and I would be particularly interested in hearing from African American readers on their take on whether or to what degree the following assertions are true:..."

Good thing you called them assertions and not facts. The so-called assertions you recite right out of the race-hustlers and poverty-pimp's handbooks are a bunch of tripe and, quite frankly, are based on a racist mind-set/ideology.

"Fifth, poverty persists in the African American community so long as this historically understandable anti-assimilationist mentality dominates among so many in that community."

No, it is not "understandable".

"Success in school too often means a betrayal of Black identity to the degree that Black identity requires resistance to assimilation into the broader 'white' culture. Better to be poor and to retain some sense of cultural dignity than to sell out for conventionally defined success."

More tripe. While what is considered success is different things to different people, success does not involve "selling out". The selling out is when people decide that they don't want to play by/follow society's rules and they turn to "street culture", which is NEVER a positive thing. Following the logic you recite (I say recite because I'm not quite sure I believe that you believe it yourself), then President Obama sold-out. Would it have been better when he was snorting coke and smoking dope, and being mentored by community activists/communists to have said "screw it - I'm not going to give 'the man' the satisfaction of me actually graduating from high school and Harvard University. I'm going to retain my 'cultural identity' (whatever the heck is meant by that), refuse assimilation into the 'broader white culture' (again, what the hell does that mean - nothing) and turn to the streets so I can eventually get busted, end up in prison, and get to play the victim-card for the rest of my life." Even though I don't agree with our President on anything of substance, I will say Thank GOD that he developed the mind-set of success that he did so he could break the race barrier for the highest office in our land. Thank GOD for FREE public education that is available to EVERYONE so they can gain the knowledge that can lift them out of poverty (and not bleach the color out of their skin).

If black immigrants that come here escaping modern-day slavery in Africa with no sense or idea of what freedom they will have (beyond what they hear in stories about the West), and can see right away the opportunities available to them as a result of FREE public education, then why don't the non-immigrant blacks see the same thing? Is it willful ignorance, or something else?

America is not the same as it was 45 -50 years ago - not by a long-shot. Those in the AA community that hype that belief are the ones trying to keep everyone down - they are the oppressors. Valuing education needs to be emphasized by their community leaders so the parents can emphasize it with their children.
John Cummings said…
I am not sure what is more troubling to me; the achievement gap or the theories as to why there is this achievement gap.

It doesn't matter what measure is used, the results of any standardized assessment will reveal this very real gap in skills. The low scores are indicative of a real problem in our schools. We are screwing an entire generation (or 2, maybe 3) of African American students and the assessments really are evidence of that. We should all be alarmed about this.

What I find equally alarming though, is that we have a school district that says it needs to study this data further to figure out what is going on here. We have school board directors putting out theories as to why this gap exists, and no one has pointed to the single biggest reason why african american kids are getting their asses kicked, not just on these tests but in school in general.

African American students get disciplined at rates that FAR exceed their numbers. Not only do they get more discipline referrals, they get punished more harshly than their white or asian classmates for the same offenses. It's a well-documented national tragedy. Seattle Public Schools was already called out on this about 10 years ago and then again in 2006 by the P-I.

I have written about this before but when I was teaching at McClure we crunched the discipline numbers that are kept by the District using a data system called SWIS (I might have the letters wrong). The data can be broken out by ethnicity, gender, Sp.ed status. It includes the reason for the write up, who did the write up and what the punishment was. It's all out there plain as day.

The data truly was alarming. African Americans made up approx. 23% of the student body yet recieved close to 75% of the discipline referrals that resulted in suspensions. 75%! Some of these kids were getting suspended for lengthy periods of time. None of the incidents were very serious either. No weapons or aggravated assaults. None of the kids were dealing meth in the hallway. Some of them were suspended for being disrespecful or, get this, for cutting class (there's logic for you).

Their WASL scores were horrendous. I wonder why. School is not a place of learning for them, it's a place that singles them out, disrespects them and pushes them down. The parents (who are catching a lot of shit for this school-based nightmare) had the same experience when they were in school because this disparity is nothing new. We are asking an awful lot of them when we expect them to ignore what happened to them and provide a pro-educational environment for their children.

My last year at McClure I worked with the lowest 'achieving' math students in the school. We are talking low 300's on the WASL/MSP. I even had some students who scored in the 250 range. Most of them were African American and by the end of the school year these kids had served a combined total of over 200 days of suspension. We aren't talking about a large number of students either. What chance do they have?

SPS knows about this. They gave workshops on this when RTI was pushed on us a few years back.

My co-teacher and I reversed this disparity as it pertained to our kids, without writing any discipline referrals in the 2 years we worked together.

I'm not saying that the points being made don't have merit. It's just that we go nowhere with this acievement gap until we get serious about the discipline disparity.

Lastly, if you are curious about this issue, then google 'discipline disparity' and look for the name Skiba. He's the place to start.
Carol Simmons said…
For over thirty years many of us have requested disaggregated data. It recently has become possible to examine the demographic data, student outcome measures, student test score achievement, attendance, discipline, truancy, student educational status and the individual school summaries. It was necessary to report the data in order to illustrate the disproportionality which exists between white students and certain groups of students of color. This data does not reflect every student group, for example our Tongan students continue to be excluded under Asian/Pacific Islander students. This data is not only used to illustrate disproportionality in student achievement and discipline sanctions, but used to adjust teaching and learning styles to respond to all students. It was so refreshing to read School Board Director Smith-Blum's statement in the Times about the importance of teaching in different ways to reach different students. Additionally, Director McClaren's honest observation concerning "instituonalzed racism" must be recognized and addressed. It is extremely encouraging that we have Board members who recognize the importance of individual learning styles, cultural differences, and disproportionate treatment of students and are willing to speak out about these issues in public.
Anonymous said…
John Cummings and Carol Simmons, I thank you for your voices. I hope, HOPE the readers out there, especially the ones who DO have the means and power will take note.

All mixed up
Jack Whelan said…
I posed these propositions to provoke discussion, knowing full well that it's not in accordance with orthodox doctrine on these matters.. Nevertheless, it is a part of the picture--to what degree is certainly a matter for debate. But to say 0% is silly.

Obviously the historical reasons for the achievement gap are complex, multi-leveled, and to discuss them outside the prescribed acceptable norms is politically radioactive, but I'm tired of hearing the same old bromides, when they add more smoke than light.

Nobody cares more than I about the inequities particularly Black and Native Americans in this country have suffered, and it's precisely because of their extraordinary experience when compared to all other groups in the U.S. that solutions are so difficult to imagine regarding the persistence of poverty in those communities.

History is a bitch, and there's no snapping of fingers to appease her or to make things different than they are. But still I would hope that people of good will can have an open, discussion about this complexity on a blog like this without fear of transgressing some politically correct rules about what's acceptable.

All I'm suggesting here is that this anti-assimilationist dimension is part of the story, not the whole story, But it is a part of the story. And to the degree that it is, it's a tough nut to crack, but it is a nut that needs to be cracked rather than just pretending it doesn't exist.
dan dempsey said…
The school academic performance as measured by testing of American Indians has been dropping greatly at the National, State, and Seattle schools levels.

Indian performance was much better. So why the decline?

In the SPS the Native American/ Alaska Native programs were mismanaged.

Did NCLB, besides reporting results from various ethnic groups (which was a good move), in someway lead to decisions that were not in the best interests of American Indian Students? (The named OSPI classification on testing is American Indian)

It is interesting to see how invisible the Indian students appear to be to many policy makers and reporters. (Take a bow LEV.)

The 2010-2011 school year... was the first year of School Improvement Grant funding for "persistently under-achieving" schools Totem and Tulalip in the Marysville SD.

The populations of these schools are:
Tulalip Elementary = 59% American Indian/ AN
Totem Middle = 13.7% AI/AN

The WA state average is 1.7%

The Marysville SIG grants have goals yet there is no break out for reporting progress by AI/AN students as a category.

Looks like the same for break out reporting of Low Income students results (nothing).

So after SIG spending $2+ million on year one .... which breaks out to about $1800 additional funding for each middle school student at Totem....

Here are the changes in Reading Scores and Math Scores from MSP 2010 to MSP 2011
(weighted differential above or below state change for that demographic group) {{absolute pass rate in 2011}}

TOTEM grades 6, 7, 8

MATH Results

MATH grade 6
+13.60% (6.7%) All {{ 49.2% }}
+14.00% (5.4%) Low Income {{ 40.4% }}
+10.10% (5.4%) Amer Indian {{ 15.9% }}

MATH grade 7
-2.90% (-4.6%) All {{ 37.4% }}
-1.90% (-4.0%) Low Income {{ 21.9% }}
+3.20% (5.7%) Amer Indian {{ 13.8% }}

MATH grade 8
+5.10% (6.3%) All {{ 37.9% }}
+3.20% (4.2%) Low Income {{ 24.4% }}
-1.90% (1.4%) Amer Indian {{ 2.9% }}


READING grade 6
-1.60% (-7.6%) All {{ 61.6% }}
+4.10% (-3.4%) Low Income {{ 52.2% }}
-13.5% (-17.1%) Amer Indian {{ 25.0% }}

READING grade 7
-13.50% (-6.6%) All {{ 50.4% }}
-12.80% (-5.8%) Low Income {{ 36.3% }}
-9.90% (+4.2%) Amer Indian {{ 17.2% }}

READING grade 8
-10.80% (-10.1%) All {{ 60.0% }}
-10.80% (-10.1%) Low Income {{ 47.9% }}
-34.80% (-28.6%) Amer Indian {{ 17.6%% }}

Speaking about reporting that fails to convey much about the Academic Performance of American Indians at Totem ... try this rosy article from LEV on Totem=>

Totem Middle School has the solution for math success

Please tell about the solution's effect on those American Indian students as MATH MSP pass rates ranged from a high of 15.9% in grade 6 ..... down to 2.9% in grade 8. .... After an average of $1800/ student of additional funding from the SIG grant.

Maybe Totem should check with Mercer MS.

and LEV should get a clue.

As Charlie says ... it is time for the improvement of students .... not schools.

If the American Indian students are not noticed .. nothing much may change in the way of improvement, no matter how much money is blown.
dan dempsey said…
Please notice that the SIG grant is federal money dispensed by OSPI. OSPI judges which plans submitted by Districts will receive funding.

Totem spent the equivalent of $1800/student in additional funding and when viewed by comparing 2010 to 2011 MSP results with the change at the State level.

In Math 2 of 9 totem results were worse than the state

and in Reading it was 8 of 9 worse than state.

The one better result was
7th grade American Indian reading scores only plummeted down 9.9%
and WA State American Indian scores
went down 14.1%

Seattle SIG elementary schools receiving SIG funding were West Seattle Elementary and Hawthorne.

They did better than Totem middle school ... I'll report the numbers on them tomorrow. Congratulations to those at WSE and Hawthorne.
Anonymous said…
OK, reality check.

Same school district.
Same school.
Same classes (?)
Same economics.
Same skin color.
Same teachers.
Same administration.

What's different?


Signed. Non PC, but I am the parent of non biologically related children performing well because I expect them to perform well.
dan dempsey said…
I still think this might be much ado about nothing.... Remember that the kids still in ESL were excluded from these results.... that could be quite a bias factor.

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