. . . . . The data-based report entitled Bleak picture for minority kids in public schools (USA Today 3/21/2014) is what you get when you know your conclusion first and then collect data to support that conclusion. A great starting point was available which included all the public schools in the country, but then the authors sub-sampled those schools with heavy portions of black students. At no point does this “research and experience” bother to offer an explanation for the conclusion that students of color get less than their fair share of access to the in-school factors that matter for achievement. Information in the report based upon student achievement is nowhere to be seen.
. . . . . This report comes from folks who appear to have neither research nor experience to support their conclusion. It originates from the belief that black and other minority students should be enrolled equally in every class, regardless of prerequisites or qualifications. This is a quota system in which a head count by race and minority status should demonstrate equality regardless of need or performance.
. . . . . To correct for this data-based mumbo-jumbo, Table 1 shows the performance of all students in Georgia (N=33,027) who took the SAT one year. As this is usually the senior year in high school, the data includes almost 12 years of student achievement. With population data for a state, no students are excluded, and the data are not cherry-picked to prove a point.
. . . . . Students who take the SAT are the best and brightest among those who are seriously thinking of continuing an education beyond high school. This data includes all schools, public and private, and all classes available in metropolitan and more rural areas. The achievement results, by comparison, are brutal, and are shown in Table 1 by race and minority group.
. . . . . The bar-graph plots the mean performance of each group. The state mean is shown at 0 with group mean scores above and below that point. The single issue which jumps from this Table is the abysmal performance of black students following almost 12 years of education. This is not the conclusion in the study, but the beginning of an analysis of those biographical, cultural and school-based factors which are related to doing well on the SAT, a measure of achievement.
. . . . . For those without a thorough grounding in statistics, the points plotted in Table 1 represent group averages, and do not show the distribution of scores of each group around each central point. Individuals within each group may perform as well as the very best in any other group. These group averages are heavily weighted by the more extreme scores in each distribution. The white average has a greater incidence of high scoring students, and the black average has a greater incidence of lower scoring students. It is the magnitude of these average differences, 200 points between white and black, that captures vital attention.
. . . . . This descriptive research refutes minority status as having any relevance to student performance in the public schools. Students with Asian heritage perform head and shoulders, as a group, above other minority groups. Asian students have attended the public schools for decades, have mastered English, and most come from intact families with two parents. Their family values support education as a primary goal, and the performance of their children attests to this dedication.
Some students who attend school do better than others who attend the same schools. This is true of students who come from the same family. The schools have very little to do with establishing equality, but rather they offer courses designed for each school’s student body. In the schools performance-based scheme, some students get farther ahead, while others get farther behind. After 12 years of primary and secondary schooling those who care do well, and those who care less receive what they have earned. It is a long race with success in mind, not a race for equality.
. . . . . Access has little to do with student performance, as good and conscientious students will succeed in most any school, and those who care less will get by with the least possible effort. Schools in small towns and rural areas rarely offer any courses beyond the basics. A thorough preparation on the fundamentals provides an excellent background for advanced study, while shoddy preparation prepares for little of anything.
. . . . . Hispanic students’ somewhat diminished performance may be related to English as a second language in the home, and to their migratory status. Efforts to increase the number of Spanish speaking teachers in the public schools may actually delay the transition of children to a culture and to schools where English is the primary language.
. . . . . Good black students must rise above the worst of all family and cultural influences in addition to any deficiencies in the public schools. Black students’ poor performance, as a racial group, reflects a 12-year history of less than primary interest in education. Some of the deficit is family and cultural over which individual students may have limited control. The education level of the father and mother are both positive contributors to doing well in school. Having two parents in the family home is a rarity in the current black community.