Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Education Nation: A Race Relationship?

First of all, I would like to thank both Mr. Bolos and Mr. O'Connor for this opportunity. I'd just like to say that these guys taught me to look at the media and other mediums of information much more closely and in doing so led me to become a much better critical thinker. You juniors should soak up every word in this class and use it to your advantage! But enough brown nosing already, let's get to the meat of this post: America's education system.

In Matt Lauer's interview with President Barack Obama on Monday morning, viewers were greeted with some startling statistics: 1/3 of all high school students fail to graduate, a second 1/3 are not ready for college when they do graduate high school and only 35% of those seniors are as Lauer put it, "proficient in reading."

Perhaps these statistics don't mean anything to you because you go to New Trier, where something like 98% of you guys will be graduating next year. Well, you could choose to look at it that way, or you could try to understand why New Trier doesn't fall under those statistics. I understand that you all are studying slavery and race in America currently, so why not try to find a connection here?

Brown Vs. Board of Education of Topeka was settled in favor of integrating schools back in 1954. This was a flash point for the American Civil Rights Movement. But still today, blacks are scoring lower on standardized tests than whites are. How could this be if schools are no longer allowed to segregate? A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that:
"In statistical models that include both school and neighborhood segregation, the effects of relative exposure of black and Hispanic students to their white schoolmates are uniformly small and statistically insignificant… the neighborhood composition matters more than school composition."
So, if this is the case, why? Why does community composition matter more than school composition? What are the possible connections you can make between these statistics and the communities we live in? And other communities as well? These are all questions you should be asking yourself when presented with such information.

Below is Obama's interview and his insight into the education crisis in America:

17 comments:

Carolyn F said...

In the book "Our America," two young teenage boys who live in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago, just 17 years ago, tape record their lives for a period of time. One of the boys, the 13 year-old LeAlan, describes in depth, at multiple times, how he has already witnessed shootings, death, drugs, sex, alcohol, etc. I went back and found a passage that had stuck out to me, in it LeAlan sees a boy from his class selling drugs on the street. He asks the boy why he hasn't been at school, to which the boy replies, "School ain't shit." LeAlan asks him how he's going to learn if he doesn't go to school, and the boy says that LeAlan isn't learning anything in school, so why go? Then LeAlan says, "I bet I'm gonna see your ass twenty-five years from now begging for a quarter so you could get a drink!" To which the boy replies, "I ain't gonna be alive in ten years because I'll be selling my drugs and they're gonna pop my ass. No one's gonna be alive in twenty more years!" I think that that passage reflects how community composition matters more than school composition because the boy is choosing to sell drugs rather than get an education, because he won't be around to use the education. His environment provides another option, one that isn't better or easier necessarily, but he chooses it. This could be because there isn't an expectation in the community for him to go on and graduate and receive a higher education and progress in his life. This in comparison to a place like New Trier where those things are expected. In both places the school systems want students to succeed, but it's a matter of the community and the environment that the student lives in that directly impacts things like performance in school.

Jackie said...

I think performance in school deals with initiative. How bad do you want to do well? Is there any thing pushing you to succeed? I can honestly say that without my parents constantly pushing me to do well in school, I probably would not try as hard. So I agree with Carolyn when she says the community is what can really affect us. At New Trier there are numerous pressures to succeed and maybe that's why we find that we have such a high graduation rate. But in other areas, when you see others not finishing school, how much more would you be willing to finish? Our communities influence us.

Doc OC said...

Miles asks why the composition of communities matters more than the composition of the schools. The first two commentators above have chosen to focus on the parents within those communities -- their "high expectations," and their "constant pushing for success." But even if parents in "low-achieving areas" held the same expectations and pushed as hard, would they be successful? In other words, aren't there powerful differences beyond temperament and disposition -- educational attainment, income level, availability of social/public services, libraries, housing issues, crime rates, transportation, etc. -- that might help explain the achievement gap?

Alex said...

Personally I don't think that community composition is to blame more than the school system because the way that communities are composed is generally based off of wealth. Public school is based off of where you live. I know that my parents moved to the North Shore for the school system and could afford to do so. The statics say that the average African American is poorer than the average white American. If you graduate from New Trier, you most likely go to college and are able to supply yourself/your family with a decent living and might be able to live in the North Shore. If you grow up going to a CPS school, your education isn't as good as an education received at New Trier. (Excuse me for generalizing). If that education doesn't lead you to college or if you drop out of high school, there is usually a very small chance that you could afford to move to the North Shore. It's a cycle in both cases. But people get trapped in this cycle so we don't see as much segregation at New Trier and we see more African Americans at worse schools scoring lower on standardized tests.

Emma said...

I think Mr. O'Connor poses an interesting point when he says that the way people in lower-income schools and their parents feel about education isn't the only thing holding them back. Plenty of people see education as a way out but it is just simply too hard to acheive. If I need to do research for school, I can simply get in my car and drive to the library. If I'm struggling in a subject I can easily find a reliable tutor. It is easier for me to go out and do volunteer work and other extracurricular activites because the area I'm in is safe. I consider myself very lucky for these things, and it is easy to see how I might find education much more difficult without having the security of the community we live in.

Ellie D. said...
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Ellie D. said...

I definitely agree with Emma about the idea that people in wealthier neighborhoods are more successful on standardized testing because of their abundance of resources. I think another factor to consider is their social environment. Even though the North Shore isn't even close to being perfect, the kinds of issues we deal with on a day-to-day basis may seem trivial to students in a poorer neighborhood. To them, things like parents being too pushy or arguments with friends are very small issues compared to worrying about being able to buy food or have a home for their family to live in. I think all the burdens of students living in a less affluent area affect their education because it keeps them from focusing all of their mind on their studies.

Carolyn A. said...

I, living in Wilmette, am very familiar and aware of the high expectations of the parents of my community. However, these expectations are only acheivable with certain tools. An education is only possible with books, teachers, and resources. These things cost money. Also these things need to berespected. Their importance will otherwise be generally disregarded. I participated in the Harper New Trier Leadership Academy last year and found that many of my friends from that CPS school would openly mock and swear at their teachers. This kind of learning environment does not seem to reflect a serious investment in getting a higher education. I think that money and funds are necessary for a successful school district, however I think that the attitude students inherit has an even bigger impact on these statistics.

Valerie Ceaser said...

As the old African proverb (and Hillary Clinton) says, "It takes a village to raise a child." This is true in the largest sense. While I agree that parenting affects a child, as well as the cultural and social makeup of a community, I believe the people in that community are vital. There is only so much a school can do to ensure the highest quality education, and the rest is completely up to the the child. If the child is not invested in education and doesn't want to learn, they won't. Children are extremely influential, and they are going to follow the model of those they look up to in their community: whether it be adults or older children. Children don't, for the most part, look up to their teachers. And if there are no positive role models int heir lives, they will follow the path of a negative one As Carolyn pointed out, if a young boy is poor and hopeless, he is going to want an easy way out. When he sees his older neighbors selling drugs and making money, he is going to follow that path. So the community composition is oftentimes more important than the school composition because easily influenced children are going to look up to the people within their community for guidance.

trevork said...

Miles knows what's up. Communities like the North Shore will have higher standardized test scores. Although parents might have high expectations everywhere, and students are equal in intelligence everywhere, some neighborhoods with more money can afford to be more competitive. By this I mean almost everyone who goes to New Trier has ACT or SAT tutors at some point, and can learn how to improve their test scores. Furthermore, a district like New Trier has a minority of black and hispanic people, and a majority of white students. Students can only be measured to other students at their school, not measured to other students with more resources who can afford tutors, and therefore improve on their test scores.

Reed said...

What I found that was an eye opener was the fact that 1/3 of all high schoolers don't graduate. I guess it's true that New Trier does shelter us North Shore kids from the events occurring at other high schools. Even i thought the 98% of New Trier students graduating was low. I look around our AIS class, same with in all of my others, and see smart, motivated kids doing their work. I've always taken for granted the great educational opportunities that New Trier provides us, but that statistic that 1/3 of all highschoolers don't graduate has really put everything into perspective

Mike Leventhal said...
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Mike Leventhal said...

Reading everyone's comments there's one thing I want to say. It's not all one thing. The reason why those disparities exist are because of both social reasons and fiscal reasons. It's just as careless to assume that if every young person had "the will to learn" they will receive a high test score as it is to think that these problems can be solved by throwing money at the "under-performing" schools.

HenryD said...

I didnt have time in class to mention this so I will here: As soon as Doc OC started writing on the board, half of the students dove into their backpacks to grab a notebook and a pencil. I was stunned how fast the people in the room went from casual listening to intense note-taking. The even funnier thing, however, was what Mr. O'Connor was writing; it was the definition of the word docile, which means obedient. I thought I saw Mr. O'Connor smile when this happened, but I just wanted to make sure everyone knew how silly they looked. This makes me realize that David and Daniel were correct about the competitive nature of us students. We are so worried about missing something that we might later be asked to recall or recite, that we forget to listen what the teacher wants us to hear. Lesson learned.

Jon S said...
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Jon S said...

Henry, I noticed that as well, and I found it really interesting that so many people would take notes on something that simply added to the discussion. It did not strike me as a crucial piece of information for the class. This, however, proves that point of the movie "Race to Nowhere", or at least what we saw from the trailer. That kids need to be taught how to think critically and problem solve, not just mindlessly take notes and commit unimportant details to their short-term memories. The real high-paying jobs in our community are the ones that involve reasoning and thinking, and I feel that is the most crucial skill we can have.

trevork said...

Although I agree with both Jon and Henry that we do mindlessly take notes in classes, and that the "high-paying jobs" involve thinking critically and problem solving, I beleive for the most part in high school mindlessly writing down notes helps. All students want in high-school is to reach the next level, and school does not always reward those who choose to think critically and problem solve, but rather take notes and spit them out. From freshman year history I know one of the units we went over was "China". On a topic as large as "China" you may think that there would be many interesting things I could remember. I cannot remeber anything from that unit, besides a little red book, and that there were different emperors. I took in what I had to learn for tests, and then spit them out, which for those tests and quizzes was more effective than critical thinking. That's why I think we as high school students mindlessly write down notes. Until the way tests or quizzes are presented to us change, students will continue to mindlessly write down notes, because that's what high school rewards.