All Articles Tagged "achievement gap"

San Fran School District Wants More Black Teachers

February 10th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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The San Francisco Unified School District is making a move that it hopes will help close the achievement gap between students of different races. They will start hiring more Black teachers.

“The research shows that students of color do better on standardized tests and have a stronger sense of self-efficacy when they have adults in their schools who look like them,” Swen Ervin, a SFUSD human capital specialist in charge of recruiting more teachers of color to the district, told The Huffington Post. “And I think teachers, more than anyone, provide an image of success for students.”

According to Ervin, maybe even more importantly is having more Black teachers teaching students who are not of color.

“For white students, having more teachers of color in their schools provides them with an image of what people of color are that can go along way to dispelling a lot of stereotypes that they might pick up,” he said.

There is definitely a need for change in the district. Data from the 2013-2014 school year shows that the lowest performers on standardized test have one of the highest dropout rates. According to KQED, these students make up eight percent of SFUSD while only 5.5 percent of the district’s teachers are Black.

SFUSD has been taking other actions to improve the achievement of Black students in the district. At the beginning of the year, the district hired its first special assistant for African-American achievement. The district created this new position after it decided to participate in President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

And at the end of last year, a group of SFUSD librarians launched a “Teaching #BlackLivesMatter” online resource that compiles materials teachers can use while discussing the movement in the classroom.  This move came during the same month the Board of Education approved a resolution implementing ethnic studies in all of the district’s high schools.

On another front, SFUSD recently revealed successful results in its push to reduce the disproportionate number of suspensions among Black students. The figure dropped 17 percent from last year due to such proactive efforts as daily check-ins and rewards for good behavior.

Do you think hiring more Black teachers will result in higher achievement by students of color?

No Child Left Behind? New Study Says Minority Students Have Less Effective Teachers

April 15th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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This is really a lesson on separate and unequal. Not only do low-income students — who are generally of color — have less experienced teachers, but also less effective teachers, according to a new study.

The Center For American Progress report examined the evaluation scores of teachers in low-income as compared to those working in affluent districts in both Massachusetts and Louisiana.

What it found was alarming. Teacher evaluations in Massachusetts and Louisiana ranked teachers based on measures such as student scores on standardized tests and effectiveness during classroom observations.

Researchers found that in Louisiana “a student in a school in the highest-poverty quartile is almost three times as likely to be taught by a teacher rated ineffective as a student in a school in the lowest-poverty quartile,” reports The Huffington Post.

And schools with a large minority student bodies are more than twice as likely to have an ineffective teacher than students in schools with fewer minorities.

Looking at Massachusetts, students in high-poverty schools are three times as likely to have a teacher ranked as “unsatisfactory” than students in low-poverty schools, the report notes.

Another Center For American Progress report looked at the reasons behind the unequal distribution of teachers. And even though President Bush mandate No Child Left Behind requested that states to develop plans to ensure the equitable distribution of teachers, subsequent waivers allowed states to be flexible on these requirements.

“Regardless of how it is measured, teacher quality is not distributed equitably across schools and districts. Poor students and students of color are less likely to get well-qualified or high-value teachers than students from higher-income families or students who are white,” says the report.

Having  ineffective teachers can affect the academic future of a child who already comes from a low-income background. We have to do better.

Mind The (Employment) Gap: Executives Meet To Discuss A Plan To Improve Diversity At The Executive Level

May 18th, 2013 - By Candace Smith
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via Twitter

Robert L. Johnson via Twitter

This week, 30 executives  led by Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and current chairman of The RLJ Companies, met at the W Hotel in Washington to discuss a plan that, if effective, would close the employment gap separating white from black and Hispanic workers, particularly at the upper levels of business. According to a report by The Washington Post, this plan would “encourage U.S. businesses to interview at least two qualified black or Hispanic candidates for every job at the vice president level or higher.” Johnson also calls for corporations to interview minority-owned firms for manufacturing purposes.

This blueprint was brought to the White House’s attention before and has President Obama’s attention now. But while the President liked the proposal, no actions have been made to put it into motion thus far. Because of this, Johnson and other ambitious business leaders have sent letters of request to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Those behind the projected course of action wish to see racial inclusion and the opportunity for minorities to share their wealth of knowledge within firms that could highly benefit from it. For Johnson and his associates in this endeavor, they refuse to give up, even without the backing of the President and government. As Luis Ramirez, president and chief executive of Global Power eloquently declares, “We need people who have diverse backgrounds and experiences to add to the populations of executives and corporate board members.”

We’ll stay tuned to see how far this goes with the government.

Huge Achievement Gaps Persist in D.C. Schools

August 8th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Post) — The gulf in academic achievement separating public schools in the District’s poorest neighborhoods from those in its most affluent has narrowed slightly in some instances but remains vast, an analysis of 2011 test score data show.  Children in Ward 7 and 8 schools trailed their Ward 3 peers in reading and math pass rates by huge margins — from 41 to 56 percentage points — on this year’s D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams. The tests are given annually to students in grades 3 through 8 and 10.  The figures, made public last week, show that despite some signs of overall progress, students in schools east of the Anacostia River — who represent nearly a third of the city’s traditional public school enrollment — have yet to be lifted by a reform effort that will enter its fifth year this month.

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New Data Shows How Separate, Unequal Schools Are

July 1st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Christian Science Monitor) — To better diagnose achievement gaps and help education leaders tailor solutions, federal civil rights officials on Thursday released an expanded, searchable set of information – drawn from schools in more than 7,000 districts and representing at least three-quarters of American students.  The survey’s data show, as never before, the education inequities that hold various groups of students back.  For example, in 3,000 high schools, math classes don’t go higher than Algebra I, and in 7,300 schools, students had no access to calculus. Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have inexperienced teachers as are schools serving mostly whites in the same district.

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From Hope to Impact: Black Organizations Making a Difference in Education

June 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"african american teacher"


by KaShawn Archer

Over the last decade problems in education have increased despite plans put in place to reverse the decline. Government efforts like “No Child Left Behind” fall short leaving many schools without the resources to provide quality education.  With a lack of citizens pursuing degrees in education and school budgets shrinking, future generations are at tremendous risk.  However there are a number of educational organizations working to bring change.  Like civil rights groups of yesteryear they’re not waiting on Washington for solutions, but crafting them in their own communities.

One of the most unique programs addressing the achievement gap today is Call Me MISTER. (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models).   Started at Clemson University but now active across the country, MISTER prepares college students, mostly African-American males from underserved and educationally at-risk communities, for teaching careers.  Student teachers work in after school programs in inner city neighborhoods, providing academic and leadership instruction.  Expanding upon daily impact in the classroom, participants come together each year to express ideas and discuss new ways to help their communities.  The program’s proactive approach and immediate integration of creative ideas into the curriculum has earned it much attention; even Oprah has touted their efforts.

Another esteemed organization is the Black Alliance For Education Options (BAEO). Their mission is to increase access to high-quality educational options for black children through programs that empower low-income and working class families. A consistent voice on the needs of African-American students, BAEO has organized to stop educational budget cuts as well as advocated for school vouchers as the number of charter schools have grown.  One of BAEO’s largest events is an annual symposium hosting more than 500 youth advocates, educators and religious leaders.  Each year a different set of issues within education is addressed.  The most recent meeting focused on the urgent need for education reform.

Study: Academic Achievement Lowest Among Minority Men

June 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Los Angeles Times) — Young black and Latino men lag behind their contemporaries in nearly every measure of educational attainment, with many failing to attend college or earn degrees and large numbers facing the prospect of unemployment or incarceration.  The findings are included in two reports released at a briefing Monday by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. It was hosted by Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research in Cambridge, Mass.  The reports cull census data, academic research and in-depth interviews to paint a bleak picture of the educational experiences of young men across four racial and ethnic groups: African Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Native Americans.

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Achievement Gap Narrows with Sense of Belonging

March 19th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Time) — The racial gap in achievement between African American and white college students has been stubbornly persistent — but an hour-long intervention conducted during freshman year can halve the GPA lag by graduation time while simultaneously improving health, according to a new study published in Science. The research has implications for all students facing social transitions — whether from high school to college, middle school to high school or even just moving to a new home.“An exercise designed to change how students understand social events that occur in school had an effect that really transformed the college experience for minority students,” says study co-author Gregory Walton, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University.

So how can an hour-long experience make such a big difference? Walton and his colleagues recognized that all college freshmen face problems transitioning from high school life to the new world of a university campus—but the way they interpret these challenges can have a profound influence on their ability to surmount them.  “What the intervention did was to change how students understand negative events that happen to them in school,” he says. If students view the ordinary difficulties that come with being in a new social setting as problems unique to them — or, worse, see them as signs that people of their race or ethnic group don’t belong in college at all — they will be less likely to get over those challenges. Alternatively, if students see college struggles as universal and transient, they should be able handle them better.
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Tackling the Achievement Gap

February 14th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(New York Times) — There is no more pressing topic in education today than closing the achievement gap, and there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.  Although he is a Harvard professor based in Cambridge, Mass., Dr. Ferguson, 60, spends lots of time flying around the country visiting racially mixed public high schools. Part of what he does is academic, measuring the causes of the gap by annually surveying the performance, behaviors and attitudes of up to 100,000 students. And part is serving as a de facto educational social worker, meeting with students, faculty members and parents to explain what steps their schools can take to narrow the gap.

The gap is about race, of course, and it inevitably inflames passions. But there is something about Dr. Ferguson’s bearing — he is both big (6-foot-3) and soft-spoken — that gets people to listen.  Morton Sherman, the Alexandria school superintendent, watched him defuse the anger at a meeting of 300 people. “He talks about these things in a professorial way, a kind way,” Dr. Sherman said. “It’s not about him. He doesn’t try to be a rock star, although he is a rock star in this field.”  While he has a personal stake in closing the gap as an African-American parent who has raised three boys, Dr. Ferguson does not get emotional in tense situations — he gets factual.

He is frequently quoted in the news media, and in recent months, he has played a major role in four important educational stories: the Gates study on evaluating teachers (his research shows that when kids say a teacher is good, they usually know what they’re talking about); the Council of the Great City Schools study of the widening gap between white and black boys (12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading on a national test, compared with 38 percent of whites); a front-page story in The New York Times last year on the effectiveness of big high schools (at a time when small schools are in vogue); and as a member of the eight-person New York State panel that decided whetherCathleen P. Black should qualify for a waiver to be New York City’s chancellor (he won’t say how he voted).

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How The Permanent Achievement Gap Keeps Blacks At The Bottom

January 31st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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BB Robinson Economists have long argued that competitive markets serve as the best mechanism for producing optimal outcomes:  channeling capital to production that yields the highest return, setting prices to prevent under- or over-production, and appropriately rewarding the smartest and most productive for their labor.  Clearly this is an ideal that has not existed for some time now in the United States.

Today, a young or aged person can have a brilliant idea for a new product, but the odds are stacked against her to bringing that idea to birth and benefiting accordingly.

If she is not an engineer, she may have difficulty with the design and, ultimately, with protecting her intellectual property.  This assumes that the cost of obtaining a patent attorney to file for a patent is not prohibitive.

Even if she is successful in obtaining a patent, what are her prospects for raising enough capital to make a prototype that can be marketed?  And even if the product is produced and marketed, there is absolutely no chance that she will have an opportunity to see the reach of her product extend far because the proverbial “multinational corporation” will swoop down and “make [her] an offer that [she] cannot refuse.”

This is not to say that innovators and entrepreneurs reap no benefits from their labor.  Far from it!  However, it is increasingly difficult to grow a Ford Motor Company or a Microsoft Corporation.  The odds are stacked against someone who has such a dream.

For Black Americans, such prospects are essentially nil.  Even though Black Americans have shown a great proclivity to find solutions to problems through inventions, there is little known of great Black innovators.  They were not bountifully enriched by their 18th, 19th, or 20th century inventions.  Why should we expect otherwise during the 21st Century?

This brings us to our important point.  There is no end to the discussion concerning the Black-White academic achievement gap—especially in the physical sciences.  Rationally, we should ask, “Why does the gap exist and persist?”  The logical answer is that there is abundant evidence that Black actors, athletes, and musicians can become rich.  There is little evidence that a Black inventor can achieve fame and fortune.

Black youth are wise and rational actors.  Their eyes are open.  They know what they see.  Therefore, until we have rich and famous Black innovators other than in the entertainment world, we should not expect to see Black scientists solving the world’s problems.

The sad fact is that even White inventors today can rarely claim the wealth and success of top Black athletes and entertainers, so there is little motivation for Black youth to travel the physical science route.

The problem with this outcome is that, without the knowledge and inclination to innovate, Black Americans will always be in a work trap trying to earn enough to purchase newly invented products—and never benefiting, albeit modestly, from their own inventions and production.  In addition, an absence of Black innovator-entrepreneurs means that the Black unemployment rate will always be higher than it would otherwise be.

Therefore, not only should we expect a continuation of the Black-White academic achievement gap in the physical sciences, but we should also expect to see Blacks remaining at the bottom of the consumption-production-wealth pyramid.
Dr. B.B. Robinson is an economist and director of, a resource for economic concepts, issues and policies affecting African-Americans.