Thursday, January 27, 2011

Confronting the Data

A Pennsylvania high school has decided that the statistics can no longer be subordinated to ideology. Black students, particularly males, are failing in disproportionate numbers and putting them in classes with whites and Asians isn't helping. McCaskey has decided to initiate a pull-out program just for African-American students wherein for a small portion of the day they'll be mentored by a teacher of the same race and gender. Here's part of the story:
A high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is defending its decision to segregate its students by race and gender. The scheme, at McCaskey East High School, separates black students from the rest of the school body, and then further breaks it down into black females and black males. The separation is only for a short period - six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month - but it naturally drew criticism for bringing back the awful memory of racial segregation. Today the school's principal defended its policy.

Bill Jimenez said the school noticed that black students were not performing as well as other students, and that research had shown that same-race classes with strong same-race role models led to better academic results.

Mr Jimenez admitted that no other students were divided by race at the school, but he added that academic data dictated the school take a different approach with its black students.

He told 'One of the things we said when we did this was, "Let's look at the data, let's not run from it. Let's confront it and see what we can do about it".'

The idea came from Angela Tilghman, an instructional coach at McCaskey East. She said statistics had shown about a third of McCaskey's African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, compared with 60 per cent of white students and 42 per cent of students overall.

In mathematics, only 27 per cent of black students scored proficient or advanced.

She said research had shown that grouping black students by gender with a strong role model could boost both academic achievement and self-esteem.
There's more about McCaskey's experiment at the link.

Actually many high schools with a substantial minority population are already segregated to some extent. Walk into any AP or honors class and you'll be confronted by a sea of white and Asian faces. The few black students in the classes will be mostly female. Walk into the low level and remedial classes and you'll see a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic males.

I don't know why this is, but I don't buy the traditional explanation that it's due to poverty, or racism, or inadequate funding, or any of the other facile explanations that we're often given.

Nor do I understand why whites and Asians can learn from teachers of any race or gender, but blacks, or at least black males, can only learn from other black males. There's a very serious problem in all of this, and, in my opinion, political correctness has crippled efforts to find out exactly what it is. In fact, political correctness has stood in the way of helping black male students for two generations, because it has made people reluctant to speak frankly about the problem, and it has prevented those who are concerned about it from positing any cause other than those - racism and poverty - which are promoted by the left.

Ever since political scientist Charles Murray and Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein were excoriated by liberals for their 1994 book The Bell Curve, which showed that black students underperformed on assessments of IQ, serious scholars have shied away from suggesting any causes and solutions to this crisis that did not have the left's stamp of approval. Consequently, a large number of African American students have passed through our schools for fifty years with only minimal benefit.

We should applaud Principal Bill Jimenez for "confronting the data and not running from it."