Education Policy & Practice

Archive for the ‘achievement gap’ Category

President Barack Obama talks with Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching winners in the State Dining of the White House January 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First, let’s note the obvious in this photo and then move on — White women.  Where are the men?  Where are the men of color (Call Me Mister)? Where are the women of color?

Now, I understand why, as a nation, we are looking to strengthen our math and science intellectual capital.  I understand the relevance.  However, literacy has been eclipsed, and my fear is that such an unbalanced focus will actually serve to perpetuate the competency gap, particularly among white students and students of color.

I simply fail to recognize how high school students, for example, who are reading on a sixth-grade level will excel in science and mathematics.


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Yesterday, I submitted a blog post that highlighted Shane Battier and Myron Rolle, two standout African-American male scholar athletes from Duke University and Florida State University respectively. These young men highlighted their personal stories through their “I Am What I Learn” videos, publicized on the U.S. Department of Education website.

Sadly, the other reality, which I fear is significantly more common, is the academic deficit our African-American male athlete suffer.  The Grio reports the findings of a study that shows graduation rates widening between blacks and whites in college football.  According to the report, which was released on Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida:

Overall academic progress continued while the gap between white and African-American football student-athletes increased slightly for the 67 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools (formerly known as Division I-A schools) playing in this year’s college football bowl games.

Troubling figures in the study that show an increase in the disparity include:

  • 57 schools (up from 56 in 2008‐09) or 85 percent had graduation success rates of 66 percent or higher for white football student‐athletes, which was more than 2.8 times the number of schools with equivalent graduation success rates for African‐American football student‐athletes (20 schools or 30 percent).
  • 21 schools (up from 19 in 2008‐09) or 31 percent graduated less than 50 percent of their African‐American football student‐athletes, while only two schools graduated less than 50 percent of their white football student‐athletes.
  • Seven schools (up from five schools in 2008‐09) or 10 percent graduated less than 40 percent of their African‐American football student‐athletes, while no school graduated less than 40 percent of their white football student‐athletes.
  • 14 schools (up from 12 schools in 2008‐09) or 21 percent had graduation success rates for African‐American football student‐athletes that were at least 30 percent lower than their rates for white football student‐athletes.
  • 35 schools (up from 29 schools in 2008‐09) or 52 percent had graduation success rates for African‐American football student‐athletes that were at least 20 percent lower than their rates for white football student‐athletes

Colleges and Universities are held accountable for the success of student-athletes in the classroom, as well as their progression towards graduation.  While I agree with holding their feet to the fire, the problem of chronic and severe underperformance among minority student-athletes starts long before they step foot on a college campus.

Read the full report:


Baltimore Sun writer, Liz Bowie, shares with us the great work that Higher Achievement is doing with Baltimore City students. Founded 30 years ago in Washington, DC, this model of mentoring and support is now operating in two locations in Baltimore.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Higher Achievement Program in Baltimo…“, posted with vodpod


On Friday, October 23rd, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist directed superintendents to end teacher assignments based on seniority.  The rationale: The state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) requires “the continuous improvement of student learning” to be the basis for all decisionmaking, including all personnel decisions and evaluations, which makes it impossible, according to the Commissioner, for districts to comply with the BEP provision that the Board of Regents approved last June.

Read the entire news release


According to a recent New York Times article (and others) published on January 22, researchers at Vanderbilt University conclude that the inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans.

The earlier research referred to in this current study is the work of Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson.  They hypothesized that when capable black college students fail to perform as well as their white counterparts, the explanation often has less to do with preparation or ability than with the threat of stereotypes about their capacity to succeed.  In a 1999 Atlantic Monthly article, Claude Steele defines “stereotype threat” as the threat of being viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype, or the fear of doing something that would inadvertently confirm that stereotype.

I think stereotype threat can be misinterpreted as an oversimplification of a multi-dimensional issue.


Education Policy & Practice

September 2022

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