Your Lying Eyes

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19 January 2006

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth in Boston

Deep disappointment hangs over the Bay State as its enlightened policies have failed to lessen the "racial acievement gap." According to this Boston Globe article
Not one Boston elementary school is significantly boosting the scores of black and Hispanic students on the state's English and math tests, renewing concerns that the schools have made no headway in narrowing the achievement gap between those students and whites and Asians, according to a report announced last night.
And this is not a new development.
The gap in achievement between blacks and Hispanics and other elementary students has not narrowed since the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams were first given in 1998, school officials say.
Imagine that. Eight straight years of failing to make any progress whatsoever on a primary objective. I confess I would pretty much give up and pronounce the whole endeavor hopeless and admit to having fought the good fight but ultimately powerless to change the sociological constant*. But then again, Boston's Red Sox went 85 years without winning the world series and then finally won one, so perhaps Bostonians just don't quit that easily. Sawx fans blamed their plight on the "Curse of the Bambino." The Boston school system seems to have no firmer finger on the root causes of its losing streak:
At the Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester, where 97 percent of students are black or Hispanic, an independent consultant began training teachers last September on developing high expectations of students. Principal Emily Shamieh and teachers met with 75 parents on a Saturday, asking the parents to describe the dreams they had for their children and to discuss ways to overcome the obstacles.
The result of this well-thought-out program?
Only 20 percent of black students and 10 percent of Hispanic students at the Winthrop scored "proficient" on the 2005 English MCAS. In math, 7 percent of blacks and 5 percent of Hispanics scored "proficient."
Now my question to anyone reading this post - do you really believe any of this nonsense? Does anyone, in their heart-of-hearts, believe that this "achievement gap" is under any foreseeable scenario (that would exclude major advances in technological therapies) significantly reducible? Or is everyone just going thru the unending motions of making a good-faith effort to show they care, constantly expressing shame at the failed result and vowing to readdress the problem with renewed fervor, all the while cognizant of the inevitable futility of their efforts?

* Although probably just an artifact of the testing or due to the younger age of the cohort, the math score gap as shown by this graphic is 10 percentage points narrower than the typical 1 s.d. gap. The 84% of white children passing the math test would suggest closer to 50% of black children would pass, while their actual pass rate was 60%.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ran into an article addressing some earlier (and near identical) results from the Boston School System. The theories on why the gap exists, according to the article, are as follows:

Academic Coursework
Peer Pressure
Student Turnover
Teacher Quality
Stereotype Threat
Teacher Expectations (as in low)
Test Bias

Nothing really new here of course. But at the very bottom of the list appeared the shocking theory - "Genetics". I was real surprised to see that show up. And even more amazing, Murray's Bell Curve wasn't dismissed out of hand. Don't see that too often.

January 20, 2006 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Dan Doyle said...

The deluge of recent studies on genetics, intelligence and group differences is chipping away at the ideal of group equality. It is a very depressing prospect for many liberals (as it was for me), to realize that group differences aren't historical constructs.

I taught in an inner city school for a year and came to a different conclusion than the Boston School System. Most of the children I encountered had so many problems, it was heart breaking. Even more depressing than the dearth of literacy amongst 8th graders was the handful of intelligent students who either shunned the school as an ignorance factory or were bullied in school for "acting white". Oh, the sting of insult added to injury!

Those precious few (20 to 10%) who are proficient in scholastics are like pearls among oysters.

January 21, 2006 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lincoln's comment on the fact that Mexicans were in California for many decades and never discovered as much as a trace of gold, whereas white people found the "yellow demon" almost instantaneously, relatively speaking - "I believe this to be a cultural issue and nothing more."

Now Honest Abe was a pretty smart guy (difficult to overestimate the understatement in that line). Do we think he would have a different opinion if he could see the statistical data that is available now?

January 21, 2006 11:31 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Honest Abe was among the greatest men that ever lived. I have little impatience for those who think otherwise. That's all I can say after a very long night drinking enormous amounts of alcohol. Good night.

January 22, 2006 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Very wise choice to post sparingly after copious imbibing. I wish I had exercised such restraint when faced with similar circumstance in the past. And it almost worked! However, you typed "little IMpatience", which I guess bears out your claim.

January 22, 2006 9:18 AM  

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