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  • Back to School: How Can We Truly Help Minority Students?

    Last month President Obama signed an executive order to form the new White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

    According to the White House, the new initiative, which will work across federal agencies, “aims to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.”

    Parents and taxpayers would be correct to be skeptical of a new Washington initiative to improve student outcomes. A new evaluation released today by Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul Peterson of Harvard shows a far more promising route to improving academic opportunity for the students the President’s initiative aims to help.

    The study examines the impact of vouchers, worth up to $1,400, that were offered to low-income students to attend a private school of choice in New York City. The evaluation followed 2,600 voucher recipients. Notably, the researchers found a 24 percent increase in college enrollment among African American students who were awarded and used vouchers to attend private schools. As Jay Greene notes:

    No significant effects were observed for Latino students nor for the very few white students in the sample. It appears that choice has the biggest effect on those whose options would have been the worse in the absence of a choice program. It is also worth remembering that the scholarship was good for only half of private school tuition, so it is possible that a more generous program would have a broader effect.

    The research by Chingos and Peterson builds on a growing body of evidence demonstrating the potential of school choice to improve academic outcomes. The congressionally mandated evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program found that students who used vouchers to attend private schools had a 91 percent graduation rate. Graduation rates in D.C. Public Schools hover around 60 percent.

    In Florida, researchers Marcus Winters and Jay Greene found that the competitive pressure placed on public schools as a result of the McKay Voucher Program for special needs children actually improved outcomes in the public system as well as outcomes for voucher recipients. School choice also increases student safety and parental satisfaction—another reason education options are proliferating across the country.

    Improving academic outcomes for students won’t be accomplished by new federal initiatives or programs. History has proven as much over the past four-and-a-half decades. A near tripling of inflation-adjusted per-pupil federal spending, $2 trillion in federal spending on education since 1965, and the presence of 150 federal education programs have all failed to move the needle on student achievement or narrow achievement gaps between white and minority students.

    By contrast, school choice has demonstrated time and again the many benefits that can be realized when students are given the opportunity to attend schools that meet their unique learning needs.

    Posted in Education, Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    20 Responses to Back to School: How Can We Truly Help Minority Students?

    1. Michael Meyers says:

      In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, I accused Secretary Duncan of complicity with “identity politics” and of aiding President Obama’s retreat into racial separatism by means of establishing a “black desk” at the U.S. Department of Education through implementing the President's Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-American students. It amounts to reestablishing separate but equal in education, including enhancing black colleges. Why do we still need racially-identifiable colleges? We don't…and we don't need “minority-centric”, race-based programs that stereotype and segregate non-whites and simultaneously discriminate against whites and all women, such as with the City of NY's "Young Men's Initiative" and its City University's "Black Male Initiative."

      These policies constitute a functional repeal of Brown v. Board of Education’s focus on integration and equal treatment of individuals before the law. When the government plays favorites based on race preferences and when it refuses to decide the complaints brought to its enforcement agency, it undermines the rule of law and equal opportunity. To read my full letter go to our website and blog at http://www.nycivilrights.org.

      Michael Meyers, New York Civil Rights Coalition

    2. Julian Gumbs says:

      I read this piece, but would like to ask a basic question. Is academic that much poorer in the BLACK Race overall than other groups, is this the problem moreso than economics. Are we just simply Dumber than others? I know this is American politics but, it implies Overall racial shortcomings, obviously I'm black and staunchly believe economics is the #1 hinderance to black academic excellence in THIS COUNTRY. I don't want to divulge numbers or get to carried away. I'm Done!

      • Lloyd Scallan says:

        It's the same old excuses. When will you face the #1 problem, blacks refuse to help themselves. How many time do we hear blacks criticize black achivement by accusing "they just want to be white? The black family structure has been willingly taken appart by government welfare programs that pay black mothers to have baby after baby without question. How much more "affirmative action and minorty preference", that by the way, discriminates against other races, must you have to accept the facts. Blacks suffer because, as was witnessed druing Katrina, blacks refusing to leave flooding homes saying on camera that the government will come and save them. God helps those that help themselves. Blacks refuse, that's the "# 1 hinderance"

      • Bobbie says:

        The problem is the control in society influencing people to think of themselves less than others. No skin color limits the human brains capacity although the human brain can be taught to think that way!. Don't listen to opinions until you get the facts! Then make your own opinion and don't take personal insults to depend on government! Economics isn't the hindrance to academic excellence in THIS COUNTRY! Look at the whole picture and see what this country can do without!!! Government and media holding everyone back!! Government over regulating businesses out of business, indoctrinating education that only results in narrow thinking with media support. Keeping people from moving until someone else pays the way!!!!! Don't take advice from people you don't know (government) who makes money off skin color. It's disgraceful and shameful! People are so much better than that!!!!

      • jadedserf says:

        Mr. Gumbs, I read one study that supports your point exactly. When you are a student who lives in poverty, your race, religion and gender are secondary to your life in survival. Here's an excerpt from one report:
        These income-based achievement gaps are large. To put them in perspective, consider
        the black-white test score gap as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress
        (NAEP) for 13 year olds, depicted by the dashed line in figure 1. 3 That gap was about 1 standard
        deviation in the 1970s, then fell to about 0.50 during the 1980s where it has remained relatively
        constant. As a result, the achievement gap between children from high and low income families
        is now far larger than the gap between black and white children.


        The race card keeps everyone fighting amongst themselves instead of seeing and evaluating the big picture: We have an ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have nots in this nation and this must be addressed.

    3. Bobbie says:

      This government has to stop condescending people. To truly help students, stop identifying them as "minorities" and stop the racists implications. Children are motivated in a positive atmosphere and the minute authority puts a label on people/person, a great personal loss pursues, sometimes never regained as we observe. Obama talks about "low self esteem" when he's (government) the one inflicting it.

    4. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Despite this EO issued almost one month ago, not a word by any Republican, afraid of being called racist. With all of the "affirmative action, minority preferences" and now a half black president issuing an EO giving blacks special advantages, blacks still complain it's not their fault, it's "whitie, the crackers" that deprive, as shown by Julian Gumbs blaming "shortcomings" on "economic hinderance". as most blacks stand by the mail box waiting for the monthly welfare check which precludes then from going out to get a job.

      • jadedserf says:

        What about the host of corporate welfare recipients? Their no bid military contracts, interest free bail outs, and deregulated price manipulations on utility services, for example, cost us far more than our destitute natives who are just trying to survive, eat and have shelter from the elements..

    5. Dan Poole says:

      "have all failed to move the needle on student achievement or narrow achievement gaps between white and minority students."

      Very true, and only liberals argue otherwise. I do think that Miss Burke has made a fundamental mistake though: The achievement gap between white and non-white students will never be closed, whether it's by education spending (the discredited liberal idea) or school choice (a conservative idea that has noble intentions but will backfire horrendously if private schools aren't allowed to accept who they want and deny who they want for whatever reason). It really is this simple: According to the Bell Curve, American whites have an average IQ of 103, whereas American blacks have an IQ of 85, and American Latinos have an IQ of 89. This inherent inequality in intellectual capacity isn't ever going away, which means the achievement gaps won't go away either.

      Are teachers unions a huge problem in failing urban school systems? You bet. But the achievement gaps will remain even if we rightfully nip the teachers unions in the bud

      • K. White says:

        You are highly misled if you continue to believe faulty research that has been openly debunked. There is nothing "inherent" about those numbers- they are a product of the resources and privileges each group has either been handed or denied. We must let go of this elitist attitude and acknowledge that all men have been created equal. And thus should be treated as equals.

        • Dan Poole says:

          The Bell Curve hasn't been debunked. Here are the facts:

          After the furor over The Bell Curve died down, it came out that psychometricians had known the truth all along. They had been lying to the public about IQ. In light of the psychotic response to Murray and Herrnstein's book, one could see why. A few years later, the American Psychological Association formed a Task Force on Intelligence in response to the publication of The Bell Curve and issued a report basically admitting the truth of all the book's major conclusions. Among these were:

          -"Differences in genetic endowment contribute substantially to individual differences in (psychometric) intelligence"

          -"The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status."

          Interestingly, the APA contradicted it's first claim when it said in the report that "there is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation" on the differences between whites and blacks. But as a simple wiki search proves, the APA got it right the first time when it said genetic endowment contributes substantially. In regards to the heritability of IQ, wikipedia says: "The New York Times Magazine has listed about three quarters as a figure held by the majority of studies."

          In other words, roughly 75% of IQ is genetic. It's easy to connect the dots from there. If IQ is mostly genetic, and if there are such substantial differences in IQ between blacks and whites, then the difference between blacks and whites is indeed genetic. This is no surprise. American blacks have an IQ of 85, but sub-saharan Africans (IE, pure blacks) have an IQ of about 67. In Haiti the IQ is 71. Why is this the case? Because American blacks have some European admixture. (:

          IQ is real, it's genetic, and it largely explains why white European nations created Western Civilization but African nations did not. If the facts have "rayciss" spin, sobeit. Truth is truth is truth. Access to resources and non-existent "privileges" has nothing to do with the differences in IQ. Africa is much more resource-rich then Europe, and yet, look at the historical developments of Europe vs. Africa even BEFORE Africa was colonized.

          And you're dead wrong: All men are NOT created equal. Not in terms of intelligence and abilities, anyway. Ergo, they should not be treated as equals. A meritocracy must be allowed to rise. Screw egalitarianism!!

        • Bobbie says:

          those numbers are a product of initiative/ self motivation and or the lack thereof. Can't force people to learn. But you can set sufficient standards. Although we all have equal body parts our minds are individual containing abilities of acknowledgement and fundamentals at various levels the individual acquires on the individuals own which shows in the standard of education they receive. Parents need to encourage where the quality of ALL teachers should be the best and brightest, since they're paid and or benefited, as if.

    6. How do you help a group who think getting an education is for suckers, speaking proper English is "talking white", and listen to music about a perfect b**ch and killing cops. Until the attitude/culture of the group changes, changes in the education system won't help.

    7. John says:

      With a token coupon, how much of the actual costs does that cover, and if these students are impoverished, who is supposed to make up the difference.

      It sounds as bad as those web advertisements, where you are offered a free iPhone and all you gotta do is fill out personal information in various thousands of links that go nowhere until you are frustrated and still do not win an iPhone.

      This is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Pretending to care, when in fact they are only trying to get credit for an otherwise scam… just like the banks did in the 90's with the CRA's to help the poor.

    8. John says:

      This is an interesting article, thanks for your thoughts.
      I wonder,however, why there is seldom a report on how to help our higher achieving students who sometimes struggle to find funding for college education? I son't see many programs in the public schools to help these bright students with special classes and teachers. Why is that??

    9. Bill M. - Chicago says:

      Why are democrats so fond of parental choice until it comes to education? Once the government places its focus on school choice for parents and students, instead of siding with the teachers unions, the improvement will be immediate and demonstrable. But the democrats already know this…that's why Obama's first act as President was to support Dick Durban in eliminating funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. They can't allow the evidence to continue to build for the success of school choice voucher programs. All of the other programs they are hiding behind are mere distractions to keep the scrutiny off of the failure of the teachers unions to educate our children. Here in Chicago they are bragging about a new record for achieving a 5 year graduation rate of 60%. Imagine…they see a 40% failure rate as positive news!

    10. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Affirmative Action, racial preferences, diversity, reparations, now Obama's EO, outright descrimination against anyone not black. How much more do the leftist want before we all realize their policies on race is a major factor in the down-fall of this nation. They might as well just hang signs, "whites need not apply" for anything!

    11. Tom Sullivan says:

      Julian, I believe the educational achievement difference between blacks and whites is cultural and personal and family aspirations. As the DC voucher experiment (where all applicants are poor) shows, those who seek vouchers but do not get them graduate at a rate of 70%, those who win vouchers and use them graduate at 91%, and the average graduation rate is 56% (see Jason Riley in WSJ on DC vouchers, BTW a black man).

      Clearly there is something very special about those who apply but do not win – they graduate anyway at a rate 25% higher than average. Voucher winners graduate at a rate 30% higher than the voucher "losers", and 73% better than the overall DC average.

      So there a two huge, glaring effects: those who apply but lose are winners in motivation and in fact; and those who win vouchers and use them achieve a huge boost over the average in terms of graduation. It should be remembered that "merely" graduating means a much higher success rate across a wide variety of life achievements.

      DC vouchers cost an average of about $10k vs the DC average of $29,408 (in 2010; from Census report "Public Education Finances: 2010"; Tables 1 (cost) and 18 (enrollment)). It is to Obama's everlasting shame that he opposed continuing the DC vouchers.

    12. Theda GoodFox Kresge says:

      Interesting and provocative article; wondered how many of the 8 who have responded are ‘minority’. As one, I offer a personal incident. I attended a government school just for my race-American Indian. When I was “graduated” from the 9th grade – the principal and 9th grade teacher advised my mother to send me to the public high school instead of the government all-Indian high schools which were boardingschools. The public high school had White students and Indian students. The Black students had a separate school at the time. The public high school was not always a positive experience, but I did graduate. Sometimes I wondered why those two educators recommended a public school education instead of the government school education. Subsequently I received a B.S. degree followed with two Masters degrees. Would I have done so if I had attended the Indian Boarding highschool? I don’t know. But I did not send my children to a government boarding school. They have completed college.

      • Bobbie says:

        I'm offended by the term "minority" that government draws "lesser expectations." How can anyone not be offended by that? I don't like the label on my back knowing I'm looked at as a token for government control. America is for we the people to live free and independent from government not looked at as dependents on government. They see "minorities" incapable of governing our own otherwise known as incapable of independence and raise all kinds of taxes creating all kinds of programs that nobody asked for but are told available that some go for not in need but just because they're there!!! Democrats politicize EVERYTHING saying "minorities can't do this, that or anything without government!!??" Ignoring the fact our dignity says OTHERWISE!!!! I've been traumatized by the democratic party and have lost all respect…

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