Sunday, August 21, 2016

Learning-Gap Redux...Again

CAVEAT ALERT:  The following will offend most, be approved by few, and castigated or not.   It concerns yet another “report” of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence (a think-tank of sorts) concerning the “education-gap” existing between black/Hispanic and white students. There's little if anything new in the report, which carries no weight since it has no connection to the Ky. Dept. of Education, making one wonder if it's worth the money contributed to maintain it.

Hardly a day passes without the media or non-profit bashing the education establishment(s) for not doing what often is impossible. Item: The report indicated that in order to achieve proper diversity among teachers the state would need to hire 6,882 black, Hispanic and teachers of other nationalities. The average teacher-salary in Kentucky, according to the Ky. Dept. of Education, is $52,618 ($58,385 in Lexington), meaning an additional outlay of some $400 million a year unless the white-teacher population is reduced by 6,882 teachers (5%) so political correctness can be achieved. The report didn't elaborate.

According to the Herald-Leader (19 August), Lexington minister C.B. Akins, chairman of the Achievement Gap Study Group of the Committee, said the gap could be closed by implementing strategies backed by empirical data and that no further study is necessary regarding the gap-matter. The report indicated that the state has failed to erase barriers due to race, income, language and learning differences, as if those things can be changed by pedagogy.

According to the Fayette System's count, black and Hispanic/Latino students make up 22.4% and 15.1%, respectively, of Lexington's student population, or better than a third. The Prichard report also indicated that minority students are disproportionately suspended or not considered as gifted as often as whites. It stated that those most likely to face barriers include those with low family incomes; are learning English; have learning-disabilities; or are black, Hispanic, Latino, American-Indian or native-Alaskan.

One can only imagine the inordinate attention demanded in the classroom for these students at the expense of attention given to those who are able to learn at grade-level, a teacher's nightmare. Akins knows the answer to the problem but he, like everyone else, dances around it by blaming the education establishment for not using empirical data, whatever that is. He didn't say. Since school-integration of the 1960s, the gap has steadily widened and is still widening, with no end in sight. Hardly more than half of African-American boys graduate high school in the U.S.

At risk of being tarred and feathered by the PC police, dare one wonder, especially in light of the total failure of forced busing remarked even by its originator, Dr. James Coleman, if the gap might start narrowing if at least a fourth of Lexington's school facilities be labeled at least “preferably minority” and staffed entirely by black and Hispanic teachers/administrators and state-of-the-art equipped? The quick answer is “no,” but the school-board, with great community input, should at least explore that possibility. There might be a great surprise, especially from blacks, since on-scene, real-time competition and consideration would be virtually ethnic-free.

In Fayette County, there are some 35,000 families of which some 28,000 are husband-wife structured. Led by a female with no husband are 5,000 families. Led by a male with no wife are 2,350 families. As Akins is bound to know, some 7,000 or so families are not likely to furnish normal support for the children involved, therein lying the problem, exacerbated further by the fact that “single mom” families are likely to be poor and welfare-dependent. The schools can serve children two meals a day but that does nothing for academics.

A far worse problem, as noted on the Prichard web-site, is that on the basis of the KY ACT benchmark testing only 37% of all Kentucky graduates (2014) are college-ready, this in the wake of the disastrous, pork-filled Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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