Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Plan for Closing the Achievement Gap

As promised, here is my draft plan for closing the achievement gap between Blacks and Whites/Asians.

In preparation, I've reread the many comments on high school teacher Christopher Jackson's dispiriting (even if too, ahem, black and white) report from the trenches What it is Like to Teach Black Students, read current research to update my knowledge about what works in improving African-American achievement, took a few long hikes to contemplate it all, wrote a draft, which I sent to my wisest colleagues and friends (who happen to be diverse in ideology, race, and gender, I might add.) What you see is the resulting draft, which I continue to revise as your comments come in.

I strongly encourage your comments: where you agree, disagree, or have other recommendations you believe should be added or substituted.

I plan to submit the revised plan, the aforementioned teacher's article, a distilled version of your fascinating albeit often shocking comments, to the media, and to education and government leaders. As I said, following the previous post, my goal here is to make a small effort in response to Attorney General Eric Holder's calling us a nation of cowards about race and urging a full-dimension discussion of the issue, just as Bill Clinton urged some years ago.

Because most of my blog posts focus on issues other than education, I feel the need to establish a bit of credibility in this area, so here is a link to my bio. On that page, scroll down to read my background in education. Perhaps most relevant here is that I hold a Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in the evaluation of education programs. My dissertation was on reading achievement in African-Americans, which my advisor nominated for Dissertation of the Year. (It was not selected.) I subsequently taught in graduate schools, culminating with Berkeley. I then became the senior author of California's procedures for high school accreditation and for California Department of Education Program Review. But I'm not just an ivory tower guy. I left my work as a medical researcher at the Rockefeller University to run drug education "rap groups" with 7th and 8th graders in I.S. 61, a largely minority low-income New York City public school, and later taught similar kids in Richmond, California public schools. And I'm no stranger to prejudice: I am the child of Holocaust survivors--my mom, for example, was in Auschwitz. I attended New York City public schools, from kindergarten in a Bronx slum to college at the $34 a semester City University of New York.

I have sometimes been accused of being too idealistic so I have tried here to strike the balance between practicality and likely effectiveness.

1. Reduce teen pregnancy. It's well established that children of teenage parents are at greater risk of school and life failure. So junior and senior high schools, especially those with high teen pregnancy rates, should implement data-driven teen-pregnancy prevention programs. The research does not support abstinence-only programs and so political pressures to restrict such programs to those should be resisted.

Creators of programming aimed at teens (sitcoms, news, movies, video games, music videos, record labels) should be encouraged to create more content that would compellingly display the risks of teen pregnancy to the parents and child. For example, a girl's deciding when to have a child and who should be the father of her child may be her life's most important decisions. The consequences of a good and poor choice can be vividly portrayed in the media.

2. Provide parenting education early. To increase the chances that from Day One, parents have the tools to be good parents, full effort should be expended to ensure that high-quality parenting education is highly accessible, especially to pregnant teens in low-income locales. The best parenting education involves interactive video of critical incidents in parenting--for example, what to do if your baby won't stop crying? What to do to ensure your child develops good language skills? Ethics?

True innovation in delivery systems is required. For example, high school websites and others heavily visited by at-risk teens, for example,, should be encouraged to post the aforementioned parenting training course. To ensure its availability to people without computers, the community center in low-income housing developments should have a computer installed, which includes the parenting education program as well as other high-quality interactive-video programs, for example, on teen pregnancy prevention and on preventing and curing substance abuse. In hospitals, especially those serving at-risk communities, the TV in each obstetric patient's room should have a TV offering the aforementioned parenting training.

3. Parenting training for welfare-receiving teen parents. As a condition for receiving welfare benefits such as TANF funds, teen or perhaps all parents should be required to successfully complete the online or an in-person parenting education course, much as we require aspiring drivers to complete a driver's education course.

4. Fully fund Head Start/Early Head Start IF the results of the just-completed major study support its cost-effectiveness. Logic suggests that Head Start (largely parent-run preschool education) should be of benefit. However, the data for its providing long-term education benefit has not revealed the outstanding results many politicians claim. Indeed, the early results of the latest major federally funded evaluation finds Head Start to yield only small benefit but the full study period ended on March 31 of this year. So I assume the report will be published in a few months. The extent of future taxpayer funding of Head Start should be affected by what that report indicates.

5. Better train teachers. Absurdly, pre-K to grade 12 teachers are trained primarily by theory-oriented academics who have never taught in a pre-K to grade-12 classroom, let alone been master teachers there. That must change. The primary instructors of would-be teachers should be master K-12 teachers, including those who have produced excellent results in educating heavily African-American classes.

That high school teacher who wrote the essay referred to earlier as well as many of the commenters suggest that teachers of heavily African-American classes may well need to be masters at motivation, using a skill set beyond that which is taught in most teacher education programs. So the increasingly required multicultural education course should include master-teacher-taught lessons on the art of classroom management, including strategies particularly likely to be effective in working with low-income African-American students.

Training should not end upon the teacher's obtaining a license to teach. Teachers experiencing the frustrations expressed by the essayist and commenters should be able to phone or email a hotline staffed by teachers who have successfully taught heavily African-American classes.

6. Flexibly group classes. In part, to avoid African-Americans being placed in low-track classes, ability-grouped classes have in many schools, largely been eliminated K-8, and reduced in many high schools. Unfortunately, that causes too great a teaching challenge for most teachers: teaching a very wide range of kids in the same class--from very-low achieving to very high achieving, from very slow learners to very fast learners.

The answer is what I call flex classes. For academic subjects at least, group classes by achievement level but conduct frequent reviews to ensure that all students, especially children of color, are given the opportunity to move up (or down) as appropriate to their learning needs.

7. Dispel the belief that working hard is "acting white." Berkeley researcher John Ogbu found that many black students believe that being studious is "acting white," and therefore is unacceptable. That is echoed in the aforementioned essay and in the resulting comments. "Cool" blacks, both peers and adults, who are studious, must compellingly convince students and their parents that studying hard is equally important for students of all races.

8. Chronically disruptive students must be placed in special classes. If a student, despite the teacher's best efforts (with help from the principal) continues to disrupt his or her classmates' opportunity to learn, that child must be moved to a special class taught by someone with special skills in working with such kids.

9. Begin career exploration in grade 6. Finding an exciting yet realistic career can be motivating to many students. And it reduces the problem of many high school and college graduates having no idea what they want to pursue as a career.

. Give students a choice: college-prep or career-prep curriculum. Increasingly, in the name of high standards, all students, even high schoolers who read on a sixth grade level and who have far more ability in working with their hands, are being forced to take a college-prep curriculum, replete with Shakespeare, quadratic equations, the causes of the Peloponnesian Wars, and stochastic processes. In California, you cannot get a high school diploma without passing a special exam based on a college prep curriculum. Not surprisingly, this causes many to drop out of high school. Or if they graduate and attend college (today, many colleges are open-admission even to the grossly underprepared), they disproportionately drop out. And even if they manage to defy the odds and graduate from college, they are likely to join the ranks of the countless people with a bachelor's degree in a low-rigor, low-demand major from a not very selective college who are unable to find better employment than they could have found with just a high school diploma--meanwhile they incurred huge student debt, boredom, and ongoing assault to self-esteem from being forced to study academic material for which they were unprepared.

Junior high and high schools should offer a high-quality career-prep as well as college-prep curriculum. If I had a son or daughter who through grade 7 showed clear signs of not being likely to succeed in a college-prep curriculum, I'd encourage him or her to choose a career-prep program, which, for example, taught her reading, writing, etc but in the context of preparing her for a career that doesn't require college, for example, robotics repair or entrepreneurship.

11. Require a course in life skills. Before requiring at-risk, indeed all kids to learn simultaneous equations, the halide series of chemical elements, and the use of the doppelganger, students should be required to pass a course in life skills:for example, budgeting, interpersonal communication, and the aforementioned sex education and parenting education. To not do so is to be guilty of the very elitism that many educators and politicians decry.

12. Institute a debate (forensics) program in all high schools, including those with low achievement scores. There's some evidence (and a lot of common sense) to suggest that this could yield significant benefit.

13. Require colleges to provide full disclosure to prospective students. In their attempt to woo students, especially minority students, colleges and high school counselors, as in the Tuskegee Experiments, often hide the information students need to use to decide whether to enroll:
  • the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rate
  • the average amount of growth that students with particular high school records make in reading, writing, thinking, leadership, and quantitative reasoning.
  • the average amount of student debt assumed, disaggregated by family income and assets
  • the employment prospects for students who graduate, disaggregated by major.
  • alternatives to four-year colleges that the student should consider: short-term community college programs, apprenticeship programs, the military, on-the-job training, etc.
13. Try bold pilot studies. Admittedly, the previous proposals are not revolutionary. They merely represent, in my view, the best prospects for successful implementation. We should, in addition, be pilot testing bold new ideas. For example, one commenter suggested sending African-American kids to deeply impoverished parts of Africa, perhaps as part of the Peace Corps, in hopes it would inspire them. It's worth a 100-participant pilot study, carefully evaluated. Here are a few other out-of-the-box ideas to get your brainstorming juices flowing:
  • Pair at-risk kids with nursing home residents or hard-to-adopt animal-shelter dogs and cats who otherwise would be euthanized. I've seen hard-bitten people grow loving when involved with a non-threatening person or animal.
  • Have kids plant vegetable and fruit gardens, cook and eat what they've grown and sell the rest. They'd learn science, cooking, nutrition, and how to run a business. In addition, they might join me in awe of the miracle of growth.
  • Create peer mentor pairs: for example, at-risk sixth graders with at-risk first graders.There's no better way to learn than to teach.
  • Provide free genetic counseling to at-risk prospective parents. We all are a product not just of our environment but of our genes. Educating prospective parents may help them make more fully informed and thus wiser choices.
Again, I encourage your candid comments on this draft plan.


patrickg said...

I like points 7 and 8, however the root cause is welfare, which takes away any incentive to better yourself.

I recommend Thomas Sowell's book "The Economics and Politics of Race" as background reading.

As support for my argument I will point to the re-integration of Germany after the Berlin Wall fell. The East Germans, despite being identical to the West Germans in cultural history and genetics, have lower labor productivity, due to the destruction of the work ethic under Communist rule.

When welfare is gone, so will the bias against "acting white".

Anonymous said...

Research to add to your list:

Harlem Children's Zone Success Read the part about Baby College

KIPP Schools

90/90/90 Schools

Please read books like Enriching The Brain by Eric Jensen and Intelligence And How To Get It by Richard Nisbett

Anonymous said...

On this lazy Sunday, I happen across your blog and find this topic disturbing and fascinating. I do believe that this is a result of the destructive culture of Resentment. Resentment holds people back. Free them of resentment, and you free them of shackles. To take it out of the black/white racial context, it is because of Resentment that holds the Palestinians back, and why the Japanese thrived even after two nuclear explosions.

In our inner cities, resentment has given rise to its twin sister, Entitlement. Entitlement yields short term benefits in the name of corrected real and perceived injustices.

Any solution must resolve these two poisons in current inner city culture.

A couple of thoughts that may help address this.

Education must be thought of as a privilege, not an entitlement. If a student genuinely wants to learn and the parent(s) shows geniune support, this student (and possibly their family) must be separated from the herd. That is, sent to a private school with a constructive culture.

A voucher program can be used to fund these students. The value of the voucher will depend on the students' scores on standardized test. I think these should be administered very early on, say second-third grade. I would love to see black, inner city children attend the same schools as rich white children, and perform the same. Only from students of equal motivation can the dreams of all the desegragationists be fulfilled.

I agree with the earlier post regarding the role welfare has in destroying incentives to work hard. Those have been indoctrinated into the addiction of welfare may never change, nor will their children. So with public schools filled with this destructive culture, a sense of order and authority must be present. I would advocate mandatory school uniforms and a strict code of conduct must be observed. Repeat offenders must be expelled, and the parents should be held accountable by revoking govt subsidy checks. I know it's not politically correct to say this, but freedom of thought and expression is not unconditionally a good thing when it spreads poison.

Throwing money at the problem is not the solution. Washington DC is amongst the highest funded school systems, but also the worst. We must put administrators that do not produce results accountable, and stop paying the salaries for those who do not perform in the best interest of the children.

We constantly underestimate the ability for people to survive adversity, so we coddle them. We, as a nation, have had settlers survive the untamed West without 1% of the resources or social institutions we have today, and yet they flourished. Removing welfare and entitlement will not result in "people dying in the streets." Instead, I believe it will free them from the "soft bigotry of low expectations."

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you Marty for the original post on Mr. Jackson and allowing people to leave comments. The article is controversial and eye-opening, but it promotes discussion on the issue, something that is much needed on this topic. I also believe that many of your suggestions for your plan on closing the achievement gap are valid and insightful.

I am a white male teacher currently teaching in a 98% African-American school (though thoroughly enjoying summer break right now). I have also taught in a rural white school and a racially diverse middle to upper class suburban school. I have a masters in education, am Nationally Board certified and have been a teacher of the year twice.

Even with years of teaching experience, awards and accalades, and a love for my profession, I still need help. Simply, I can't do this alone. We (teachers) can't do this alone. Each year I call upon friends, community members, and businesses to help me find ways to allow my students to succeed. Whether it is financial assistance for classroom supplies, coming into my classroom for tutoring, being a guest speaker, or contributing resources, I have found success is a team effort.

I have become quite accustomed over my teaching career to using the "I'm a teacher" line to get far more things than I ever would otherwise. And thank you to those who have assisted! It is frustrating sometimes visiting my wife at her job at a major banking corporation and seeing closets the size of my classroom with paper, pencils, pens, etc., but as she always tells me "at least you're making a difference." And that's what I remember when I go out and make requests to so many people for so many things.

I promise you that I am not a miracle worker. Not all of my students have passed their end of year high stakes testing and some do have to repeat the grade. I have been cussed out by students and parents and have had weapons in my room by black and white students alike. Yes, it sucks. I come home and have a miserable evening that day. I get to go back the next day though and try to make it a better day than the last. I know this sounds idealistic and sappy, but it's the attitude I adopted early on and it's kept me going for many years.

If you are reading this and can say that you have gone into a school to tutor or read to a child, been a big brother/sister/mentor to a student, given money or supplies to a teacher/school, etc. THANK YOU! And more importantly, keep doing it. It makes a difference. I promise. If you haven't, please consider it. I have enjoyed reading all of the posts and replies on Marty's article, but I am left wondering how many of those saying that American is doomed have gone out to help become part of that change.

I remember in my first year of teaching, my assistant principal told me that you can't control what these kids do when they leave school (I thought I could early on), but you have 6 1/2 hours everyday to make a difference. I always keep that in the back of my head when I see a child sleeping in my class, begging to have a part of a classmates snack because they tell me later that they haven't eaten since lunch yesterday, or said that they couldn't do their homework because the cops arrested their big brother on drug charges last night and they had to find money to bail him out during the night.

Teaching isn't easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Whether you're in a inner-city, suburban, or private school, they each present their own challenges and frustrations. It is a shame that Mr. Jackson's situation escalated to the point it did, but I hope it shows the need for action from society.

Doug said...

Firstly, I applaud your brilliant approach in posting an inflamatory story to stimulate debate. I wish everyone would take advantage of free speak to such brilliant effect.

I stand by my earlier contention that individuality is a key component of success. Also, please make an attempt to de-emphasise "African American". We are aiming for a non-racist society (I hope). In such a society no-one is designated by the accident of their birth (short, black, stupid) and are judged on the merits of their actions. The government's obsession with race in South Africa drove me to immigrate to a more tolerant and genuinely colourblind society.

Specifically regards your action points:
1a. Definitely
1b. Unrealistic - Promote government sponsored advertisements.

2. Partly unrealistic. Run the proposed TV show in maternity wards, post a link to a website in wards and hand out a flyer.

3. Excellent but unrealistic. The right to behave irresponsibly is enshrined in the constitution, or so the logic goes.

4. Niche, rephrase. In my opinion a few years of eduction regarding the benefits of life-long eduction will go a lot further than a few years of education in traditional subjects, but that is up for debate. More to the point, this action point looks out of place - "Promote preschool education" would work better as a title.

5. Perfect, but please remove all polite references to race. Dealing with an unruly class is hardly a novel problem, but the solution should be. We should leverage communications technology to best effect and train teachers that is okay to ask for help.

6. Bring back elitism, please. It is the best motivator I can think of.

7. This is not an action point. Reduce the importance of "cool" and "unacceptable" by pointing to the unimportance of these concepts in the world beyond school. Use the stats on eduction leading to success. Use anecdotal evidence. Convince students that education = better life. You may be surprised at how many people do not accept that fact as a self-evident reality of life.

8. Agreed. Further, the demise of apprenticeships has left a gaping hole in skills in our society. Possibly meld school with an apprenticeship where the opportunity arises.

9. Agreed. Many organisations act in their own best interests by withholding information. Society cannot afford this deception in an area as important as education. Exploitation may start with a student loan, but the consequences could be life-long, in turn damaging the reputation of education as a desirable asset.

Not to be overly repetitive, but I believe that explicit, planned education in independent thought and the benefits of education itself are critical.

Anonymous said...

I preface this comment by saying I think the above ideas (both the article and comments) all deserve to be investigated thoroughly and implemented in ALL public schools regardless of which students attend - if found to be effective.

Also, I'm a Canadian and I only comment on the matter because my high school was a watered down version of Mr. Jackson's experience.

My thoughts are;

1a) Agreed. Also, please include free condoms to students, and birth control as well if financially feasible. And controversially I'm sure, maybe a first abortion free policy? This may not sit well with some, but if points 2 and 3 are implemented as added to below, these measures may be necessary to limit how much worse things get (with respect to society in general) before positive results occur.

1b) Not sure this will have significant impact. Kids and young adults see through and filter out the "after school special" message too often IMO.

2) Yes, how to implement this successfully may be a tough task however. I would suggest that only providing media and public availability may experience a fate similar to my thoughts on 1b, and largely be ignored. To echo Doug, perhaps including this as part of a mandatory career and life management course in high schools (among other needed topics somewhat aside of this discussion) that would make it abundantly clear the financial costs, difficulty of rearing a child at such a young age, and the statistics for a child's chance at success (or lack thereof) in life based on that students current situation. Perhaps combined with the following in point 3, this could foster positive change.

3) Agreed, but only in conjunction with implementation and mandatory enrollment in a program as suggested in point 8. Welfare benefits should then be cut 6 months after completion of the program. Welfare should instantly be cut if the student fails or drops out, unless they are physiologically unable to complete. Existence of a subsidized pre-school program may be needed for parents in this situation as well.

To respond to Doug on this point, I'm certainly no expert on the American constitution, but I don't believe it obligates the public to finance irresponsibility. The student may certainly do as they please, but they will not receive benefit from taxpayer funds without complying to the above.

Also, I'm unsure of how the American welfare system functions, but aside from the aforementioned situation or one where an individual is unable to work due to injury, there should be requirement of a minimum amount of taxable hours worked in a 12 month period prior to receiving benefit. Benefits should last less than a year on any claim. This may already be the case.

4) No comment. I'm not familiar with the details and the hour at time of this comment is too late for me research and form a semi-educated opinion.

5, 6, 7, 8, 9) Also agreed. I wish I had some GOOD idea to facilitate idea 7. Some sort of cultural shift needs to happen. I think it would need to be implemented on a community by community basis. Perhaps social networking could be leveraged to find a way that would hit home in each area and then to share what works? Maybe some local celebs to drive home the success that hard work and education provided them? That to "beat the man" you need to be your own successful wo/man, and that selling drugs is only short term, only a handful of folks make it to the pros, and just as few break into entertainment each year?

These suggestions shaped and applied correctly might eventually light a fire in more students to take better advantage of the opportunity we are all given in North America. It's going to take time to get results, but planning and action are needed with all possible resource and haste.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm disappointed. I was expecting something more creative and controversial.

This reads like a list of promises from a new Presidential administration. (Except 8 and 9, which no one is going to touch.) Obama's staff could have written it. GWB's staff could have written it.

By the time we got from triumphant announcement to actual implementation, I don't think we'd see anything we haven't seen already. Maybe you'd end up with a statistically measurable impact on a few indicators (and maybe not). But if you think "initiatives" like these are going to transform the daily lives of kids living in the ghetto, I think you're kidding yourself.

Claudette said...

I like point #8 as it strikes a cord with me, a 59-year-old, middle-class African-American woman.

Sometimes there is (or has been) a stigma attached to vocational training. As if you're not good enough or smart enough for college. That needn't be the case.

I wasn't particularly college-minded in high school (late 60's), but I'm plenty smart. I had always wanted to be a secretary, so I took typing, shorthand and bookkeeping instead of college prep. This early vocational training has served me well throughout my life.

In my late 20's when I had tired of being "just a secretary", I attended evening classes at Rutgers University. When I tired of that, I attended Inter American University in Puerto Rico - just for a change of pace. When I tired of the island scene, I transferred to and graduated from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration -- vocational/college education at its best. I dual-majored in food & beverage and housekeeping. I worked in housekeeping management in the hotel industry but then tired of the low pay, weird days off, late night shifts.

I gladly returned to the rut of 9-to-5, M-F office work.

So then I founded a janitorial business -- go figure. I highly succeeded at that, but after 8 years I tired of that too. It was totally lacking in intellectual stimulation and my vocabulary skills suffered due to the need to communicate to a labor force with limited English.

So I sold that busines and am now happily back in office administration -- as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of an international firm. Good job, good pay, great company. I have a new appreciation for the "rut" of office work.

Interweaved throughout all of the above, I did stints in office administration work whenever I needed to get a J-O-B.

So finally, the one point I'm trying to make is that vocational training, if presented in the right context and chosen wisely, can be blended with a college education and give you the best of both worlds. You needn't pick one OR the other.

Joe Katzman said...

1. Would be nice, but my expectations are very low. If the incentive pattern in someone's mind is that kids = $$$ from heaven, and more kids = more money, and that is in fact what happens... not sure what an education program can reasonably expect to achieve. But data-driven programming AND rewards for same is at least a start toward rewarding what works. Which is always a good thing.

2. Only helps the achievement gap if part of that parenting education involves teaching parents to stress the obligation of giving kids a better life than they had, and hence the importance of #7.

3. What happens to people who fail? This may be politically viable some day, but I see very little chance of it now. And I have very little trust or confidence in the kind of people who would end up designing the test. No to this one.

5. Certainly couldn't hurt. But this is not the fulcrum of the problem behind the achievement gap, which can be measured in areas where teachers are a constant.

6. Doesn't work without 7, or you just get kids holding others back even more than is the case now.

7 is the fulcrum. Most of the rest doesn't address the core issues, and efforts to date haven't made much of a dent. It may help once progress is made on this issue, but until that progress is made, the rest has been just marginal improvement and window dressing.

8 is about to be taken care of on the motivation front, as the balloon of the service economy continues to deflate. Getting in now with focused vocational programs in minority districts strikes me as something that will help expand and nurture a black middle class, which has been disproportionately set back by America's de-industrialization. That middle class is a big part of any continuing answer to #7 that is stable over the long term.

You left out the other important element, which is to save those we can. Anonymous is right that a test-based voucher program that will give poor black kids who want to achieve an environment that helps them do so... is not only practically critical, but a moral imperative.

The Unions that work so hard to remove all other choices and keep those kids in schools where failure is pretty much the only option are, in my mind, about one moral notch above slave traders. In the best case, they come through the schools they're trapped in with unnecessary disadvantages that influence the rest of their lives. The whole thing amounts to sentencing many people to ruined lives of dependency and servitude, because it makes a few extra bucks to do it. I find that unconscionable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, good ideas, however your plans like the majority of government plans focus solely on what can be done for the students instead of rewarding achievements. You can't teach a young girl how hard it is to be a mother, if half of her class are teen mothers, she's seen it. By subsidizing teen pregnancy through welfare we only encourage it. More education is not the solution unfortunately. Encourage abstinence, fund birth control, and if all else fails don't go out of your way to pay for her mistakes. I managed to not get pregnant until I was married, so do I get a cookie?
Since when do you need to tell people that success is desirable. Maybe part of "being white" (all that studying and applying yourself) is what results in having stuff later in life. Nice car, nice house, etc. You do not have to conform to such norms, but don't be surprised when you don't have the same things as someone who did. I didn't go to medical school, I'm not pissed that the doctor makes more than I do. Good for him/her.
Although I do think media plays some part, if it was the answer Sesame Street would have solved all of our problems long ago. I also believe people blame media for their failing, bad parenting produced unwed mothers and violent sons long before the invention of tv.
Continuing to reward bad behavior with special programs and set asides is always a downward spiral. I am never against helping someone in need out, but no one likes a moocher. Martin Luther King, JR. and his father were both held PHD's BEFORE the civil rights movement and welfare deincentivized hard work.
One final thought, what is so wrong with grouping kids by ability, if you can't or won't learn why do the ones who do (of any race) have to saddled with you. If high school students continue to fail, kick them out, try vocational school, military school or whatever, but if they are not learning they are only burdening the system and most importantly their peers.

Anonymous said...

I encourage you to look at Direct Instruction

Project Follow-Through was a billion dollar study by the DOE beginning during the Johnson Admin through 1995.
ONE program, Direct Instruction, developed by Siegfried Englemann, was shown to make a substantial difference with inner-city children living in poverty. These positive results were BURIED by political pressure from competing ed programs.

Homeschoolers, who on average tend to be very aware of educational fads vs. what is actually effective, are good judges of what is hype and what is substantive. DI is very popular with homeschoolers.

wlturland said...

My insanely long response:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty confident that all of your ideas have been tried and none has had much of an impact on the achievement gap.

sabril said...

What's depressing to me is that the reformists never seem to learn. When "flex classes" fail to close the achievement gap (and I promise you will they will fail just as every other educational reform has failed), they will not say "ok, I guess the HBD crowd was right."

Instead, they will continue to ride the reform carousel and push for yet another idea.

Because the truth is literally unthinkable for them.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you had this post. Please keep it up.

Just a couple of comments. Many of us have a very large elephant running around inside our homes but we, as good college educated liberals try to pretend it's not there. But guess what?

The environmental approach to these problems always seems a bit like the intelligent design folk who sit up nights dreaming up new ways to make evolution and science for that matter, go away. How are they doing?

Finally, since we're discussing race, I wanted to address a few previous comments. As to the notion that this is psuedo science or whack job stuff.

What follows are simply facts. After the Bell was published, 52 scientists signed an article saying that the bell curve was in fact correct. Prior to that, for a 1988 book, 53% of over 1,000 school administrators said they believed taht genetics played some part in the IQ race differenes. For you non-math majors, that's over 500 people. Noble prize winner James Watson knows it, as did Darwin himself. Now whether one agrees or not, does this sound like unsupported stuff? That notion is patetnly ridiculous.

I will tell you what is unsupported. The PC crowd wants you and I to believe that of the millions and millions of animals on this planet, that somehow, magically, mysteriously, homo sapiens are the only ones that don't have any genetic variation. Think about that for a second. For some strange reason, we're the only ones that are the same. Not only is that unsupported, but simply one of the most ridiculous notions you will ever see in print anywhere.

But just like with evolution itself, sometimes the less scientifically inclined, shall we say, have difficulty grasping these things.

And the typewriters flail away as the ID'ers and the environmentalists do their damndest to deny reality.
Thank you

mitchell said...

very, very interesting, and i like your ideas for solving the subject. i think a lot of it has to start at the ground level, at elementary or even kindergarten. so much of the stuff in that essay reminded me of The Wire.

Thrifty Dude said...

Marty you left out some things that perhaps are more publicly incorrect to discuss but yet lots of conventional research exist to back it up.

For whatever reason black kids tend to show up even at first grade already behind their white counterparts.

One factor may be that blacks tend to have higher rates of premature babies. Premature babies tend to have slower learning curves.

Anyway forget the why the how can be a simple lower cost one.

The realization by the black community that simply for now their road to better achievement is simply they'll have to tend to work harder at learning than other racial groups.

They has a group have not bought into that of course many individuals have but as a group not really.

Second you glossed over the need for better teachers. What does that mean? In my book that means guarantees from the public schools teachers will have at least a bachelor degree in the subject matter they teach.

None of this stuff of at least a minor in the subject or certificates.

Subjects must be taught by teachers with real skills and knowledge of the subject.

All this other stuff especially the acting white deal are red herrings.

Plenty of geeky white kids were made fun of for being smart and bookish nothing new here.

Lawrence Auster said...

After the boldness Mr. Nemko showed in posting the original article, I'm astonished at the weakness of his proposals. It's nothing but a standard re-hash of ameliorative programs, to be run by a vast bureaucracy. The only point I liked was the one about making vocational education rather than college prep an option. Why was that proposal good? Because it was the only one that was non-liberal, meaning non-egalitarian. All the other proposals seem to operate within the existing liberal premises of racial equality of abilities, and lots of bureaucracy to bring such equality into existence.

So what's the answer? Only radical measures will work. Dismantling the liberal ideology and the liberal state and all its appurtenances. Which means, for starters, ending all federal involvement in education, which means dismantling the vast network of egalitarian expectations, laws, and requirements affecting schools, so that local communities can organize their own schools, in a manner suited to the qualities, abilities, and disciplinary needs of their pupils, as it was before the 1960s.

Another need is a return to traditional morality—for the whole society, not just for blacks. That means, among other things, the end of state subsidization of out of wedlock childbirth.

There must be an end of the false belief in racial equality and its corollary of white guilt—the notion that all races are equal in abilities, and therefore the only explanation for blacks' lesser achievements is white racism.

Radically false beliefs have brought society to its present pass. The only hope to save society is in the radical rejection of those beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what do you see in sub-Saharan Africans that makes you think it is even possible to close the achievement gap of Black americans? If Africa was a productive, advanced continent, with a civilization comparable to western countries and east asian countries, but Blacks still evidenced the same failures we see in america today, then it would be obvious the fault lies with america, racism, discrimination, etc. But looking at the achievements of Black Africans over thousands of years, there is nothing to suggest that they should be doing any better in america than they are today.

Anonymous said...

None of your ideas will work sir. Human beings cannot be regulated.

eh said...

Nothing in your 'plan' is unique, original, or has not been tried before.

Consider these facts:

Black children from the wealthiest families have mean SAT scores lower than white children from families below the poverty line.

Black children of parents with graduate degrees have lower SAT scores than white children of parents with a high-school diploma or less.

Now consider that one definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.

By no means do I think you are stupid; rather you are well meaning, but unfortunately ignorant of the totality of information about the nature and causes of the 'achievement gap'.

But if it makes you feel better, plan away.

Anonymous said...

The education and achievement gap between black and white students is a real, observable fact. To pretend otherwise is a disservice to the eventual success of both groups of Americans. To move the bell-curve for black Americans more to the right, a way must be found to identify the smart and ambitious students early, and work to provide them an opportunity to learn and thrive.

To me, the most important aspects of achieving this are:

1. Classroom discipline. Teachers should not have to live in fear of abusive, threatening students. For these students, a stricter approach is called for. They should be removed from the mainstream class after the third 'strike.' This will allow the rest of the students to focus on their work without disruption and fear.

2. Life-coping education. Simple things like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, establishing credit, and choosing foods that are healthful and economical would be helpful to every student. Topics like the importance of providing a home and family for children and acting responsibly with regard to sex, drugs and alcohol would also be beneficial.

3. Career choices. Kids of all colors have no clue what adults actually do for a living. I think they would benefit from a series of visits and / or explanations of different kinds of work. Perhaps then you won't have so many girls thinking that welfare motherhood is a viable career choice, or so many boys thinking that basketball and rap are their best bets for success.

There are three steps to REAL success: get your HS diploma, get married before getting pregnant, and stay away from drugs. If we could just increase the percentage of kids with this kind of success, we will have made true progress. - Cheryl

Anonymous said...

Our civilization is now going through to a momentous shift comparable to the realization that the earth is not the center of the universe, that it moves, that it rotates around a star.

Just as the European Inquisition attempted to repress Galileo and his colleagues, the current “liberal“ regimes in North America and Western Europe are attempting to forestall the shift via legislation directed against “hate facts,” etc.

They will fail, just as the Inquisition failed, and for the same reason:
the weight of scientific facts will eventually override the ideological straitjacket.

Too many people – including lifelong progressive social Democrats like myself – are putting two and two together for themselves.

There is a big difference, however, between the Galilean shift and the current one:
prior to circa 1950, pretty much everyone on earth had always taken for granted that there were huge differences in mentality and psychology between the different human races.

Only in the aftermath of World War II, with decolonization and other dramatic events, was the new ideology adopted.

The premise upon which racial identity/equality rested was that the human brain had stopped evolving tens of thousands of years ago.
Today, even schoolchildren know that human evolution did not stop 50.000 years ago, that it has if anything accelerated dramatically over the past 10.000 years, since the end of the last ice age.

This brief period of human history during which the notion of an invariant human mind (cf. Claude Levi-Strauss) prevailed is now essentially over, and we are now occupying the LAG PERIOD between the total destruction of the equality paradigm by advances in genetics and psychology and awareness of it on the part of the public, governments, the media, etc.

The most celebrated victim of this lag is, of course, James Watson, the most illustrious living scientist, whose career and reputation were immediately and permanently crushed with virtually no dissent when he spoke the truth about racial differences in cognitive ability.

The Inquisition is still fully operative, yet science has moved on to. Virtually no one actually believes in the ideology of racial equality, as a sort of dead religion to which everyone continues to subscribe without genuine conviction.

One likely outcome of the victory of science over the Multicultural Inquisition is the emergence of a robust European and Euro-American (Euro-Australian, Euro-African) movement based on a European identity, one that will dramatically change the political landscape globally by midcentury.

In Europe, partly as a result of this paradigm shift, partly as a result of a renewed interest by Europeans in their own cultures and identities, and partly as a result of the devastating consequences of mass Muslim immigration (the so called Islamification of Europe), we can dramatic changes in the political climate in the near future.

Once Norwegians, for example, perceive themselves as the indigenous people of the territories they occupy, as a unique genetic, cultural, and linguistic product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, as a tiny tribe 3 million strong in a world of 8 billion people, it will seem frankly bizarre in retrospect that Norway sought to acquire large numbers of Somalia Moroccan immigrants.

Get ready folks, history is about to start moving again!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm listening to your radio show right now. You and your wife are currently discussing entrepreneur programs aimed toward youths.

There are probably such programs for black youths, and maybe there should be more of those, or for at-risk kids of any race. Find out what the most successful programs that exist are, and replicate them across the country.

If any of these kids are naturally entrepreneurial or are good at sales, that may not come out in the classroom. Would such kids be more likely to respect businesses if they were in charge of them?

Not everybody is meant to be an entrepreneur, this is true. But people don't know until they try it themselves. They might be better at it than they think. And people so often become more respectful and protective of something if they created it and put the work in themselves instead of having it handed to them.

Also, they might develop some lasting, well-earned pride in themselves, rather than just getting a few platitudes to temporarily pump up their self-esteem.

Maybe school is not the only place to focus on closing the achievement gap. Ultimately, it's the real world that matters. When you're trying to put food on the table for your family, are you going to be thinking about your SAT scores?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but none of this will work. You obviously don't live in a predominantly black area. Or, if you do, you must be blind. Blacks are, in my opinion, genetically different from European descendents. I went to a school where 91% of the students were black; I can honestly say that what Mr. Jackson experienced is actually a bit watered down compared to what I saw.

I'm sure this won't be posted, but, sending them back to Africa is the only solution. They are not socially equipped to properly integrate with our higher level of civility. It's not their fault, it is the fault of our ancestors. Their evolution was interrupted and they have yet to adapt to our more complex social structure. It will take thousands of years.

Yes, there are always exceptions and I'm not condemning them for how they are. They just don't belong here.

Not all 16 year olds wreck their cars either, but insurance companies charge them ALL very high rates.

Anonymous said...

In response to the racist with the bold factoid about poor whites and wealthy blacks. Money does not equate to culture. I'm white. My families always been poor. The majority of my life I lived in a trailer park. While my dad is kind of redneck, my mom wasn't really, and I wasn't brought up in a redneck culture. I was taught to read at a very young age, and by grade three had a high school reading level. This is while I was still in a trailer park. Meanwhile my rich white friends in the huge houses were always dumb, because even to whites being smart isn't "cool."

The problem is not that they are black. The problem is in many places, regardless of wealth "acting black" means being thuggish, and "acting white" means being studious. Not because the two are racially exclusive, but that the thug culture defines it as such. And many whites, hispanics, asians, etc; also feel "acting black" is cool and have embraced this culture.

What it boils down to is always culture.
I'm not going to be a leftist, or a liberal, and say we're all equal in terms of abilities. You're more likely to find a white rocket scienist, and more likely to find a black basketball player, but genetic advantages and disadvantages only go so far. There are many black scientists and white athletes, even if pure whites are less athletically gifted, and pure blacks are less academically gifted, the difference is small, and can be negated through training for the white, and education for the black. Nurture is much more powerful than nature.

Do I think these suggestions will fix the problem, or at least help? Only if being smart stops being known as being "white" I've seen black people and white people both say smart blacks are "white on the inside" I've heard people, both black and white, say "Obama is just another white president, he just has black skin." or "Clinton was blacker than Obama." Though most black people see him as the second Jesus, and most racists see him as subhuman, despite the lack of difference in policy.

So until thug culture, which effects all races, is destroyed, we will continue to see these problems, as although the culture is not racially exclusive, it is born, and still fueled mainly by blacks(not a lot white rappers, though there are a lot more latino and asian rappers now. Which is not really good for fighting off the negative thug culture...)

Anonymous said...

the censorship re race and psychology is bad enough, but the self-censorship is even more poisonous.

how many of you have ever asked yourselves:

are african-americans more crime prone than africans?





ditto intelligence:
are african-americans less intelligent than than africans?


each group behaves in ways that reflect their gene pool, and that is relatively immutable.

IT CANNNOT BE ALL CULTURAL as so many posters wishfully assert, because then african-americans would be indistinguishable from whites, and not as profoundly alien as they are in reality.

let's stop wasting time with denial and deal with reality.

Anonymous said...

I hate to use the words lazy, skeptical and belligerent however, I also hate to go into a long dissertation. The points outlined would help towards the achievement of something positive. But quite frankly, they are the easy steps.

An attitude that consists of the first three words above; lazy, skeptical and belligerent, are perhaps, insurmountable.

Jen said...

#7 can't be corrected because it isn't a problem. Black kids don't think that working hard is acting white. What do you think all these references to "grinding," "hustling" and "putting in work" in Hip Hop music refer to? Even in Black homes, the common maxim is that, as a Black person in America, one must "work twice as hard to get half as far."

What Black children need is something to work toward and people who know how to guide them toward that goal. So, I agree with the remainder of your suggestions.

I would also add that there needs to be a recognition of the value of Black children being taught and learning curriculum designed and doing so in schools run BY OTHER BLACK PEOPLE. All the training in the world can't replace having once been exactly where one's student is, now. This element of my own educational success cannot be overstated.

tim wise said...

You don't know what you're talking about Marty...first off, have you even verified that that racist diatribe from that supposed teacher you posted was even legit? It sounded like a white nationalist/racist rant against black people and I have a hard time believing that anyone who would speak about children that way actually knows any such kids or was a teacher in their schools. I have worked in so-called ghettos and know plenty of teachers in inner city schools whose xperiences are 100 percent the opposite of that nonsense. You seem to buy the stereotypes, even though they are belied by real evidence. If this is what you think--that black people's culture is somehow defective and they don't value education--then you should stop listening to Ogbu (whose research was limited to 240 kids in one district, and has been debunked by about ten studies involving larger samples) and actually do some frickin home visits...people who think this way about black kids shouldn't be allowed to teach them

John Lee, Hollywood winner said...

POLL: What Would You Do With White Trash?

Situation: You are invited into an affluent suburban home for a service contract. The resident advises he/she is raising foster kids and is expecting a "surprise" DHS inspection today. There are 30 cat turds on the kitchen counter and kitchen sink. One starving dog is seen eating the cat turds. The sink has 12 inches of rotted food and silver, moldy milk solidified in baby bottles, rotted trash bags falling out of all cabinets, starving cats with no food or water, a large dog chained on a porch with no food or water, a baby pooped his pants and was thrown into a room without changing diapers, while the 400-pound white resident eats McDonalds with the other kids. After dinner, the resident advises the DHS inspection was cancelled. The resident's best friend is a school teacher, who witnessed this event.

Would you:

1. Ignore it and say it doesn't matter to you or anybody else

2. Ignore it and say it's none of your business, and maybe make a little money from the foster kid system

3. Cower in fear because it might be a Mafia racket, making $4,000 a month profit per foster kid, with Mafia insiders running the operation and tipping off Mafia foster parents

4. Do nothing because the next foster parents would be worse, and the pets would be killed by Animal Cops

5. Figure which govt agencies have jurisdiction and file an anonymous complaint

6. File a written complaint with your name on it

7. Sign up as a foster parent and make $30,000 per month for a mansion full of kids, like that husband and wife in Florida (massacred last week by a gang of 8 ninjas)

PS: This actually happened to me today. The kids and pets appeared to be begging for HELP... What does this say about white school teachers and white DHS contractors?

Anonymous said...

Your points are all addressed to bolster achievement in kids who are already school-aged. I have lived in New Orleans, LA, for 30 years, and I have many friends who have been teachers here. Those who taught kindergarten in the public schools told me that most of the problems Christopher Johnson listed in his essay on "What is it Like to Teach Black Students?" were already entrenched problems when children entered kindergarten. Young boys would climb on top of their desks, take off their belts, grab hold of the leather end, and swing the buckle around like a weapon. Students were unruly and unapproachable, parents often antagonistic.

Early Head Start is far too limited a program--usually starting too late, and serving far too few students--to make inroads into this problem. If we hope to close the racial achievement gap, programs MUST be created for economically disadvantaged poor children, beginning when they are only a few months old, so that they are socialized from an early age and are ready to begin school when they reach their school years. There are programs out there that get results, programs like Early Head Start or the Harlem Children's Zone's Baby College, but they are far too few and far between. Instead, we let parents who were academic non-achievers muddle through those formative years alone, then lament the insoluble problems plaguing predominantly black schools. The bottom line is that any parent understands that the best way to break a bad pattern is not to allow it to arise in the first place.

In truth, this issue is about far more than education or job-preparedness. New Orleans now has the second highest murder rate in the WORLD (, and its deplorable educational system keeps churning out more perpetrators and more victims. If we don't change course, the rest of our inner cities are headed down the same path. Socializing human beings in infancy and early childhood creates productive citizens at every stage of life, and it is much cheaper to provide nurturing and enrichment for a child's first few years of life than to warehouse violent offenders in penal systems for decades.

Lest readers believe this is not their problem, let me remind them of Christopher Johnson's comment that "The real victims are the unfortunate whites caught in this." When our cities become unsafe, everyone loses and everyone pays.

Jeremy said...

One thing I would suggest adding to your "plan" would be (speaking from experience) lowering class sizes as it tends to lighten up the atmosphere.

I've recently graduated from a U.S public school and speaking from my own experience, generally being in a class of 20+ I tended to learn less than being in a class of 15 or less. Now I know this can vary depending on the situation of what or where the environmental setting is, who the teacher is or even mostly the will power of the students themselves but by doing little things like this, you can in a way brighten up some things that have tended to be ignored over the years.

Another thing is the constant cut backs on school funding is not helping any, and if the U.S government really wanted a better educational system why would they spend more money on a phony War On Drugs? However blaming government(or relying too much on government), teachers, or society is an irrational move as each factors in towards the end result
of public education.


Zeke said...

I agree with the other critics who say that these proposals are not going to accomplish much.

Kids should be seperated by IQ early on. High IQ children should not be burdened by being put in classes with rowdy, less intelligent kids, who quite honestly are not able to learn much of the material of the smarter kids.

Black kids need to be educated in a totally different way than white kids. Boys and girls need to be seperated. The boys need to have a lot more physical training.

To redesign the whole system to support the low achievment potential of low IQ and black students is obscene and the worst solutoin for our society long term. It is the high achievment students who should be catered too. This will, of course, include some blacks, who will be the biggest beneficiaries of this policy.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtfull post on achivement. It should be very much helpfull

Karim - Creating Power

David Ben-Ariel said...

In other words, manage the lives of blacks and their many illegitimate children like a good patron of white color.

The insistence of referring to black Americans as African-Americans is racist and self-defeating.

Break Bread said...

I think this is right on point, except for the comment about not needing college for entrepreneurship (to start, manage, and grow a business).

bludancer said...

i just wanted to say: i'm impressed. i was beginning to think the sole purpose of the last entry was to stir up an endless polemical debate (which in fact happened.) there was an end in mind, however, and i think the proposals are thoughtful ones. it will be interesting to see how they evolve, if any will eventually be taken to heart and implemented, etc.

i'd (personally) love to see a strong focus on the hard sciences---as a nation, we're falling further and further behind in that regard. it's possible critical thinking (among other things) is suffering as a result.

extra-curricular activities such as phys-ed, music, the visual arts---they're all suffering. i think they're more important to the whole than most people realize. any one of them can fuel a passion that then ripples outwards. i'd like to see them make a strong comeback everywhere.

Eric G said...

The main problem with your suggestions (though some of them are good) is a failure to consider the mental states of young black students. As you mention, according to hip-hop and African American culture, being successful in school is un-black and acting white. Nearly all young black students possess the belief that being studious is just not black, and certainly not cool - and their friends will certainly stop liking them if they fail to follow this rule. This is the blunt truth of black culture in America.
Any - and I must stress, ANY - attempt to win on the culture side will fail. Black students will always revert back to what their culture tells them (just as whites follow the values that our culture tells us). It's as easy to convince young African Americans that being studious is cool as it is to convince whites that financial success is meaningless. Sure, lots of musical artists, public speakers, and so on have given the message that how rich you are doesn't matter since the 1960's and earlier, but in general does that message win against predominant culture? No. Most people feel implicitly (even if they state explicitly otherwise) that they would feel better about themselves if they were millionaires.
If the U.S. initiated a program to have a black speaker go to every urban school in the country and tell the kids that studying hard is cool, I promise you it will fall on mostly deaf ears since it goes against what Black culture tells them. "So get the message instilled at a young age" one may say? I reply: you may affect the child's values briefly but culture always wins out eventually.

Simply getting "cool" black people to talk at schools won't do the trick. Why? Because no matter how many "cool" black people you get to "compellingly" demonstrate that being studious really *is* cool, the effect will be short-lived in light of the fact that black culture, constant and pervasive, states the exact opposite. One cannot simply lecture away the notion that studying hard is acting white. It simply is not that easy.

Given that we cannot beat culture - and we certainly cannot change culture, unless you want to pay every rapper and TV star millions of dollars to change their message - the only way to effect change is to create some sort of incentive structure that successfully causes black students to betray their culture in light of the consequences that incentive structure imparts.

This is no trivial task. And to be honest I cannot begin to contemplate how it can be done.

You say we should get video game programmers and movie producers to change their messages? How, exactly? You seem to think they will do so despite monetary incentives to do otherwise. Such things are not this simple.

Anonymous said...

After reading this article, the most honest race related article Ive ever read, my opinion is this Let them starve,segregate these subhumans and concentrate on identifying and punishing the white liberals and elites who caused this misery and white guilt