Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Way to Close the Racial Achievement Gap

ABC News and the East Bay Express (a San Francisco Bay Area weekly) reported today that the Berkeley Unified School District is considering dumping five science teachers and eliminating science labs. Why?

This from the East Bay Express article:

"...to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse. Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous."


Anonymous said...

Fortunately, they're apparently not talking about dumping the science labs outright. What's going on is that there are before-school and after-school lab periods that are being cut; the labs will now be integrated into the school day.

I don't remember exactly how we did this in my high school, but I took four years of science and only stayed after hours when I was in trouble.

All the kids at BHS take two science courses.

My best guess is that this is cutting advanced placement science at Berkeley High; my high school could not afford any AP courses in any subject. It only bugged us when we dealt with students who finished college in three years because they'd done a year of that work in high school and we hadn't had the opportunity.

But, it's expensive to pay for the AP instruction and aren't you normally a fiscal conservative who argues there's entirely too much pointyheadedness going around?

Marty Nemko said...

I have heard nothing that says this refers to Advanced Placement classes.

More important, the redistributing of resources from higher to the lowest achievers is a formula for reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator. It is also a way to ensure that our best and brightest--the people with the greatest potential to cure cancer, solve our social ills, etc--have less of a chance to live up to their enormous potential. A clear-eyed look at what happens when we increase spending on the lowest achievers suggests that less benefit derives.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just hit the White kids over the head with a hammer? This would solve the racial achievement gap.

Marina said...

Wow, that's disturbing. How crazy would it be to find a way to get minority students into those science classes instead? Never mind, the best solution to any problem is to just lower the bar.

Anonymous said...

Debra Saunders finally explains the odd scheduling of science labs as extracurricular activity: Berkeley decided some time ago to use a particular set of taxes to fund science labs. For whatever reason, that funding source means science labs have to be taught outside regular hours.

I don't think it's great to expect kids to go early or stay late to do lab science.

Obviously, it's not clear how those funds can be blended back into the main pot. Also, if, legally, they have to be used for before-school and after-school programs, then kids who were not going to high-status labs will probably not want to go to low-status remedial courses, either.

ST said...

The East Bay Express article said this:
"Sincular-Mertens, who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and ... "

Not sure if all labs are AP, though.

If it's because of timing and transportation, yes, it's not fair if some kids can't get there early or stay late. School should be available to all students during school hours. And labs should not be "extracurricular" activities. The question is, is that the entire issue? And is the diverted funding going to be effective, and how will it be applied?