Why I’m Against Innovation in Education

Education policymakers are too driven by fads—at the expense of tried and true approaches
By Mike Schmoker
May 1, 2018

I’m against innovation in education—as currently conceived and conducted. I’m not against small-scale educational experimentation, where new methods are tested, refined, and proved before they are widely implemented. But I’m against our inordinate obsession with what’s new at the expense of what works—with exceedingly superior (if much older) evidence-based practices. The difference in impact isn’t slight: Michael Fullan, an international authority on education, believes that our best high-leverage methods produce “stunningly powerful consequences” in schools. And they will do so, as professional-development expert Bruce Joyce has noted, “very rapidly.” Our willingness to recognize and act on this difference may be the central educational issue of our time.
Consider John Hattie’s research on the power of formative evaluation and feedback. His exhaustive studies confirm what we’ve known since the 1960s: that ongoing monitoring and adjustments to teaching, informed by feedback, may have more impact on learning than any other instructional factor.
Doug Lemov concurs. In his mega-best-selling book, Teach Like a Champion, he identifies “checking for understanding” as the pivotal element in an effective lesson.
I know teachers in two different schools in the same district whose adoption of these methods contributed to enormous one-year, whole-school gains on their state writing exam. After learning of these incredible gains, I joined these teachers to advocate the expansion of their efforts in their district—but their successes were entirely ignored. To our astonishment, their respective school leaders opted to pursue a string of popular—but weak or unproven—innovations, including SmartBoard training and standards-based grading.

Or what of New York City’s New Dorp High School? With the struggling school in danger of closure by city officials, the principal decided to go all in on exceedingly traditional instruction in reading, public speaking, and writing in every discipline. In just two years, the school made immense gains and is now a mecca for visitors. As author Peg Tyre explained in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, the school’s success was not a function of innovation or experimentation, but of old, proven instructional “fundamentals that schools have devalued or forgotten” (my emphasis). As Tyre points out, the fundamentals-first instructional model on which New Dorp based its program “would not be unfamiliar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950.”
And then there’s the simple power of curriculum. Nothing cutting-edge here. Yet meta-analytic evidence from Robert Marzano and other researchers indicates that a coherent curriculum—if implemented—has more impact on learning than any other in-school factor. Not long ago, I attended an award ceremony for a school in Arizona that ranked in the top three for statewide gains in math. They achieved this in a two-year period, a direct result of having teams of teachers map out, for the first time, what they would teach in each math course, by grading period. I’m friends with an elementary school principal in Boston who persuaded his faculty members to do the same for every course at his high-poverty school. Scores rose, in his words, “with amazing speed”: from the bottom to the top third in the state, in a single school year.
Finally, consider working-class Brockton High School, in Massachusetts. Brockton was among the lowest-achieving schools in the state. The faculty responded to dire performance indicators by making “reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning” in every subject area their mantra. In 2001, the first year of their effort, the state’s education commissioner called to inform them that Brockton had made the largest gains in the commonwealth. In the next few years, Brockton rose from the bottom rungs to the top 10 percent in Massachusetts.
Perhaps the most promising fact about the best evidence-based practices is that they are currently the least implemented. Because of that, their use would have a swift and substantial impact in thousands of schools and on millions of students. But not if they continue to be supplanted, as they now are, by innovations like the flipped classroom, student-centered learning spaces, teaching with mobile apps, gamification, or the now-ubiquitous variations on personalized learning. Not one of those ranks high on any list of what’s most effective. What researchers Thomas B. Corcoran, Susan H. Fuhrman, and Catherine Belcher wrote years ago in their study of professional development is still true: Those in charge of what teachers learn are not an “evidence-based community.” They are driven, on the contrary, by “whims, fads, opportunism, and ideology.”

When I donated a kidney to my sister, the doctors didn’t experiment on her with the latest anti-rejection drugs. They gave her the best, evidence-based anti-rejection medicine available at the time—Cyclosporine. And it saved her life.
We have a pretty stark choice: We can either implement the best we know or continue to treat students and teachers like lab rats. It’s time for education to make the leap to a more authentic professionalism—by giving innovation its due, but never letting it supplant or precede those practices that would produce “stunningly powerful consequences” in our schools and in the lives of students.
Mike Schmoker is an author, speaker, and consultant. He is the author of Focus (ASCD, 2011) and Leading with Focus (ASCD, 2016).

Do Educators’ Mental Models Impact Student Achievement

Just today May 23, 2018, my colleagues were talking to me about the “Achievement Gap” and “Equality.” One stated, “After so many years, very little has changed as it relates to closing the gap which continues to linger between Hispanics and White Students as well as African American and White students.” My reply, “Well that’s absolutely true.”  Due to reflecting on that conversation,  I have been motivated to write out my thoughts.

So, I am wondering how do we educators and the implemented systems or barriers contribute to the widening of the ever pressing achievement gap that shows up on multiple metrics such as the American College Testing (ACT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Measurement of Academic Performance (MAP), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), as well as state assessments such as the LEAP of Louisiana. Research consistently provide evidence, despite ethnicity and social economic status of students, there is a smaller and more manageable achievement gap when students enter kindergarten. Consequently, as students persist through secondary schooling the gap widens. “Why?” What happens for students who attend school 90% of the time but still suffer from the achievement gap?

These questions led me to think about our mental models. Mental Models are “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures and images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action (Senge, 1990). Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior” (Senge, 1990). Sometimes we are not aware of the negative impact on certain students’ academic success.

Explanation of the Achievement Gap

There are many thoughts as to why there is an achievement gap. For example, there are views on what happens at home or in the community and what happens within the walls of the schoolhouse (Ford, 2008). It is clear educators cannot control what happens at home. However, at school many times teachers’ mental models of poor students or students of color are extremely low. As a result, we get what is known as a dumb down curriculum.  In other words, Algebra II of the 1990s is not the same Algebra II in the 21st Century.  To many teachers severely do not believe all students can learn if given increased time on task, necessary supports, and interventions supported by prioritized standards with aligned common formative assessments.

Nevertheless, teachers and principals are in control of the schoolhouse and they should be using data sets to drive instructions every hour of the school day for every student. Subsequently, strong negative mental models of certain groups of students may very well impede teachers from operating in good faith in regards to students of color and their parents who do not have loud voices and possibly less educated ( Noguera, 2012).

It is imperative for principals, department chairs, and administrators to challenge the mental models of implicit biases. This should be a non-negotiable. Those responsible for educating students should be held accountable. Why? Because for many students its truly a matter of life or death. Education breaks poverty. Educated citizens have more opportunities because doors are open for them. Educated citizens are more likely to have insurances such as health, vision, dental and opportunities for homeownership. “The American Dream.”

As of 2014, there are more children of color in public schools than there are students from the majority group. I point this out in order to make the case of how important it is to hold all accountable. There are now more students of color in public school. The very populations who tend to significantly lag behind white students.

“Of the projected 50.7 million public school students entering prekindergarten through grade 12 in fall 2017, White students will account for some 24.4 million. The remaining 26.3 million will be composed of 8.0 million Black students, 13.6 million Hispanic students, 2.8 million Asian/Pacific Islander students, 0.5 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 1.5 million students of Two or more races. The percentage of students enrolled in public schools who are White is projected to continue to decline through at least fall 2026, as the enrollments of Hispanic students and Asian/Pacific Islander students increase” (National Center Educational Statistics, 2017).

As leaders, we must lead with integrity and we must lead with students at the core of every decision that we make. Stay WOKE!!

NAEP Shows Little to No Gains in Math, Reading for U.S. Students

By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter |April 10, 2018

Fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have made little to no gains in math and reading since 2015.

While the average reading scores for eighth-graders increased compared with 2015, there were no changes for reading at fourth grade or for math at either grade, according to results from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress, also called NAEP or The Nation’s Report Card.

Moreover, the latest results reveal a disturbing trend in which the country’s poorest-performing students scored worse in both subjects than they did in 2015, while the highest-performing students posted increases, reflecting a growing gap between those at the top and bottom of the achievement spectrum.

“I’m pleased that eighth-grade reading scores improved slightly but remain disappointed that only about one-third of America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students read at the NAEP Proficient level,” said former Gov. John Engler of Michigan, the chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which along with the National Center on Education Statistics, the Department of Education’s research arm, administers the test.

“We are seeing troubling gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students,” he said. “We must do better for all children.”

To be sure, results varied considerably among states and the 27 large urban school districts that volunteered to have their scores individually analyzed and included in the 2017 Trial Urban District Assessment, which was also released Tuesday and is known as TUDA.

When it comes to breaking down NAEP scores by state, this year Florida was the stand-out.

Florida was the only state to see an increase in math, as the average scores of both fourth- and eighth-graders increased between 2015 and 2017. Most states’ average scores remained unchanged in math, though 10 states saw declines in fourth-grade math and three saw declines in eighth-grade math.

Most states’ average scores were also unchanged in reading, with the exception of 10 states whose eighth-graders posted increases.

“Something very good obviously is happening in Florida,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, though she stopped short of correlating those increases with any specific policy change. “Florida needs to be commended.”

In addition to an uptick in the Sunshine State’s math and reading scores, Florida saw increases in almost all student subgroups inching up their proficiency rates, including students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities and those still learning English.

Moreover, two of Florida’s three large school districts that volunteered to participate in TUDA, Duval County and Miami-Dade, also posted similar increases.

“I can’t tell you why,” Carr said. “But something interesting is happening in Florida.”

Tuesday’s results, however, were undercut by the fact that the test was administered digitally for the first time via a tablet device. Research shows students tend to score worse on digital assessments than on traditional paper tests, prompting some state education officials and policymakers to dismiss the results ahead of their release, despite Carr’s insistence that NCES researchers properly accounted for the change.

“We’re going to learn a lot more about what students know and can do, not just their answers, but more about how they arrived at these answer through this more digitally based assessments,” Carr said to reporters on a press call Monday.

When researchers at NCES analyzed the scores more than 200 times and compared them to the smaller cohort of students who took the test as it has been traditionally administered with paper and pencil, they found very few inconsistencies with the results. In fact, Carr said, in the handful of the inconsistencies they did find, it was often the case that students who took the test digitally performed better.

“We are just ecstatic about being able to move these assessments to a digitally based format,” she said. “Students are communicating, living, they learn and are taught in a digitally-based world, so assessments such as NAEP are moving toward a digitally based assessments.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s results, policymakers and advocates were bracing for students to fare worse than in years’ past, concerned about what the the country’s most cited indicator of student achievement will mean for the trajectory of education policy across the country, despite a chorus of attempts from education researchers to caution against making causal claims.

“We’ve come to anticipate NAEP results as an indicator of student academic achievement, but we shouldn’t base our perceptions of education in America, or in individual states or cities, so heavily on this one data point,” said Chris Minnich, the CEO of NWEA, an organization that designs K-12 assessments.

“The concerns I hear from education leaders center on making sure we use multiple measures of student learning to inform our opinions on how our schools, districts, and states are doing,” he said, stressing that student growth data is a better representation of education progress.

In addition to reporting math and reading scores by state, this year’s release also includes the results of fourth- and eighth-graders in 27 urban school districts that volunteered to have their scores reported out separately via the 2017 TUDA.

Again, mirroring the flat-line trend that occurred among states, most of the average scores for the city school systems remained unchanged in both subjects since the last assessment.

A handful of outliers include San Diego, where fourth-graders increased their average scores in math and reading; Duval County, Florida, Fresno, and Miami-Dade, where fourth-graders posted increases in math; Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit, where average scores declined in fourth-grade math; and Albuquerque and Boston, where eighth-graders increased average reading scores.

“Today’s release of The Nation’s Report Card confirms that there is still much work to be done to close achievement gaps and ensure that our young people are ready for success in college, careers and life,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organization that represents every state’s top education official.

“State chiefs recognize the urgency of improving outcomes for all students, and these recent results from the Nation’s Report Card only further demonstrate this call to action,” she said.

Standards, Curriculum, and Assessments

 Standards are skills and knowledge students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a lesson, chapter, unit, semester, or school year. Standards are constant and tend not to change from grade level to grade level.  What students should know and are expected to do comes from various cross sections of society such as schools, parents, military, businesses, colleges & universities, and communities. Curriculum on the other hand is flexible and can change from day to day. It’s the material and resources used to help students master the necessary skills or improve readiness.

Since knowledge is intangible or unable to be grasped because it’s inside students’ head, educators must administer assessments or other forms of measurements for the purpose of determining what students know, do not know, or partially know. Formative assessments  which are assessments for learning, provide the instructor tangible insight as it relates to what students know or their readiness level. This valuable insight should be used by educators  to adjust their actions or strategies. Therefore, formative assessments are essential for progress monitoring knowledge gained or not while proceeding with teaching and learning.  Just as a doctor who uses diagnostic tools to determine health levels such as a thermometer, a stethoscope, or blood work and prescribe a treatment plan, a check of mastery by the teacher can design the treatment the student needs in the form of  pathways to enable students to attain the skills that have been determined necessary for the student to know. During the teaching and learning process, formative assessments or checking for understanding should be immediate in order to provide students with immediate descriptive feedback that allow students opportunities to work toward meeting the identified purpose, goals or targets.

 

How can we hold those who benefit from racism accountable?

Editor’s Note: This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.   

Andre M. PerryTuesday, March 27, 2018

The other side of the inequality coin that we need to confront

The evidence that racism is directed at black people to impede their social and economic progress keeps growing (and growing), but discrimination persists. That’s because isolating racism as a cause of racial disparities, particularly among black men, is only part of the solution. Showing how racism benefits white people, and white men in particular, is the evidence black people can take to court and the bank.

New, important research out of Stanford University, Harvard University, and the U.S. Census Bureau shows that even wealthy black men who live in tony neighborhoods are more likely to have sons who will grow up to be poor than their white male counterparts. The researchers controlled for many factors, including the family’s socioeconomic background, neighborhood, education, and wealth, among others, and still disparities existed.

The New York Times created a stunning data visualization based on the study that showed how black children in wealthy families become adults in lower income brackets. The graphics also represent how different racial groups that started out rich end up poor; even here, more black children end up poor than kids of other races. Many are calling this research groundbreaking. One Times columnist went so far as to say the work puts “an end to the class vs. race debate.”

Actually, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement put an end to that discussion. But those who don’t believe that blackness led to the killings of the unarmed Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice are still mired in debate.

Black people, including black academics, have long accepted research that shows racism is a causal factor in the social and economic outcomes of black people. It has been the irrationality of racism and the elitism of the academy that have precluded conservatives and liberals alike from accepting the works of William Darity, Roland Fryer, Julianne Malveaux, William Julius Wilson, Ida B. Wells, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Cornell West, who wrote the book Race Matters.

Black people, including black academics, have long accepted research that shows racism is a causal factor in the social and economic outcomes of black people.

We also know that race matters through our lived experience. The depressing number of educated and wealthy black women who die during childbirth is hard proof that race matters. Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Black women can’t buy or educate their way toward better health outcomes. Black folk whose lives and deaths illustrate those shocking gaps don’t need further convincing that something besides class is at play.

What we do need more evidence of, however, is how racism works—for white people.

Instead of focusing on the negative impact of racism on black boys, the headline of that Times story could have read, “Racism enables whites to maintain wealth.” The charts presented in the reporting also highlighted white men’s elevated position in society. Yet the reporting on the study inexplicably placed the scrutiny on black men.

I fear that the spotlight on racial disparities ultimately helps widen the gap between black people and their peers of other races. When we see black people as problems, we almost guarantee that no one will want to invest in them. After all, who invests in a problem or a deficit when investing in a solution is so much more attractive? Education is littered with white saviors fixing black children for this reason.

There are still people who continue to blame poor women for having too many children and not getting married—rather than fixing the systemic problems of unequal pay, tax policy that favors the rich, and discrimination in housing and employment.

But if investments that can be used to create wealth, build better schools, and develop training programs go to other (often white) people who we assume have the capacity to fix black people, the people on the lower end of the disparity never truly develop. Likewise, the focus on differences ends up perpetuating a line of research that ultimately leads to victim blaming—and we have enough of that. Think about the rhetoric around single mothers causing poverty. Believe it or not, there are still people who continue to blame poor women for having too many children and not getting married—rather than fixing the systemic problems of unequal pay, tax policy that favors the rich, and discrimination in housing and employment. You know, the factors that determine how much money people make.

Since 1965, when Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” better known as the Moynihan Report, researchers and journalists have continued framing poverty mainly as an individual choice—i.e., mothers form families that put children in harm’s way. Moynihan also offered a robust structural analysis of the economic and social conditions that help shape black family structures. However, he set a dangerous example by identifying the main problem as black people not living up to white middle-class ideals. It’s a mold that researchers of black men willfully maintain to this day.

“When there’s only one parent with a meager income, the burdens mount and feed on themselves,” wrote Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson in an op-ed just this month. “That’s one reason the growth of single-parent households is rightly regarded as a cause of poverty.”

When you fault single parenthood, you inevitably to go down a path of chastising women, culture, and individual behavior. The focus on negative outcomes among black men has led to programs to instill “grit,” charter schools that “sweat the small stuff” (i.e. suspend and expel children), and other initiatives that condemn the effects of housing and employment discrimination, lack of access to capital, and the prison-industrial complex on black families while privileging white men.

Let’s shift the scrutiny from the plight of black people to the privilege of white people. Of all the reactions to the amazing charts in the Times article, you didn’t hear much about white male power. It was summarized in a tweet by economist Arindrajit Dube: “If you overlay the @nhendren82 (+coauthors) percentile-percentile plots, it suggests the exceptional mobility is for white men. This point should be discussed more when hypothesizing explanations for these patterns.”

Just as cell phone cameras have shifted the national debate by capturing unarmed black folk being shot by the police for being black, we need research to reveal how the system privileges white people at the expense of black.

What is maintaining the upward mobility of white men? This is evidence our legal and policy nerds could use to address structural inequity. Just as cell phone cameras have shifted the national debate by capturing unarmed black folk being shot by the police for being black, we need research to reveal how the system privileges white people at the expense of black.

Proof that racism matters may be illuminating for those who’ve had the luxury of believing that class explains all outcomes. But it’s not that empowering for black people to constantly be portrayed as “at-risk” or as an “endangered species.” We have to keep a spotlight on the system that oppresses us, not on how it breaks down our brethren. We need to turn our gaze to how the system uplifts white men, unfairly, and at our expense. Don’t show me how bad black men are doing; show me how to hold people who benefit from racism accountable.

The myth about smart black kids and “acting white” that won’t die

By Jenée Desmond-Harrisjenee.desmondharris@voxmedia.com Jan 5, 2017

You’ve probably heard it before: Too many black students don’t do well in school because they think being smart means “acting white.”

Just last week, Columbia University English professor John McWhorter mentioned it in a piece for Vox to support his critique of elements of the Black Lives Matter platform. Key to his argument was the assertion that the similar goals of the 1960s “war on poverty failed,” in part, due to black people’s “cultural traits and behaviors.”

While the “acting white” theory used to be pretty popular to bring up in debates about black academic achievement there’s a catch: It’s not true.

At best, it’s a very creative interpretation of inadequate research and anecdotal evidence. At worst, it’s a messy attempt to transform the near-universal stigma attached to adolescent nerdiness into an indictment of black culture, while often ignoring the systemic inequality that contributes to the country’s racial achievement gap.

Yet McWhorter — despite being a scholar of linguistics, not sociology — has become one of the primary defenders of the “acting white” theory and has dismissed those who debunk it as “pundits” who are “uncomfortable with the possibility that a black problem could not be due to racism.” But the people who challenge it are not pundits — they’re academics who’ve dedicated significant time and scientific scrutiny to this theory. Here’s why they say it’s a myth.

Where the “acting white” theory came from
The “acting white” theory — the idea that African-American kids underachieve academically because they and their peers associate being smart with acting white, and because they’re afraid they’ll be shunned — was born in the 1980s. John Ogbu, an anthropology professor at the University of California Berkeley, introduced it in an ethnographic study of one Washington, DC, high school. He found what he dubbed an “oppositional culture” in which, he said, students saw academic achievement as “white.”

The acting white theory has since become a go-to explanation for the achievement gap between African-American students and their white peers, and is repeated in public conversations as if it’s a fact of life.

Authors such as Ron Christie in Acting White: The Curious History of a Racial Slur and Stuart Buck in Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation have written entire books (heavy on personal observations, anecdotes, and theories) dedicated to the phenomenon.

Even President Barack Obama said in 2004, when he was running for US Senate, “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

Perhaps aware of some of the research debunking this as an academic theory in the intervening years, he noted in 2014 remarks related to the My Brother’s Keeper program that it was “sometimes overstated.” But he still offered the theory in the form of a personal observation, saying that in his experience, “there’s an element of truth to it, where, OK, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly?”

It’s no surprise that the “acting white” narrative resonates with a lot of people. After all, it echoes legitimate frustrations with a society that too often presents a narrow, stereotypical image of what it means to be black. It validates the experiences of African-American adults who remember being treated like they were different, or being smart but not popular in school. And for those who are sincerely interested in improving educational equality, it promises a quick fix. (“If they would just stop thinking being smart was ‘acting white,’ they could achieve anything!”)

The “acting white” theory also validates a particular social conservative worldview by placing the blame for disparate academic outcomes squarely on the backward ideas of black children and black cultural pathology, instead of on harder-to-tackle factors like socioeconomic inequality, implicit racial bias on the part of teachers, segregated and underresourced schools, and the school discipline disparities that create what’s been called the school-to-prison pipeline.

The “acting white” research was weak to begin with
“The acting white theory is difficult to assess through research,” Ivory Toldson — a Howard University professor, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities — wrote at the Root in 2013. “Many scholars who claim to find evidence of this theory loosely interpret their data and exploit the expert gap to sell their finding,” he said.

Despite abundant personal anecdotes by African Americans who say they were good students in school and were accused of acting white, there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about “acting white,” social stigma, and academic outcomes.

Even those who claim to have found evidence of the theory, Toldson explained, failed to connect the dots between what students deem “white” and the effect of this belief on academic achievement.

“Observing and/or recording African-American students labeling a high-achieving African-American student as acting white does not warrant a characterization of African-American academic underperformance as a response to the fear of acting white,” he said.

Studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones
A prime example of a shaky study on this topic, according to Toldson, was Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer’s 2006 research paper “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and the Brightest Minority Students.” Published by Education Next, the paper purported to affirm Ogbu’s findings by using Add Health data to demonstrate that the highest-achieving black students in the schools Fryer studied had few friends. “My analysis confirms that acting white is a vexing reality within a subset of American schools,” he wrote.

But the numbers didn’t actually add up to support the “acting white” theory, Toldson said. To start, the most popular black students in his study were the ones with 3.5 GPAs, and students with 4.0s had about as many friends as those with 3.0s. The least popular students? Those with less than a 2.5 GPA.

It seemed that the “social price” paid by the lowest-achieving black students was actually far greater than the price in popularity paid by the highest academic achievers.

Fryer conceded this. He said there was “no evidence of a trade-off between popularity and achievement” for black students at private schools, poking another hole in the theory.

Plus, Toldson pointed out, even if the results had shown that the highest-achieving students at all schools had the fewest friends, that would have indicated a connection between grades and popularity, but wouldn’t have supported the core of the “acting white” theory itself. “Methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white,” he explained.

In 2009, the authors of an American Sociological Review article, “The Search For Oppositional Culture Among Black Students,” concluded that high-achieving black students were in fact especially popular among their peers, and that being a good student increased popularity among black students even more so than for white students.

McWhorter has dismissed this study as one that “encourages us to pretend,” because he says that black kids may be dishonest when asked if they value school. It’s unclear why the suspicion of dishonesty only applies to black students and not the white students who were also studied. He’s also written the self-reports can’t be trusted because, according to reasoning he attributes to Fryer, “[a]sking teenagers whether they’re popular is like asking them if they’re having sex.” That may be fair, but it doesn’t explain the stronger link between being a good student and self-reports about popularity for black teens than for white teens.

In 2011, Smith College’s Tina Wildhagen, in the Journal of Negro Education, tested the “entire causal process tested by the ‘acting white’ theory,” using the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, and found that “the results lend no support to the process predicted by the acting white hypothesis for African-American students.”

Research suggests that black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students
There is an established phenomenon called the attitude-achievement paradox, which refers to the way positive attitudes about school can fail to translate to successful academic outcomes among black students. Originated by Roslyn Mickelson in 1990, it’s been the subject of extensive sociological research.

For example, in a study published in the American Sociological Review in 1998, James Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas Downey, using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, found that black students offered more optimistic responses than their white counterparts to questions about the following: 1) the kind of occupation they expected to have at age 30, 2) the importance of education to success, 3) whether they felt teachers treated them well, 4) whether the teachers were good, 5) whether it was okay to break rules, 6) whether it was okay to cheat, 7) whether other students viewed them as a “good student,” 8) whether other students viewed them as a “troublemaker,” and 9) whether they tried as hard as they could in class.

Findings like these fly in the face of the idea that black students think academic achievement is “white” or negative, or that it’s something they must actively shun for acceptance and popularity.

When Toldson analyzed raw data from a 2005 CBS News monthly poll of 1,000 high school students who were asked their opinions on being smart and other smart students, he saw this reflected again.

Students were asked, “Thinking about the kids who get good grades in your school, which one of these best describes how you see them: 1) cool, 2) normal, 3) weird, 4) boring, or 5) admired?” The responses of black boys, black girls, white boys, and white girls were around the same. But black boys were the most likely (17 percent) to consider such students “cool.”

Students also answered this question: “In general, if you really did well in school, is that something you would be proud of and tell all your friends about, or something you would be embarrassed about and keep to yourself?” Eighty-nine percent of all students said they would be “proud and tell all.” Black girls were top among this group, with 95 percent saying they’d be proud. Meanwhile, white boys, at 17 percent, were the most likely to say they would be “embarrassed or keep to self” or report that they “did not know” how they would handle the news that they were doing very well academically.

As recently as 2009, researchers have revisited the theory and confirmed the findings of pro-school attitudes among black students.

All racial groups have nerds
Fryer’s research found that the very highest-achieving black kids were the least popular — but this likely had much less to do with beliefs about acting white and more to do with the fact that the very smartest kids of any race tend to suffer social stigma.

“In my own research, I have noticed a ‘nerd bend’ among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards,” Toldson said. “For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.”

In a 2003 study titled “It’s not a black thing: Understanding the Burden of Acting White and Other Dilemmas of High Achievement,” published in the American Sociological Review, researchers concluded that the smartest black and white students actually had similar experiences and that the stigma was similar across cultures:

Typically, high-achieving students, regardless of race, are to some degree stigmatized as “nerds” or “geeks.” School structures, rather than culture, may help explain when this stigma becomes racialized, producing a burden of acting white for black adolescents, and when it becomes class-based, producing a burden of “acting high and mighty” for low-income whites.
So very high-achieving kids of all races experience social isolation at times. This is why there are plenty of high-achieving black kids to provide anecdotes about being socially shunned (and there are probably plenty of white kids who could do the same, but there isn’t the same appetite for collecting these stories to explain the white experience). There are also plenty of black kids — many of whom are also smart — who have been accused of “acting white.” But there doesn’t appear to be much of a basis to connect the two experiences.

Jamelle Bouie gave his take on the distinction between these two experiences in a 2010 piece for the American Prospect:

As a nerdy black kid who was accused of “acting white” on a fairly regular basis, I feel confident saying that the charge had everything to do with cultural capital, and little to do with academics. If you dressed like other black kids, had the same interests as other black kids, and lived in the same neighborhoods as the other black kids, then you were accepted into the tribe. If you didn’t, you weren’t. In my experience, the “acting white” charge was reserved for black kids, academically successful or otherwise, who didn’t fit in with the main crowd. In other words, this wasn’t some unique black pathology against academic achievement; it was your standard bullying and exclusion, but with a racial tinge.
Why it matters that we get this right
The “acting white” theory is tempting to believe because it does contain pieces of truth. Yes, there’s a racial academic achievement gap. Yes, there are plenty of African-American adults eager to tell stories about how they were shunned because they were brilliant.

(McWhorter has vigorously defended the “acting white” theory against academic critics primarily by citing 125 letters he says he received from people describing their experiences that reflect the theory. While he argues that accounts in these letters should be accepted without question, he disregards data such as the scientific study responses indicating pro-school attitudes among black kids because of his view that “personal feelings are not reachable by direct questioning.”)

And, yes, some high-achieving black kids — like kids of all races — experience social stigma. These individual facts are painful, and they resonate with people in a way that makes it easy to blur what’s missing from the “acting white” equation: an actual, causal connection between the accusations of acting white, social stigma, and lower academic outcomes. There isn’t one.

It’s particularly troubling that this myth persists, because stories about the sources of educational inequality can shape public attitudes and policy. A perfect example is in McWhorter’s recent Vox piece. Readers who believed his assertion about the “acting white” theory may have been more likely to be convinced of his larger argument that “cultural orientations” of black communities are a cause of inequality. That is, of course, a very damning charge that could shape attitudes about black people and perpetuate racism. But the most glaring problem with it is that it’s an outdated theory that has fallen out of favor with actual sociologists.

A continued willingness to believe that solutions lie in simply repairing backward attitudes about getting good grades will continue to distract from the real problems: poverty, segregation, discipline disparities, teacher biases, and other structural factors. Unfortunately, none of these issues are as easy to fix as simply changing the beliefs of black students.

The Purposeful Silencing of Black Women in Educational Leadership

Thought this was a fascinating take on African American women and Leadership.  Article by Rebecca Lais.

By Contributor Rebecca Lais

“Aggressive.”

“Strong-willed.”

“Passionate”

— have been words falsely labeled as simple descriptors when in actuality, they are evidence of the continued sexism and racism that plagues our society. Women in leadership have always faced adversity and are still seen as second-rate citizens in our country. We see this play out on a national level, but we also see this through daily interactions with those of privilege.

Naively and ignorantly, I believed that we as women shared the same experience. It wasn’t until I was under the leadership of an incredible, Black, female leader, that I realized I was horribly wrong.

During my three years as a middle school English teacher in Tulsa, Okla. I had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of a phenomenal Black, female principal. She embodied the vision of not only equality but equity for our scholars, and she specifically combated the school-to-prison-pipeline narrative through our restorative justice program.

She worked tirelessly and fiercely on behalf of her students. Yet, through several interactions and conversations I observed, she was unfairly labeled as

“too difficult to work with” or “too pushy.”

As a Black woman in a white male/white female dominated arena, her experience is utterly different than those who enjoy the perks of privilege and one all too well-known by her fellow Black women leaders.

One such example that comes to mind is a meeting I attended as a Special Education teacher. Our principal was explaining to a district-level worker (a white female) that one of our scholars needed additional behavioral assistance due to several concerning situations which our school was not qualified to address. We were then told the district did not have the financial resources to help “all students,” and we would have to make due.

As our principal was advocating for our scholar, the employee begins to talk over her, turns to me and asks me to “reason with her.” I can’t help but wonder if our principal had been white or male, would she have been deemed as “unreasonable”?

As I’ve known our principal and as we’ve discussed her experiences as a black, female leader, she’s shared various memories that she’s given me permission to share. She recalls a time when she had to ask the Assistant Principal, an African-American man, to lead certain conversations with district-level employees because she knew her voice would not be heard and our scholars would lose opportunities as a result.

She also describes a conversation with another Black woman who told her that her long braids were “unprofessional” for a principal. Too often to count, she’s been told by fellow colleagues that her voice is “too stern” or her approach is “too dominant.”

She has faced discrimination from all sides, and yet she still continues. When I asked her why she remains committed to her work as a principal in Tulsa, she said,

“I want our young, black women to know they don’t have to change who they are because of what our society tells them to be. They may not be accepted for who they are, but that is not their responsibility. They need to see black women in leadership who refuse to let prejudice dictate how they will live their life. I want them to own who they are because we need them.”

It is not the responsibility of black women to tailor who they are and how they express themselves because of our white and male-dominated society.

It is not the right of others to label anyone as “too” of anything.

We need black women in leadership.

Our country is evidence of that right now. We need our young, black, female scholars to see their reflection in leadership and to see how each of them can make our nation better.

The Purposeful Silencing of Black Women in Educational Leadership 

 

U.S. life expectancy down again due to substance abuse: report

I was motivated to write about this a few weeks ago. My point was to share how the record industry and media is helping to ruin so many lives across the USA. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no outrage. We only absorb and accept.  (Social Learning Theory) Results equal a shorter life expectancy and devastated families left to mourn.

By Sara Shayanian | Feb. 8, 2018

Feb. 8 (UPI) — U.S. life expectancy has fallen for the second year in a row as drugs, alcohol and suicide contributed to a public health crisis, a British medical study found.

The report Wednesday by BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, found that Americans are more likely to engage in “unhealthy behaviors” like high caloric intake, drug abuse and firearm ownership.

The report said the opioid epidemic is “just the tip of the iceberg” of an even larger public health crisis in the United States.

“Between 2000 and 2014, the rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent, a crisis fueled by the growing use of highly addictive opioid drugs,” the BMJ report said. “In 2015 alone, more than 64 000 Americans died from drug overdoses, exceeding the number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war.”

The study found that U.S. life expectancy fell to 78.6 years in 2016, a decrease of 0.1 years from the year before. The report is based on data from the World Bank. Life expectancy in 2017 has not yet been calculated.

The decline in life expectancy in the United States began in the 1980s, after Americans had the highest life expectancy among developed countries in the 1960s. Life expectancy for Americans is presently 1.5 years lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s average.

The study said alcohol and suicides have also been rising, with the suicide rate climbing 24 percent between 1999 and 2014 — an increase affecting mainly white Americans, persons with limited education and women.

“The answer [is] likely some combination of factors in American life-must explain why the rise in mortality is greatest in white, middle aged adults and certain rural communities,” the report said.

“Possibilities include the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, the erosion of social cohesion and greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents once enjoyed.”

In contrast, that black Americans may have a greater resilience to suicide due to “longstanding structural disadvantages, discrimination and higher all cause mortality,” the study noted.

The BMJ report added that although the United States is a rich country, its wealth is “not inclusive” and the “American Dream” is increasingly out of reach.

The research comes after a National Center for Health Statistics report in December also found that life expectancy for Americans had fallen for the second straight year due to opioid overdoses.

In October, President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency in the United States due to opioid addiction.

Black February 2018: Beloved cartoon Betty Boop influenced by black Harlem singer Esther Jones

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/black-harlem-singer-inspiration-betty-boop-article-1.2526508

It’s not widely known, but Esther Jones — a black Harlem singer who performed regularly at the Cotton Club as Baby Esther — was an inspiration for the beloved cartoon sex symbol Betty Boop.

This revelation came to light in part due to the popularity of Betty Boop, a white cartoon character who first appeared in the 1930s Max Fleisher studio cartoons, singing a signature “boop-oop-a-doop” phrase.

A Max Fleischer Studios animator’s 1930 caricature of popular white singer and actress Helen Kane were the visual inspiration for the cartoon. And in 1932, Kane filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Max Fleischer and the film company Paramount Publix Corp., contending that they had exploited her persona and asserting she had invented the phrase, “Boop-oop-a-doop,” most famously heard in her 1928 hit song, “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”

Before a judge in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, the defense called Jones’ manager, Lou Walton, to testify. Walton said he taught Esther how to merge the scat lyrics “boo-boo-boo” and “doo-doo-doo,” and use them in her uptown performances. He added that he saw Baby Esther’s acts with Kane before the white singer started her “booping.”

When Walton produced a sound film featuring Baby Esther practicing in her baby voice and “scatting” as proof, Kane, at the height of her career, was exposed as a fraud and lost the case.

In “The Magic Behind the Voices: A Who’s Who of Cartoon Voice Actors,” authors Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons agreed that Kane had made the phrase famous in her song “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” but there were several other women who voiced the Boop character, including Mae Questel, who was actually imitating Kane’s voice.

But Charles Solomon, author of “The History of Animation,” summed up the case and the reason Kane lost, saying, “The Fleischers won the case by proving that a black entertainer named Baby Esther had previously used the phrase before either Kane or Questel.”

Laptops And Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay Or A Third Way?

This is an ongoing debate throughout America’s school districts. I enjoyed this article by Anya Kamentez. It could make a great debate for middle and high school students.

By Anya Kamenetz
JANUARY 25, 2018

“If something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”

“Students are doing so much in class, distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about.” How should teachers — both K-12 and college — deal with the use of computers and phones by students in class?

On the one hand, those sleek little supercomputers promise to connect us to all human knowledge. On the other hand, they are also scientifically designed by some of the world’s top geniuses to feel as compelling as oxygen. So where does that leave teachers? Should you ban these devices in the classroom? Let students go whole hog? Or is there a happy medium?

This seemingly simple topic ends up being what one professor and pedagogy expert calls “a Rorschach test for so much that’s going on in education.” Recently, the California state teachers’ pension fund weighed in — as a large investor in Apple, the makers of the iPhone. In an open letter, along with another activist shareholder, they called on the company to study digital distraction among youth and to make it easier to limit young people’s use.

The letter cited a national survey that found two-thirds of K-12 teachers said the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing. Of those teachers surveyed, 75 percent said students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.

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Research at the college level backs that up; a small, 2017 study at the University of Michigan found students in an introductory psychology course spent up to a third of class time surfing the web to non-academic sites — even though they knew that the researchers were tracking their computer use. Sounds ominous. But the debate over devices in the classroom has many more perspectives. I spoke with four professors, a high school teacher, a psychiatrist and a technologist to get a range of different views.

No way, no how

Allia Griffin teaches in the Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University in California. Her policy is simple: “Phones/devices must be turned off and not visible during class time.”

Her reason is simple too: “Phones are distracting. My experience has been that no matter how invested a student may be in a class discussion or lecture, if something on their desk or in their pocket dings, rings or vibrates — they will lose focus.”

And she worries about missed opportunities to socialize face-to-face. “Beyond being distracting, students also use phones/laptops/devices as objects to hide behind to avoid participating in class or interacting with their peers.”

Frequently, Griffin adds, “I will walk into a classroom on the first day of the quarter and will find 30 students sitting silently in their seats and individually texting or Instagram-ing on their phones. This is a tragic scene. The college classroom is … a unique space to exchange ideas and thoughts and develop the ability to communicate with a variety of people.”

“Candy” is unhealthy

Katherine Welzenbach teaches high school chemistry in Overland Park, Kan. She, too, bans cellphones — and even backpacks, where phones often hide — in her classes.

These devices are worse than distracting, she says. They can connect teens to cyberbullying, hate speech, sexting and other “unhealthy” experiences. Welzenbach is vocal about her stance, despite what she calls “shaming” of teachers like herself who take a hard line. “Teachers who see cell phones as distractions are often labeled as being ‘unengaging.’ ”

She understands the argument that teens need to learn to use the Internet appropriately. But she uses healthy eating as an analogy: Don’t give kids unlimited access to “Halloween candy and Christmas cookies while they are still learning to eat a balanced diet.”

Distraction has an upside

What you’re really talking about when you talk about laptop bans, says Jesse Stommel, is student freedom.

“Ultimately, I see strict laptop policies (and especially blanket bans) as a form of control,” explains Stommel, who directs the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

And that, he tells NPR, is a bad thing. “I don’t think the attention of students is actually something teachers can or should control.”

Stommel, who’s been engaged in many debates over laptop bans on Twitter, calls the issue “weirdly divisive” but also, in the end, “a red herring.”

Instead of an “authoritarian approach,” he suggests a conversation. “We can talk to students about attention and have them talk to us about how attention works for them,” Stommel says. “This is the kind of metacognitive work that is the stuff of learning.” Distraction, he adds, can actually be a gateway to learning. It can be necessary for “peak experiences like making connections, having epiphanies, understanding abstract concepts.”

There may also be times, he says, that the phone or computer can be an in-class tool. “We can also ask students to use their devices in ways that help them and the rest of the class, looking up a confusing term, polling their friends on Facebook about a topic we’re discussing or taking collaborative notes in an open document.”

On the other hand, says Stommel, there may be times and places to shut it down, too: “We can ask students to close their laptops at particular moments, recognizing that it is useful to learn different things, at different times, in different ways.”

Embrace diversity

Catherine Prendergast, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also believes that blanket bans are a bad idea. But her concern is a little different than Stommel’s. She’s thinking about students with special needs.

“Federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], extends to protect students’ classrooms,” she tells NPR. “If a student needs to use a laptop as an accommodation, they have a right to do so.”

But making the student ask to bring a laptop could be seen as an invasion of privacy, Prendergast says. Better to allow them for all: “The ADA enjoins us to affirmatively seek to remove barriers to education and to make our classrooms more inclusive, not less.”

Some students need to be device-free

Victoria Dunckley, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, has a different perspective. She prescribes strict limits on screen time to young people who are suffering from a variety of psychological ills. She says she’s encountered “pushback” when trying to shield her patients from using devices at schools that have integrated them into the classroom.

If your students are distracted, then improve your teaching. Derek Bruff is a mathematician and director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He says research finds that note-taking by hand can lead to better recall than note-taking by typing on a computer. The reason is that when you write more slowly by hand, you have to think through what you’re hearing and put down only the most important bits; touch-typers tend to transcribe what a person is saying without doing much processing of what they’re hearing.

However, Bruff adds, comparing those two scenarios misses a point that’s backed up by even more research: Lecturing while someone takes notes is not a very engaging or effective mode of teaching to begin with.

“If you’re going to spend 80 to 100 percent of your class time lecturing, phones are going to be distracting to students,” he says.

What works much better? Getting students to collaborate and debate in small groups, for one thing. He’s also seen anecdotally that, “If you give students something productive and on-topic to do with their devices,” it reduces idle browsing. He calls this the “Google jockey” approach.

Like Stommel, he believes there is a time and a place for laptops and phones, but also a time and place to exclude them. “Sometimes you want three students around a piece of paper.”

Fight technology with technology

Alanna Harvey is the co-founder and marketing director of Flipd, a phone app that limits the use of your phone. You can set a timer to lock yourself out of all functions except for basic texts and phone calls.

Not long after launch, they noticed that college students were among their biggest user base, and began aiming the app at educators.

“Our research and discussions with customers have consistently found that digital distractions are negatively impacting the learning experience for students and educators,” she says.

Harvey argues that Flipd offers a fresh, not coercive approach. Rather than instituting a ban, the company encourages professors to offer extra credit for installing the app and using it during class.

Highly engaging lesson plans, as Bruff advocates, are all well and good, but they’re no match for the latest game or social network, Harvey says.

“Some of the most engaging professors I know are Flipd customers,” she says. “Which I believe suggests that the problem isn’t the professor, it may not even be the students, but it’s the devices we know that are designed to influence and manipulate our behavior in many ways.”

Bring policies in line with values

John Warner, who teaches English at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has been on both sides of the device divide.

As recently as four years ago he had a policy of “no laptops in class, except for specific, designated activities,” and banned cell phones except for emergencies. But after engaging in debates online with Stommel and others, his position shifted.

He sees himself as “more of a catalyst for learning, rather than a conduit of information.” In order to live up to that value, he in turn needed his students to be what he calls “self-governing” over technology.

Warner says it’s been working well. He has small writing classes, with about 20 students, and he almost never asks them to simply sit and take notes. “Students are doing so much in class,” he says, “distraction and disruption isn’t really something I worry about. They’re too busy.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.