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Friday, May 27, 2005

School Law Spurs Efforts to End the Minority Gap

This article by Sam Dillon of the NYTimes examines the usefulness of disaggregating data by race in looking at the achievement gap. While that kind of information is useful, it says nothing of the collateral effects that occur (e.g., schools becoming test factories) when the test no longer measures the reform but becomes the reform itself. The irony is that the latter is more likely to occur in schools with lots of poor and minority children in them because of the ways that the tests are used (beyond mere aggregation/disaggregation of data). These kinds of analyses of NCLB are always too superficial to be valid. For it to be so, a deeper analysis of the system needs to be investigated as well.

Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond who spoke here in Austin recently reminds us how the numbers (aggregation/disaggregation of data) in themselves don’t provide the info on how to minimize the achievement gap. Hence, mere activity and action are not necessarily synonymous with acting in an informed manner. Plus, politics is always a factor.

We know from decades of research that well-funded & well designed bilingual ed programs are effective at reducing and eliminating the gap, but minorities’ lack of political power & frequently poor leadership in our schools and districts keeps bilingual education from being well funded and thusly, well designed. Also, as noted below, other gaps (e.g., housing, poverty, employment) need to also be addressed as well as schools simply cannot do it all.

Congratulations, by the way, to Dr. Enrique Aleman, my former student, for getting cited in the NYTimes. -Angela

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