Saturday, November 19, 2005

Computing the Cost of 'Acting White'; Voucher thief exploited loopholes that still exist

1) Wow!  These are some EXTREMELY important findings!  (And I have no doubt they're accurate -- once Fryer explains them, they make sense.)  They raise some interesting questions: Could KIPP actually benefit from having virtually 100% minority schools?  And more importantly, should we, as a society, stop bemoaning (see Kozol's latest book) the utter lack of segregation of so many of our public schools?  Not necessarily, of course -- while the de facto segregation that exists may help with the problem of "acting white", there may be bigger, offsetting consequences in other areas.

By comparing grades with popularity, Fryer showed that "acting white" seems to be a real problem, but not one affecting all minority students. Minority students with good grades at private schools don't become less popular. Nor do students at predominantly black public schools pay a social price for higher grades.

That result, Fryer says, shows that there isn't a pervasive bias among blacks against achievement, or an "oppositional culture" created in response to white racism.

But at integrated public schools, minority students face a special problem, according to Fryer's study. Unlike their white classmates, whose popularity steadily increases as their grades go up, minority students with higher grades end up with fewer friends.

2) The ironies here are so stunning -- the WHITE kids feeling inferior and stigmatized...

At Cupertino's top schools, administrators, parents and students say white students end up in the stereotyped role often applied to other minority groups: the underachievers. In one 9th-grade algebra class, Lynbrook's lowest-level math class, the students are an eclectic mix of whites, Asians and other racial and ethnic groups.

"Take a good look," whispered Steve Rowley, superintendent of the Fremont Union High School District, which covers the city of Cupertino as well as portions of other neighboring cities. "This doesn't look like the other classes we're going to."...

"White kids are thought of as the dumb kids," she says.

Cupertino's administrators and faculty, the majority of whom are white, adamantly say there's no discrimination against whites. The administrators say students of all races get along well. In fact, there's little evidence of any overt racial tension between students or between their parents.

Mr. Rowley, the school superintendent, however, concedes that a perception exists that's sometimes called "the white-boy syndrome." He describes it as: "Kids who are white feel themselves a distinct minority against a majority culture."

So what do the white parents do?  Make excuses that the Asian kids are too narrowly focused, yada, yada, yada and run away:
Many white parents say they're leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.
Four years ago, Lynn Rosener, a software consultant, transferred her elder son from Monta Vista to Homestead High, a Cupertino school with slightly lower test scores. At the new school, the white student body is declining at a slower rate than at Monta Vista and currently stands at 52% of the total. Friday-night football is a tradition, with big half-time shows and usually 1,000 people packing the stands. The school offers boys' volleyball, a sport at which Ms. Rosener's son was particularly talented. Monta Vista doesn't.

"It does help to have a lower Asian population," says Homestead PTA President Mary Anne Norling. "I don't think our parents are as uptight as if my kids went to Monta Vista."

How lame!  Parents should be SEEKING out the most competive, rigorous schools and then kick their kids in their asses, tell them to turn off the TV and stop playing video games, and COMPETE! 
Oh, cry me a river!  The gross unfairness of it all!:
Mr. Rowley, who is white, enrolled his only son, Eddie, at Lynbrook. When Eddie started freshman geometry, the boy was frustrated to learn that many of the Asian students in his class had already taken the course in summer school, Mr. Rowley recalls. That gave them a big leg up.
Our public schools could use a whole lot more strivers who (correctly) see educational achievement as the route to success.  That's KIPP's overwhelming focus -- and it works!
3) I'm not sure which is more disgraceful: James Isenhour's stealing, or the outrageous smear of John Kirtley in this Palm Beach Post editorial: "Kirtley..... has opposed meaningful oversight".  In fact, John has fought hard for an accountabilty bill the last two years--with required standardized testing, a longitudinal study, and strict financial accountability for scholarship funds.
November 19, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist

Computing the Cost of 'Acting White'

Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, has done a couple of very clever things. First he devised a mathematical technique for identifying the coolest kids in school. Then he came up with a surprising answer to a tougher question: If a black student does well in school, will his black friends shun him and accuse him of "acting white"?

Social scientists have been fiercely debating this question since it was raised nearly two decades ago by a study at a high school in Washington. Researchers have found that when minority students are asked to give examples of "acting white," they list taking honors classes along with speaking standard English and wearing clothes from the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch (as opposed to Tommy Hilfiger or Fubu).

Some conservatives argue that this attitude reflects a self-destructive sense of victimhood that holds back blacks who could succeed if they weren't pressured by their peers to fail. Some liberals reply that it's not the fault of minority students - that they're creating an "oppositional culture" as a way to cope with racism and other obstacles that would keep them from succeeding if they tried.

And many social scientists have argued that the "acting white" phenomenon doesn't really exist. They point to surveys showing that black students value academic achievement as much as white students do, and that black students who get good grades report having just as many (in fact, slightly more) friends than other blacks.


The New White Flight

In Silicon Valley, two high schools
with outstanding academic reputations
are losing white students
as Asian students move in. Why?
November 19, 2005; Page A1

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation's top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.

But locally, they're also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% -- this in a town that's half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.

Whites aren't quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they're leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.

The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.


Voucher thief exploited loopholes that still exist

Palm Beach Post Editorial

Saturday, November 19, 2005

James Isenhour didn't provide an education for Florida voucher students. A jury said so. But did Isenhour provide an education for Florida lawmakers and Gov. Bush?

Last week, the Ocala businessman was found guilty of stealing $268,125 from the state's corporate voucher program. Isenhour's Silver Archer Corp. got the money in 2003 from Michigan-based Pulte Homes, which made the contribution in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar break on taxes due in Florida. The money was supposed to pay private school tuition for low-income students. But Isenhour spent it on himself and his bankrupt correspondence school, called Cambridge Academy.

Isenhour's attorney argued that rules governing the corporate voucher program are so vague that no laws were broken. The defense also claims that the law doesn't impose any penalties for criminal violations. While it's true that the law is deficient, the most serious gaps are in oversight. Isenhour took $268,125 without providing a single voucher. The statute isn't vague enough to make that legal.

The statute and state policies are vague enough, however, that operators could accept corporate voucher money without actually providing a high-quality education. The state subjects schools to very little financial or academic accountability.

Isenhour was able to collect the money he stole despite a personal bankruptcy in 2000 and despite filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2003 for his correspondence school. The Post uncovered those facts as part of a series of articles about abuses in Florida voucher programs. Trials and investigations are pending against other private school operators as the result of a state probe sparked by Post articles. The lack of academic accountability is an even bigger problem.

Traditional public schools are required to give the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and receive a school grade based on the results. Private voucher schools have no such requirements. John Kirtley, whose $100,000 donation to the GOP paved the way for corporate scholarships beginning in 2001, has opposed meaningful oversight, as has Gov. Bush's chief education aide, Patricia Levesque.

Some lawmakers tried in 2004 and again this year to impose at least slightly improved financial and academic accountability. Despite the obvious abuses, nothing has happened. Now, Isenhour's case has provided another embarrassing example of the program's flaws and provides a test that the 2006 Legislature should not fail.

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