No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning
A special mention for Larry Sand, who noted that Steinberg's study was cited in the Thernstrom's outstanding book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/074326522X/tilsoncapitalpar). Larry sent along an excellent summary of Chapter 3 of the book (below), which highlights the differences in academic achievement among white, black, Latino and Asian students, and the many reasons for it:
· Asian students tend to be more engaged in school. They cut classes less often and report higher levels of attention and concentration during class (91).
· They are far more likely to enroll in academically demanding courses.
· Homework Habits
o Asian American high schoolers spent twice as much time on homework as their non-Asian peers.
o In all grades assessed (grades 4, 8, and 12) Asian students were the group most likely to study more than one hour a night.
o Asian students spend more time studying and less time on after-school sports or part-time jobs.
· When asked what the lowest grade they thought that they could receive without getting into trouble, Asian students' response was an A-. Whites responded B- and Black and Hispanic C-.
Asian parents and children have a distinct set of attitudes that academic achievement is not determined by innate ability or luck but entirely on how hard the student works.
No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning
Abigail Thernstrom & Stephan Thernstrom
Section Five: Asians
Culture Matters (83)
- Typically studies measuring academic achievement among racial groups refer to the gap between "minorities" and whites.
- Asian Americans are erroneously placed in the "minority" category, however it is not their academic achievement that is particularly worrisome.
- Asian students typically achieve more academically due to their strict culture, which is imposed upon them through their elders.
- Even though Asian Americans experience racism, they typically are not stereotyped as less intelligent than whites. In response, they internalize and transfer messages about themselves that differs from Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans.
- Asian children typically succeed in school for one reason: family culture.
- This leads to the question: Why is this culturally transferable trait not translating to other ethnicities and cultures?
- "You don't have to be Asian to put the time into conquering algebra" (84).
Remarkable Academic Success (85)
- Compared to whites, Asian Americans have a higher advantage in rates of admission to selective colleges, in college graduation, and in enrollments in medical school, law school, and Ph.D. programs (86).
- Asian Americans are far more likely to graduate from college
- "In 2000, a majority (54%) of Asian Americans ages 25-29 had a bachelor's degree or more compared with a third (34%) of whites" (85).
§ There is a 20 point Asian-white graduation rate gap which is even greater than the 16 point black-white gap.
- Graduate education is equally impressive.
- Note on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
- When only taking the NAEP results into consideration, schoolchildren perform at about the same level as white and better than black and Hispanic students.
- Among recent assessments of grades 4, 8, and 12 there was no significant difference in white and asian students except in math at the high school level.
Is It Just Social Class? (88)
- Recent immigrants tend to be more highly educated than the average American, have somewhat better jobs, and somewhat higher incomes. Since all these factors can be associated with a child's success in school they might be enough to explain the pattern. However:
- In California, which has the highest percentage of Asian Americans, adults are not notably more likely to be the highest educated and paid. Yet their children are 2.5 times as likely to have academic records that qualify them for the best state school.
- Children from better educated, higher income families tend to better in all groups, not just Asian Americans.
Hard Courses and Homework (90)
- Asian students tend to be more engaged in school. They cut classes less often and report higher levels of attention and concentration during class (91).
- They are far more likely to enroll in academically demanding courses.
- Homework Habits
- Asian American high schoolers spent twice as much time on homework as their non-Asian peers.
- In all grades assessed (grades 4, 8, and 12) Asian students were the group most likely to study more than one hour a night.
- Asian students spend more time studying and less time on after-school sports or part-time jobs.
- When asked what the lowest grade they thought that they could receive without getting into trouble, Asian students' response was an A-. Whites responded B- and Black and Hispanic C-.
- Asian parents and children have a distinct set of attitudes that academic achievement is not determined by innate ability or luck but entirely on how hard the student works.
Americanization and Achievement (95)
· The authors rely heavily on Steinberg's study to support their argument about culture but disagree with his analysis of Americanization.
1. Steinberg believes that immigrant culture produces children with exceptional academic drive but that Americanization has a "high cost" to students and after time this affects their performance negatively.
· "New Second Generation"
1. "Immigrants are naively optimistic about opportunities in their adopted home. Their American-born children experience the bitter realities of racism and class oppression, with the result that they disengage from school" (95)
· It is still too early to tell how third generation students, whose parents (both mother and father) are native born will fare. However:
1. Those students born in the US and exposed their entire lives to the allegedly negative influence of American culture consistently outperform their immigrant counterparts.
2. This academic success is not the result of transitory immigrant cultural values but is the product of cultural attitudes over a longer period of time that is transmitted from generation to generation.
Section Six: Hispanics
"'Hispanics' are not a single ethnic group, but an ethnic category, an umbrella label that was first employed in the US Census of 1970. The term embraces roughly two dozen national origin groups that have little in common beyond the fact that they originated in countries in the Western Hemisphere that once were a part of the Spanish empire and that have remained predominately Spanish-speaking since then" (102).
Parallel Experiences (101)
· Many problems affecting the school performance of Latino children are rooted in their immigration background, in their movement back and forth across the border, and in the specific cultural characteristics of the families who choose to migrate.
o This is very similar to the large-scale immigration of Italians which ended in the 1920's.
· Many writers and researchers claim that the key factor hindering Hispanic children is their race. They are "trapped in a caste-like minority status," and that they react to their "exclusion and subordination with resentment" which is directed against the "oppressive authority" of the schools (102).
· Thernstrom and Thernstrom offer a different reason, claiming that Hispanic's history of immigration is the dominant force in shaping Hispanic America today.
Interrupted Progress (104)
· Hispanics, like the Italians, tend to experience educational and economic progress the longer they are in the US. However, unlike the Italian immigrants before them, Mexican immigrants have kept a steady influx of new immigrants coming into the country.
o This constant influx or migrants from Mexico helped to keep the Spanish language alive and "continued to reintroduce elements of the Mexican culture to the Mexican Americans" (105).
o The Mexicans that were assimilated into the American culture were thus replaced by immigrants that brought the traditional values and characteristics which then "created a big jump in the number of immigrants with very little schooling by American standards would pose major problems for the schools that had to educate their children" (105).
o The Hispanic immigrants are also more likely to be sojourners, meaning they are more likely to move back to their homeland at some point and less willing to make a permanent commitment to living in the US.
Latino Educational Achievement (106)
· The constant new wave of immigration greatly affects the educational assessments of Hispanic students.
o The greater the exposure to American society, the more positive the gains in educational achievement.
o It is hard to track gains overall because immigration depresses the average Latino educational achievements.
Learning English (111)
· Poor educational performance of immigrant children has a lot to do with their success, or lack thereof, with learning Enlgish.
o In a '95 study, 55% of Mexican-born children of school age did not speak English "very well." (111)
o A 1980 study found that 75% of children who spoke Spanish "poorly," and 83% of those who did not speak it at all, left high school without a diploma.
· There is an unusually strong attatchment of Hispanics to the language of their original homeland.
o Adults' use of only Spanish in the home limits the ability of their children to function at a high level in educational institutions that function in English. (114)
· "Bilingual education" programs were created three decades ago to improve the educational opportunities of students who had difficulty functioning in regular classrooms taught in English." (114)
o Proposition 227 – a 1998 California decision to end bilingual classes (unless parents specifically requested them) and replace them with "structured immersion," which were special classes structured for Spanish speaking students, however they were taught predominately in English.
§ Did not produce strong test scores.
§ May take a few years to see full results.
· There is much evidence that suggests the culture that Asian immigrants bring with them is very strongly oriented toward academic excellence, while that of Mexicans – like the Italians before them – is not. And those cultural differences inevitably have an impact on academic performance, most notably on newcomers. (118)
· "The longer Hispanic families stay in America, the better their children do in school. Success, however, depends on acquireing English, and if schools hope to connect these students to the world of academic achievement, they also need to introduce them to the history, culture, and institutions of their adopted country." (119)
Section Seven: Blacks
"Black culture, we argue, has much to do with the racial gap in academic achievement. What one sees in black students is less a refusal to contribute any effort than a sad tendency for their efforts to stop before the finish line. This tendency stems not from laziness or inferior mental power, but from a brake exerted on them by a cultural inheritance that schoolwork is more a pit stop than a place to live."(121)
Something Wrong in Suburbia (121)
· The example of Shaker Heights Ohio
o Shows an example of disparities between the academic performance of black and white students in an affluent Cleveland suburb despite the generally similar well educated, middle class residents.
· The rise of a black suburban middle class is a recent development.
o More than 1/3 of black Americans today live in a suburb. This figure has doubled since 1970. (123)
Class and Race (124)
· Affects of Education of Parents
o Black students derive much less from the educational advantage from what their parents have achieved in school.
· Suburban v. Urban Schools
o The type of community in which a child grows up and attends school has little impact on the racial gap in education achievement.
· Social Status of Family
o Lower class Black children score lower than their middle class counterparts but so do white children in the same situation.
§ Those with lower income tend to live in urban areas where academic achivement is lower.
· Thus, after taking these racial differences into account there are still gaps that remain unexplained.
· For black children, the racial gap in academic achievement appears very early in life.
o Clear differences are evident by the time children enter school.
§ From a 1/3 to ½ of black and Hispanic pupils entered kindergarten already testing in the bottom quarter of students in reading, math, and general knowledge.
§ However, Hispanic children increased their success over the next two years, indicating that the racial gap could be a consequence of their family's recent immigration to the US
The question of black family culture(131)
o Something in the lives of these black children is affecting their success before they get into school and many scholars think it is the family culture from which they are coming.
§ Single Parent households
§ Low birth weight
§ Birth to a very young mother
· There seem to be racial and ethnic differences in parenting as well
o Black parents typically have a smaller number of books in the household when compared to whites which is consistent among all income levels.
o Black children of all ages report watching a significantly greater amount of television after school. The author's claim is that black children report watching television as a means of "social education."Because African American children tend to be less academically prepared when they first enter school and are less likely and less willing to conform to behavioral demands, they often times have disciplinary problems throughout their school careers (147).