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Is the MCPS Black vs. White Achievement Gap Larger Than What Has Been Reported?

A new study of black immigrant children reveals that children of Black immigrants are doing better in school than are Black native children.

A new study of black immigrant children reveals the following:

“… by kindergarten, children of Black immigrants are doing relatively well in reading and math. They display stronger early academic skills than Hispanic children of immigrant and native parents, as well as Black children of native parents.”

Click here to read the study. The above quote appears on page 2.

For years now, I have pointed out this issue when it comes to the Montgomery County Public Schools and its black immigrant students. It seems as though MCPS black immigrant students outperform MCPS black native students. Click here for a recent blog post on the issue.

Readers wanting to know more about how these populations differ should read the paper found here

I think this issue is extremely important, and once again, I'm going on the record saying that I want MCPS to show us its achievement data broken out by black immigrant and native students. I do not believe that it would be complicated or expensive to present data in this way. Although, I’m sure MCPS officials would tell me or anyone asking for achievement data presented this way that it will cost a zillion dollars to perform the work. But my guess is they’d say this because they probably are afraid of what they might actually find (which is kind of odd since the current superintendent of schools says openly that we should always be curious and ask lots of questions.)

Let me leave readers with why I think the issue is important.

By understanding this issue better, we might discover that current academic achievement gaps between black and white students really are not actually what we think they are. Now, this is one of those good news-bad news situations. But I think it is one we should tolerate. The good news is we might demonstrate that MCPS benefits a fairly substantial population of black students in ways we had not understood previously: black immigrant students who excel. Who does not want to know this?

And while the bad news certainly might upset some (e.g., the achievement gaps between native blacks and whites is probably substantially larger), it still, in my opinion, helps more than it harms. It helps because with more and better information, we could better focus existing resources. Knowing more allows MCPS to spend resources wiser. Instead of throwing things and programs at all black students, wouldn’t it be better to target smaller populations that actually need more assistance, even if that means singling out our black native students? I think the answer is a clear yes.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joseph Hawkins October 10, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Theresa, you asked, "Does MCPS have that data?" I would hope it does given how much talk we here about MCPS being so "data-driven." And I'm against examining SES factors. What I have said previously, and will continue to say, is currently MCPS does a poor job of helping us understand how SES and race and other issues interact. For example, I don't believe I have ever seen a public MCPS report that shows data by SES (FARMS) and ethnicity/race. I would love to see SAT scores for black FARMS seniors versus black NON-FARMS seniors versus white FARMS seniors versus white NON-FARMS seniors. If race doesn't matter than the black and white NON-FARMS seniors would not have a score gap. But I will bet your lunch that in MCPS the white FARMS seniors outscore both the black FARMS and NON-FARMS seniors. You can pick the restaurant.
Barnabas A. Nkemleke October 11, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Hello Theresa, I believe that "continuing to focus only on race (and now a subset, race and country of origin)" is vital because assuming that every dark-skinned kid in the classroom is "Black/African-American" masks the reality of what Ogbu refers to and what Joseph points to in his contribution. I understand Joseph's concern and fully grasp Ogbu's point: the "voluntary minorities" Joseph refers to come with more than just their "blackness", they have other challenges. They hail from countries that lived through colonialism - they inherited the languages and cultures of their colonizing countries (English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) on top of their different dialects and cultures. Coming to the United States, most of them have to attain proficiency and be fluent in American English in order to succeed in school. That apart, my personal experience is that most of these "voluntary minorities" identify themselves as "Black" rather than African-Americans (the "involuntary minorities"). Most of them therefore have some coping to do; while their parents grapple with the challenges of putting bread on the table. I have, when opportuned, emphasized the need for classroom teachers (and especially ESOL (ELL) teachers to be culturally competent to better understand where that "dark-skinned" child in their classroom comes from. Assuming that all "dark-skinned" (Black) kids in the classroom are African-American trumps the data we are all talking about.
Theresa Defino October 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Ogbu's paper is from 1998. Is it relevant today? Is there something more recent on this topic? I don't believe anyone commented on my first sentence, which I believe accurately reflects the conversation on a national level. Here's what I said: I said: "Aren't national advocates of educational reform focusing more a broader range of contributors, especially socio-economic factors, to understand the "achievement gap" and not so much race?" I did not say "race doesn't matter." Please explain what "SES factors" are.
Joseph Hawkins October 16, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Theresa, you're right--here is really good paper (recent). http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=16889 Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America's Youth by David C. Berliner This paper points out that the most popular current school reforms offered have failed to accomplish their goal because they fail to understand the fundamental problem of American schools, namely, income inequality and the poverty that accompanies such inequality. Prescriptions to fix our schools cannot work if the diagnosis about what is wrong with them is in error.
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