the role of research in countering racial inequality in education
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The Role of Research in Countering Racial Inequality in Education. Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D. Harvard University. Agenda. The achievement gap Standards and Accountability What’s wrong with educational research The new educational research. I. What we know about the achievement gap.

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the role of research in countering racial inequality in education

The Role of Research in Countering Racial Inequality in Education

Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D.

Harvard University

  • The achievement gap
  • Standards and Accountability
  • What’s wrong with educational research
  • The new educational research
i what we know about the achievement gap
I. What we know about the achievement gap
  • Gaps in achievement are a manifestation of broader patterns of racial inequality (Jencks and Phillips 1998; Noguera and Akom 2000)
    • It mirrors other disparities and forms of inequality(health, income,employment)
    • Tends to follow consistent patterns with respect to the race and class of students
  • Privilege is inherited: Kids start school with varying levels of preparation (Snow 1997)
    • A child’s background (SES, education of parents) is strongly correlated with their performance in school (Coleman 1966; Jencks 1972)
how schools affect the achievement gap
How schools affect the achievement gap
  • Schools often exacerbate pre-existing inequality through inequitable practice
    • Poor students are assigned to inferior schools (Orfield 1996)
    • Triage approach to education (Noguera 1995)
    • Tracked into less challenging course with less qualified teachers (Oakes 1986)
  • Patterns that have been in place for a long time are often accepted as normal - the normalization of failure is the central obstacle to increasing student achievement
racial inequality is different from other forms of social inequality
Racial Inequality is Different from other Forms of Social Inequality
  • Racial inequality in education is related to historical patterns of racial discrimination (R. Anderson 1990)
    • Inequities in school funding, unequal treatment (Meier, 1989)
    • Beliefs in the genetic basis of intelligence (Hernstein and Murray 1994)
    • Beliefs that culture (student backgrounds) are more powerful an influence than schools on achievement (McWhorter 1998)
  • Racial disparities in achievement are exacerbated by racial segregation and concentrated poverty (Orfield and Eaton 1996)
    • Poor minority kids generally attend the worse schools
exceptions to patterns
Exceptions to Patterns
  • Black middle class
    • Tend to perform lower than expected given SES and educational background of parents (Ogbu 1995)
    • Significant factors
      • Teacher expectations (R. Ferguson 2002) and school sorting practices (Achievement Council 1998)
      • Family influences (M. Portilla 1998)
      • School culture - peer influences (L. Steinberg 1996, P. Noguera 2001)
      • Linking of racial identity and academic performance (P. Noguera 2003, Phelan, 1998)
exceptions continued
Exceptions Continued
  • Immigrant students
    • Over represented among failing and successful students (Suarez-Oroszco 2002)
    • Voluntary vs. non-voluntary (Ogbu 1988)
    • Primary vs. secondary differences (Portes and Rumbaut 1996)
    • Influence of class and cultural capital (S. Lee 1998)
ii are standards and accountability helping to improve schools
II. Are standards and accountability helping to improve schools?
  • Yes:
    • Social promotion is over, students will no longer graduate from high school lacking basic skills
    • Greater public attention is focused on education. In some places more resources have been directed to struggling schools
    • Many schools are now more focused on raising student achievement
      • complacency about academic achievement has been substantially reduced
standards are not helping
Standards are not helping
  • Schools and districts serving the poorest children have the highest failure rates and little is being done to address their systemic problems (R. Elmore 2002)
    • Nothing has been done to help schools improve
  • Only the most vulnerable parties - kids - are being held accountable. So far there is no accountability for adults
  • The drop-out rate appears to be increasing in states where “high stakes have been implemented
  • Nothing has been done to insure that opportunity to learn standards are met:
    • qualified teachers
    • access to appropriate preparation courses
    • addressing the non-academic needs of students
flawed assumptions in accountability plans
Flawed Assumptions in Accountability Plans
  • Pressure (humiliation) will force schools to improve
  • Threat of withholding a diploma or grade retention will force students to improve
  • State takeovers of failing schools will lead to improvement
  • Academic achievement of poor students can be improved without addressing their other needs (i.e. language, counseling, health, etc.)
iii what s wrong with educational research
III. What’s Wrong with Educational Research?
  • Too much of it tells us what we know already
    • Examples: Research on class size, school lunch, and failure of school reform
  • It tells us what’s wrong but not what to do to bring about change
    • Examples: critiques of tracking,drop-out studies, research on the organization of high schools
  • Tells us what works but not how to replicate “bringing good practice to scale”
    • Examples: small schools, language immersion programs
what else is wrong with educational research
What Else is Wrong with Educational research
  • Educational researchers are too content communicating with each other
    • Who’s reading our journals?
  • Too much research is disconnected from policy and practice
  • Research is not sufficiently focused on the pressing problems confronting the field of education
iv the new educational research
IV. The New Educational Research
  • Must meet standards for “good research” (National Academy 2002), and more...
    • Must be deeply engaged with field
      • More like research in public health
    • Must challenge assumptions related to schooling and learning
      • Research on disciplinary practices
    • Must provide detached assessment of policy
      • Chicago Research Consortium
    • Must have clear links to policy and practice
      • Harvard Civil Rights Project
new educational research
New Educational Research
  • Must be intelligible to policy makers and practitioners
    • Pathways research on high schools
  • Must be rigorous and open to scrutiny
    • MDRC research on school-based interventions
  • Research process may be part of the transformation effort
    • Diversity Project
  • Must be guided by theory
    • Theories of society
    • Theories of the middle range
    • Theories of change
good research alone is not good enough
Good Research Alone is not Good Enough
  • Need to find ways to engage policy makers
    • How do we get taken seriously?
  • Need to inform the broader public
    • Who is our audience?
  • Need to recognize the ways in which politics and vested interests may limit possibilities for change