Thursday, October 23, 2003

KERA and the gap


I'd be happy to help. Tomorrow's not bad...schedulewise.

Here's the short story...

KERA did not address the achievement gap, other than to equalize district-to-district funding. In fact, in the early 90's there was hardly any discussion of the gap at all and certainly no efforts that reached the classroom. Surely, there were African Americans complaining about the education their children received throughout our history, but the debate didn't make a difference in how schools were operated.

It had not been too hot a topic before that time, partly because the gap had been closing! In some ways, the gap could be thought of as one manifestation of a conscious effort on the part of whites throughout our history to keep blacks down... Be that as it may, after LBJ's Great Society programs of the 60s the gap showed a steady closing - until Reganomics...then it started widening again.

Richard Rothstein has a fungibility paper out there somewhere arguing that the way to close the gap is by restoring the social programs that were being effective. I can probably find it in my files if you're interested.

The best I can tell, and in the opinion of Christopher Jencks (Black-White Test Score Gap, 98) [ ] the issue got a kick-start with the publication of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve (94, maybe), which essentially argued that there was a dangerous national dysgenesis occurring because...

...wait for it...

...low IQ couples (blacks, for example) were out-procreating whites, therefore creating more low IQ people and...everything that flows from that. This caused a loud, angry public reexamination of the issues, Herrnstein and Murray were largely vilified (except for the neocons and the religious right) and the rest is history.

The first act impacting Ky schools was SB 168 (when?...1998 or 2000 session?). It called for gap closing targets. It was both necessary and insufficient. Now, Ky already had a tough assessment system. It got pounded on during the 90s but has been improved and seems to be a pretty effective system. The state has been disaggregating data by subgroups since 2000, so we now have 4 years of KCCT subgroup data. The addition of NCLB assessment requirements is not really a help. It seems to me that it's all about every state having to conform to Bush's plan, period. Kentucky's system is much better than the federal requirement.

There was no KERA funding for the achievement gap. KERA (The SEEK formula) equalized funding among districts, but not among schools within districts. The state still relies on Title I funds for low SES kids. There must be thousands of low SES kids who receive no assistance because they happen to attend school with rich peers.

When Bush was running for office (promising to save education) he loaded the platform with African-American faces (Funny, there weren't any/many among the lily-white Republican delegates in the audience) and claimed that no child would be left behind. Then, true to his word, he made NCLB his first legislative act. Unfortunately, his failure to adequately fund the program made it the largest unfunded mandate (possibly) in American history. He did leave in the stuff that didn't cost much - the accountability. Unfortunately, there to, he did not follow the research as he promised. Instead he used fixed targets that ignore any progress a school might make and constructed a system that would declare many (some estimate 40 - 60%) schools as failures. No Child left Behind (a bill whose best feature is its title) hits the streets in Ky later this month and the blood bath begins.

I wrote on this a bit. See: One Principal's Voice, a bad web page I started just to put the work out there so someone might be able to get to it - and I post a few things for my practicum students. What you're looking for is in the Epilogue.

The federal effort seems motivated by short-term political interests. Kentucky didn't need it because we were ahead of the curve. The addition the federal requirements serve only to compare us unfavorably to other states which have lower standards. NCLB is a good idea gone wrong.

Let me know how I can help.


-----Original Message-----
From: whoyt []
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2003 10:18 AM
Subject: Achievement Gap


I was wondering if there might be a time in the next couple of days that I might talk to you about some Achievement Gap issues. As I think I mentioned to you a few weeks ago, I’ve been asked to write a brief article on the impacts of KERA. One issue they want addressed is how KERA impacts the achievement gap. My initial reaction is that wasn’t what KERA was about but I guess what needs to be considered, and something on which I could use some guidance, is modifications in KERA (funding and assessment) that now consider the achievement gap.

Also, I am interested in your views on what motivated the interest in the achievement gap – how much is driven by federal mandates and funding and how much might be due to other forces.

Would your dissertation offer me some guidance? If so, could I look at an (electronic) copy?

Any help you can give would be appreciated.

William Hoyt
Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
Gatton College of Business and Economics
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0034
859-257-2518; 859-323-1920 (Fax)

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