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Black and White


... are returning to the cultural link to the black and white achievement gap. ... Jencks and Phillips argue that black-white differences in parenting practices ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Black and White

Black and White
  • Achievement Gap in Black and White Learning
  • by
  • Sarah Judge
  • TE 891
  • Professor Conley
  • July 12, 2005

Table of Contents
  • Posing Question
  • Research
  • How Do We Close the Gap?
  • Implications for My Practice
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Problem

  • From the beginning of my teaching career, I have
    noticed a disparity in achievement between
    African American and Caucasian students.
  • As an upper elementary school teacher, I believe
    that this gap occurs before reaching my classroom.

Posing Question
  • What causes the learning gap between African
    American and Caucasian students before they begin
    their academic career?
  • Through my research, I was surprised to find that
    the learning gap between these two cultural
    groups occurred before children entered their
    first day of kindergarten.

  • Researchers at the National Center for
    Educational Statistics sampled 22,000 pupils
    enrolled in kindergarten for the 1998-1999 school
  • Tested at the beginning of the year, racial
    disparities were believed to predate school

Findings from NCES Study
  • Bottom 1/4 of Students Tested

Analysis of NCES Study
  • The data from the NCES study shows the
    discrepancy between black and white learners, and
    includes the Hispanic population.
  • One-third to one-half of black and Hispanic
    students entered kindergarten already testing at
    the bottom quarter of students in reading, math,
    and general knowledge.
  • Only 1/6 of white students tested at this
  • level.

NCES Study Indications
  • This research indicates that something about the
    lives of children before they entered school
    shaped their intellectual development.
  • Is this a result of culture?

Arguments for Cultural Reasons
  • Authors Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, writers
    of, No Excuses Closing the Racial Gap in
    Learning argue that cultural explanations must be
    viewed in understanding reasons for the racial
    gap in academic achievement.
  • The Thernstroms refer to the
  • Moynihan Report in their
  • argument.

Moynihan Report
  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, assistant secretary of
    labor over thirty years ago, issued a report
    indicating that the role of family culture is an
    obstacle holding back African Americans. The
    report refers specifically to the proliferation
    of black, female-headed households.
  • The report received much criticism, but the
    cultural issue is now receiving renewed attention.

Legacy of Moynihan Report
  • Since the embers have died down from the uproar
    of the Moynihan Report researchers are
    returning to the cultural link to the black and
    white achievement gap.
  • Sociologist, David Armor, made a major
    contribution in identifying cultural and
    environmental risk factors associated
  • with differences in cognitive
  • development.

Three Main Risk Factors
  • Low birth-weight babies
  • (less than 5 lbs.)
  • Single parent households
  • Childbirth by very young mothers
  • (under the age of eighteen)

Risk Factor Implications
  • Sociologist, David Armor, studied results from
    the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, from
    the years from 1986-1992.
  • This study is considered the most comprehensive
    investigation of child development undertaken in
    the United States (Thernstrom, 132).
  • Armor found from this data that low birth-weight
    babies tend to lag behind others in their
    intellectual development.
  • The birth rate of such babies is twice as high
    among black mothers as white mothers.

Single Parenthood Implications
  • Armor contends that the most important risk
    factor is children living with just one parent.
  • Most social scientists agree that growing up in a
    single-parent, female-headed family is almost
    always associated with lower educational gains
    and more behavioral and psychological problems
    (Thernstrom, 132).

Two-Parent Household Data
  • Only 37 of black children live with two parents.
  • 77 of white children live with two parents.
  • 65 of Hispanics live with both parents.
  • 81 of Asian Americans live with both parents.

Young Mother Implications
  • Armor also found that birth to a young mother
    (aged 18 years, or less) had a negative impact on
    the cognitive skills of children.
  • Over 1/3 of black mothers bear their first child
    at or below the age of 18.
  • This is twice the rate of white mothers and 50
    above the rate of Hispanic mothers.

Is Economics the Cause?
  • Recent data is pointing toward parenting
    practices as a characteristic of the achievement
    gap between black and white students, instead of
    the focus on poverty.
  • Authors Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom contend
    that some of the racial differences are related
    to economic circumstances, but argue that the
    higher poverty rate among blacks is not the whole

Thernstorm Quote on Poverty
  • Income levels do not explain the higher
    incidence of teenage pregnancy and the prevalence
    of black, female-headed households

Parenting Practices and Income
  • According to Christopher Jencks and Meredith
    Phillips in their work,
  • The Black-White Test Score Gap,
  • Changes in parenting practices might do more to
    reduce the black-white test score gap than
    changes in parents educational attainment or
    income…Cognitive disparities between black and
    white preschool children are currently so large
    that it is hard to imagine how schools alone
    could eliminate them…Changing the way parents
    deal with their children may be the single most
    important thing we can do to improve childrens
    cognitive skills.

More on Parenting Practices and Income
  • Jencks and Phillips argue that black-white
    differences in parenting practices persist after
    controlling for measured socioeconomic status.
  • David Armor, in his work, Maximizing
    Intelligence, concurs with Jencks and Phillips.
    He found that parents varied greatly in their
    levels of cognitive and emotional support given
    to their children.

Armors Findings
  • Black families provided notably less emotional
    support to their children.
  • Armor contends this is due to black mothers more
    often raising children entirely on their own.

Data of Parental Cognitive and Emotional Support
  • Study was performed in homes from 1986-1994 on
    children between the ages of three and nine.
  • Reported on a point system where the average was
    100 points.

Parenting and Resources
  • According to the article, The Contribution of
    Parenting to Ethnic and Racial Gaps in School
  • Materials in the home vary by ethnicity and
    racial group.
  • Black and Hispanic families have fewer reading
    materials in their homes.
  • Typically, they also have fewer
  • educationally relevant materials of
  • other types.

Americas Kindergarten Report
  • In their 1998 study, the National Center for
    Education Statistics reported that children who
    live with only one parent rank well behind others
    in their ability to persist at a task, in their
    eagerness to learn, and their capacity to pay
    attention in school.
  • They are more likely to argue
  • with others, get into fights, and
  • get angry easily.

Implication for Black Students
  • In sum, many black students are substantially
    behind their white classmates when they start

Meaningful Quotation
  • Its hard to talk about these problems in
    public. Black folks dont want white folks
    coming into their communities and saying, You
    ought to be more like us. But, the national data
    shows an achievement gap when kids enter
    kindergarten. So its not that they start school
    and equal and school mess them up.
  • Ronald Ferguson, African American economist at
    Harvards Kennedy School of Government.

What Does the Research Say?
  • According to the article, How Can Schools Narrow
    the Black-White Test Score Gap, it is clear that
    preschool programs produce significant increases
    in IQ and achievement tests that persist into the
    early grades

Narrowing the Black-White Gap, cont….
  • However, research also finds that the gains made
    by black students disappear much faster than the
    gains for white students.
  • Some researchers believe this might be because
    black students more often go on to poorer
    elementary schools.

How Do We Close the Gap?
  • What interventions are necessary to close the
    learning gap between black and white students?
  • Intervention must occur before children begin
  • According to Sara Mead, author of the article,
    Common Ground on Preschool, to address these
    disparities, policymakers and educators must work
    to level the playing
  • field before children begin school.

Sara Meads Findings
  • Research shows that high-quality preschool
    focused on building childrens language and early
    learning skills can help make up for learning
    opportunities missed at home.
  • However, less than half of these children attend
    preschool, despite programs like Head Start,
    created especially for them.

Focus on Early-Learning Environments
  • Author, Derek Neal, Professor of Economics at the
    University of Chicago, says now is the time for
    policy makers and researchers to focus on the
    early-learning environments of children.
  • Compared to 1980, black families have less time
    and fewer resources for their preschool children.

Further Evidence for Before-School Interventions
  • Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips, in
    their article, Minding the Gap, find that the
    typical black four-year-olds vocabulary falls
    below the twentieth percentile of the national
  • They state, if we want equal outcomes among
    twelfth graders, we will have to narrow the skill
    gap between black and
  • white children before
  • they enter school

More on Minding the Gap
  • Jencks and Meredith believe there are two ways to
    close the gap
  • Change black childrens preschool experiences.
  • Change their home experiences.

Minding the Gap, cont…
  • Jencks and Phillips believe that parenting
    practices need to change at home to close the gap
    between black and white achievement.
  • They believe that parenting practices have a
    greater impact on childrens
  • cognitive development than
  • preschool practices.

  • Jencks and Phillips suggest
  • Development of preschool outreach programs.
  • Home visits by nurses.
  • Television programs to educate all parents about
    the importance of early education in their
    childrens lives.

Design of the Preschool Program
  • Steven Barnett, a professor of education at
    Rutgers University, suggests a cognitive oriented
    preschool program to improve black childrens
    achievement scores.

  • Barnett stresses that because there is a high
    concentration of black children in Head Start
    centers, the programming should make cognitive
    development a high priority.
  • Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom suggest that a
    reformed Head Start with a better-trained
    teaching staff that focuses on cognitive
    development in addition to social and emotional
    growth, could do more to close the gap
  • (page 225).

Savage Inequalities
  • Jonathan Kozol, in his book, Savage Inequalities,
    asks a principal in New York City about the
    importance of Head Start. Principal James Carter
  • Few of these kids get Head Start. Of 200
    kindergarten children, 50 maybe get some kind of
    preschool. Those who get it do appreciably
    better. I cant overestimate its impact.

Importance of Head Start to Later School
  • When Kozol asked principal Ruthie Green-Brown of
    Camden High in Camden, New Jersey, about the
    impact of state standardized tests, she replies,
  • If they had first given Head Start to our
    children and pre-kindergarten and classes of 15
    to 18 children in the elementary grades, and
    computers and attractive buildings and enough
    books and supplies and teacher salaries
    sufficient to compete with suburban schools, and
    then come in with their tests and demands, it
    might have been fair play.

Other Connections
  • Valerie Lee and David Burkam, authors of the
    article, Inequality at the Starting Gate, found
    that a mothers speech in infant and toddler
    vocabulary development was linked to childrens
    overall vocabulary development.

Mothers Speech
  • A mothers speech, in frequency, elaboration, and
    interchanges with the child, is strongly related
    to later school performance.

  • High SES (socio-economic status) children have
    larger vocabularies than do children from middle
    and low SES families.
  • By their 3rd birthday, low SES children possessed
    ½ the size vocabulary of a high SES child and 2/3
    of a middle SES child.
  • The majority of black families were low SES.

SES and Vocabulary
  • By their 3rd birthday, low SES children possessed
    ½ the size vocabulary of a high SES child and 2/3
    of a middle SES child.
  • The majority of black families were found to be
    low SES from the journal, Closing Racial and
    Ethnic Gaps.

Parenting Interventions
  • Parenting Interventions fall into four
  • 1) home-based (home visiting)
  • 2) center-based (early childhood with a
    parenting component)
  • 3) family literacy programs
  • 4) programs targeting child
  • behavior through changing parental
  • behavior.

Other Interventions
  • Programs like Reading Recovery and Success for
    All have been shown to improve elementary
    instruction for large numbers of black children.
  • These programs can help close the gap that Head
    Start loses when black children move on through
    the elementary grades.

Implications for My Practice
  • It is apparent from this research that
    intervention with African American families is
    necessary before their children are school-aged.
  • More importantly, I would like to be able to
    reach these families before they have children.

My Plan of Action
  • The district I teach in has four elementary
    schools, one middle school, and one high school.
    The drop-out rate at our district high school is
  • Although prevention of drop-out is ideal, it is
    imperative to meet the needs of teenagers who,
    according to statistics, will have young
  • .

Action Plan cont…
  • Instrumental would be reaching the students at
    the high school through a family/child care
  • This class would stress the importance of
    parenting practices, responsibilities, and the
    importance of preschool for children.

Action Plan at the Elementary Level
  • I would like begin discussions with
    administration about the importance of a district
  • Additionally, to coincide with the benefits of
    the preschool, a pre-kindergarten, or Young
    Fives program could be initiated.
  • With the preschool and pre-kindergarten
    preparation, perhaps the black children and white
    children could enter kindergarten on the same
    playing field.

What Happens After Kindergarten?
  • To maintain the equity between the African
    American and white students after kindergarten,
    programs like Reading Recovery and
  • Success for All must be utilized.
  • Teachers must make conscious effort to maintain
    teaching standards for all students, not lowering
    them for those that are struggling.
  • Community efforts must be made to families in the
    district to stress the importance of early
    intervention in their childrens education.

How Do We Achieve Community Involvement?
  • Development of high school family planning/child
    care class.
  • Present findings to parents in the area of
    children who receive preschool intervention and
    those that do not receive its benefits.

Liaison Position
  • Create a district liaison position to families in
    the community. This person would be responsible
    for insuring families receive invitations to
    preschool and pre-kindergarten enrollment.
  • This person would follow-through with families to
    make sure their child enrolled as well as to
    communicate any problems or concerns of the
    community programs.

  • Through my research regarding the gap in
    achievement between black and white children
    before entering school, I have found that issues
    of parenting are at the root of the problem.
  • In order to be pre-emptive in solving the problem
    of the achievement gap, parenting interventions
    need to occur.
  • It is my goal to organize a parenting
    intervention program in my school district with
    the data I have collected on this subject.

Final Thoughts
  • The first generation of black children who enter
    kindergarten with the same basic knowledge and
    arithmetic skills as white children may well be
    the first generation of black adults to enter the
    labor market on equal footing with their white
  • Derek Neal, Professor of Economics,
  • University of Chicago

  • Armor, David. Maximizing Intelligence.
    Transaction Publishers.
  • 2003.
  • Burkam, David and Lee, Valerie. Inequality at
    the starting gate social and background
    differences in achievement as children begin
    school. Economic Policy Institute. September
  •  Denton, Kristin and West, Jerry. Americas
    kindergartners findings from the early
    childhood longitudinal study of kindergarten
    class of 1998-1999. National Parent Information
  •  Jencks, Christopher and Phillips, Meredith. The
    Black-White Test Score Gap. Washington D.C.
    Brookings Institute Press. 1998.

References cont…
  • Jencks, Christopher and Phillips, Meridith.
    Minding the Gap.
  • http//
  • Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities. Crown
  • New York. 1991.
  •  Mead, Sara. Common Ground on Preschool. Front
  • January 18, 2005. http//
  •   Thernstrom, Abigail and Stephan. No Excuses
    Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. New York
    Simon and Schuster. 2003.
  • The Contribution of
    Parenting to
  • Ethnic and Racial Gaps in School Readiness.
    Closing Racial
  • and Ethnic Gaps.