This was something I wrote for a class on multiculturalism in Education, in response to an article on the success of a special program in a California High School aimed at African American male students, with a greater emphasis on reading relevant to their culture.
Three important facts that the author uses to support the article are…
- There is a disparity of academic outcomes for white students and African-American counterparts, with white 8th-graders scoring 26 percent better on reading tests, and 31 percent better on math tests.
- White students in poverty have comparable education outcomes to black students outside of poverty.
- The average GPA of students in the program rose from 1.6 to 3.0
Other readings have touched on similar problems for different groups, such as how the assumption that children have one frame of reference hinders immigrant children unfamiliar with American pop culture.
The article touches on several land mines, as a program for students of one race might be seen as emphasizing their otherness when the purpose is to foster equality. However uneasy that makes me, the results are impressive. I am curious if there are possible alternate explanations for the improvement (Are the teachers better? How much of the difference comes down to providing a teacher with five instructional aides per eight freshman students?)
There are various counterfactuals to the idea that a major cause of the education outcome gap is the way the curriculum is alien to the experiences of certain minority groups, considering the average grades of other minorities and immigrant groups. For example, children of Indian immigrants perform well academically despite a curriculum that is based on an entirely different culture. Considering how many students are unable to perform various tasks (IE- cooking, signing a check, strategies for studying, making decisions about medical care), a lifeskills class could be useful, although I would expect some emphasis on more mundane aspects of life rather than just familiarizing young black students with the state of the education gap and African-American history.
There are several implications for the classroom. As a teacher, I could propose incorporating similar programs should I be in a high school that fit the profile. I could also aim to select material relevant to the cultural identities of the students, and to be wary of the perception that I don’t have high hopes for any of the students.