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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The JEOR Hits Just Keep On Coming

It's all hits, all the time, at the Journal of Exceedingly Obvious Results:

'Engagement' and the Underprepared. Practices that immerse students in learning help minority and academically at-risk students more than others, 2 studies find. [Inside Higher Ed]

If you read the article you will learn that the number and proportion of underrepresented minority students and academically underprepared students of all races in college grows, educators and policy makers have lacked hard evidence that "engagement" practices work for those students, too.

Because before we thought only white kids had the capacity to be helped.  The "others" were just beyond hope, you know.  In one study, a significant finding is that

"historically underserved students benefit more from engaging in [educationally effective practices] than white students in terms of earning higher grades and persisting to the second year of college."

The other study found that

 virtually across the board, using a set of "principles for good practices in undergraduate education" has "a significant positive impact on the cognitive development, learning orientations, and educational aspirations of students" in their first year in college...[The report authors] found a "compensatory effect" for students who enter college academically underprepared. "Thus, although the focus of attention has typically been on the general impact of good practices for all students, our findings suggest that good practices may be particularly important for those students who enter postsecondary education with the least educational capital," the authors write.

So, to summarize:  if you treat minority students in a welcoming manner and as if they actually belong at the university and you try to get them involved in the classes you are teaching, they will actually perform better than if you don't do those things, and they may even actually do better than the white kids.  This is so bizarre that no one could ever have predicted it, which is why we have researchers to find these things out.

One commenter suggested that the academically underprepared had, perhaps, just been previously academically under-engaged by poor teaching; another suggested that perhaps their home or social environment had been responsible for "teaching" them not to ask questions or get involved.  But I think they are just wrong.  These students were dumb, but the nice university people gave them remedial attention and helped them get smarter.  Of course, we can't afford to do this kind of stuff at all our universities, which is why these students should go to community colleges, where they are better trained and staffed to take on these sorts of tasks, and not to places like Harvard, where they will just be discouraged by their failure to compete with the smart white kids and will drop out of college.  Of course, then they will be available to wash our cars and clean our houses, so all is not lost.  I think this is what Roger Clegg and his Center call "Equal Opportunity".     

3:57:39 PM    comment [] trackback []

More From the Journal of Exceedingly Obvious Results

This just in from JEOR, as reported in the Chronicle's news blog:

Researchers at Harvard University say private high schools give their students an advantage over those who attend public schools.

I am shocked, shocked to find that an advantage is going on at private schools! 

Who would have thought that our excellent system for adequately funding our public schools through the lottery of property taxes, and the generally large student-to-teacher ratios in public schools, would not be competitive with private institutions and their smaller student-to-teacher ratios?  Wouldn't you think that property values in southwestern PA would buy you just as good a public education as you could get at, say Phillips Exeter?  Or that a class size of 30 offers just as much opportunity for your child to get excellent individual attention from the teacher as, say, a class size of 10 at the local Roman Catholic high school? I would have too.  That's why we need JEOR to keep us informed. 

So what I say is, stop wasting your breath lobbying your senators and representatives to do a better job of funding a topnotch public education for every child.  Just grab your kid and scurry on over to the nearest private school as fast as you can.  And if you can't afford it or there aren't any in your county, well, that's just too bad, isn't it?  That will teach you to be born into the not-adequately-privileged class. 

There are some who say money isn't the answer.  I remember one Republican who once told me that he thought textbooks weren't necessary to truly teach a child well, that he could teach a child math without a textbook.  I asked him if he would prefer for his child to go to a school with teachers like him but absolutely no textbooks.  He got a sour look and refused to answer me.  Yeah, I thought so, is what I said.  Why is it that money is not the answer only for the poor kids?   


2:34:14 PM    comment [] trackback []

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