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Disparities Impact On Students Educational Performance Essay Sample

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Disparities Impact On Students Educational Performance Essay Sample

CHAPTER 3

            Desegregation and integration contributes to providing equal opportunities in learning which hopefully will bridge the achievement gap.  By integration, this would mean that public school administration have been very aggressive in creating programs that will accommodate diversity and provide equal opportunities for all.  However, integration policies in schools and universities do not necessarily mean that everyone is receiving an equal opportunity in learning.

            One of the sources of inequality of opportunity seems to begin in the classroom.  Research claims that a significant factor in the poor performance of students is the inadequacy of the teacher to teach. This inadequacy will affect the performance of the students.

Legislation has been created in the hopes of providing equal opportunities for all students, namely the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  However, implementation of this law has been challenged from the moment of inception.  As a matter of fact, school actions in response to this legislation have been met with controversy regarding discrimination.

Although there maybe numerous factors that contribute to the poor performance of students, this chapter will limit it to the relation of the socio-economic disparity in public schools with the ability of the teachers to teach which ultimately affects the academic performance of the students.  This chapter will also discuss the attempt in integration and equal opportunity by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the controversies associated with the law and its implementation.

Ultimately, this chapter will conclude that the unequal opportunities, which are caused by socio-economic disparity directly affect the students’ performance in school which limits their future economic opportunities thus creating a repetition of the problem in the next generation.

            Diversity is not a new concept, throughout history, different groups and cultures of individuals have looked at the world and made sense of it through representations of their own values and beliefs. The challenge of educating children from these different backgrounds is complex.  Ever since the very critical case of the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, integration of a diverse student population has been the move in public schools throughout the nation.  This is due mainly to the fact that demographics in the United States are changing rapidly, so much so, that Wittmer claims that “The statistical meaning of the word minority is quickly losing its significance, especially in America’s classrooms.”[1] In a census made in Texas in 2005, the US Census Bureau reported that the total population of Texas was 21,896,725, of which 16,021,256 are white; 2,442,300 are black; 726,027 are Asian; and 7,903,079 are Hispanic.

The rest are distributed among the Indian Americans, Hawaiians and other races.  This would equate to 73 percent of the population being white, 11 percent are African Americans and a 37 percent of the population is Hispanic.[2]  Texas is ranked 5th for having a majority minority population.  There were 4,594,942 students that enrolled in the school year 2006-2007 in the state of Texas.  Of this total 1,638,571were white representing 36 percent of the population; 662,700 were Black representing 14 percent; and 2,127,647 were Hispanics representing 46 percent of the total student enrollment.[3]  The Blacks and the Hispanics, not including the other ethnic groups present, form the majority of the student population in Texas. 

Other states that have a majority minority student population are Washington D.C.[4], Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.[5]

Despite the increase in the population of minority students throughout the nation, the achievement gap between white students and the minority students, especially the Blacks and the Hispanics, has narrowed as compared to the gaps that occurred former years (Figure 1).  Nonetheless, even with integration, the gap still exists which leads to other possible factors that may cause poor academic performance.

Figure 1

Source: National Center of Educational Statistics (2007)

            Researchers have attributed a major cause of the achievement gap on the ability and experience of teachers.  High minority schools have a tendency to hire teachers with less experience.[6] Moreover, public school teachers have a tendency to teacher subjects that does not belong to their field of study and research has showed that, “students learn more from Mathematics teachers who majored in mathematics than from teachers who did not.”[7]  Combining the lack of experience with the lack of mastery in the subject that is being taught will definitely result in ineffective teaching.  Unfortunately, inexperienced teachers and out of field teachers are recruited more in high minority schools. [8] In the year 1999 to 2000, nineteen percent of out of field teachers were teaching English while and 23 percent out of field teachers were teaching Math. [9]         In the same year, the gap between whites and the Blacks and Hispanics in reading and in mathematics are very high.  In the same year, statistics have shown that public schools with high low income students have hired beginner teachers, that is, teachers with very little experience.[10]

           To make matters worse, teachers in schools that have a majority of students coming from low income families, have very little tools of education to work with.  An example of this are two schools near the bay area, specifically, McClymonds High in West Oakland and Piedmont.  Piedmont High has a lot of facilities and tools to aid in the education of its students.  It has “19 advanced-placement courses, a full counseling program, professional quality library and 18 kinds of sports, from golf to water polo.”[11]  Most of the teachers in Piedmont have received higher education.  It has a Parent’s Club that financially contributes to the facilities and support programs that the school has.  In McClymonds High, the principal has been struggling to find funds which its PTA cannot afford to contribute due to their low economic status.  Piedmont High has 71 percent white students and 2 percent black students while McClymond’s has 80 percent black students and 1 percent white students.[12]

These figures indicate that the income level, which is related to the ethnicity, of a public school dictate the quality of education the students in these schools will receive.  Experience and subject mastery are major characteristics of effective teaching, but in the case of low income students, their educational needs are not properly met because the teachers who are suppose to educate do not have the ample knowledge to impart to the students and do not have enough experience to be able to handle and cope with different needs of the students, aggravated by the fact that they do not have the proper equipment to support whatever lessons they are trying to teach.

            The inequality of opportunity in public schools contributes to the poor academic performance of Blacks and Hispanics.  This performance is carried from middle to high school which influences the minority students’ ability to enter white colleges whose academic requirements for entry are quite high.

            The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to help eradicate this inequality of opportunity.  The Civil Right Act of 1964, landmark legislation, was enacted to illegalize segregation between the white people and the non-white citizens of America in American schools and in all public places.  Initially, this law was directed at African American people in reaction to the great resistance that occurred after the Brown vs. the Board of Education, wherein a child named Linda Brown was not allowed to enter a better school because it had a predominantly white student population.  In the Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case and disallowed segregation in public schools.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to concretize the laws created by the Brown case and support the equal opportunity clause of the 14th amendment which states that everyone should be equally protected by the law.[13]

            The problem with the law lay with the implementation of it.  One of the opponents of the act was Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who, ironically, was the main force in desegregating schools in Phoenix. He was all for desegregation but believed that the Civil Rights Act was impractical as far as implementation was concerned.  He also believed that the evils of discrimination cannot be solved by enacting a law and that by doing so it will violate the state’s rights. [14]  Sen. Barry Goldwater said in response to criticisms regarding civil rights:

“I am unalterably opposed to discrimination of any sort and I believe that, though the problem is fundamentally one of the heart, some law can help–but not law that embodies features like these, provisions which fly in the face of the Constitution and which require for their effective execution the creation of a police state…With the exception of Titles II and VII, I could wholeheartedly support this bill…”[15]

            Although the discrimination that he was referring to was mostly because of color or race, discrimination now involves an economically tagged racial discrimination.  By this it means that color equates to poverty and vice versa.  “Today’s Linda Browns are students whose parents cannot afford to supplement schools with computers, books, art classes and equipment as parents in wealthier communities do.”[16] True to what Sen. Goldwater has predicted, the execution and interpretation of the law has caused numerous problems and controversies.

            One of the more controversial consequences of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is affirmative action in schools and universities.  Affirmative action is a movement to try and eliminate segregation by recruiting more representatives of a minority group.[17]  Affirmative action was created in the hopes of correcting historical racial discrimination.  However, some have criticized that this affirmative action causes a quota system that will result in preferential treatment or reverse discrimination.  Before passing the act, Senator George Smathers said:

“It is not written in the bill that there that there must be a quota system, but the net effect of the adoption of [Title VII] would be that employers, in order to keep themselves from being charged with having discriminated, would, in time, have certain people working for them to meet the color qualifications, the religious qualifications, the creed qualifications, and so on.”[18]

There are two critical cases regarding affirmative action that significantly affected the status of diversity in universities and schools – Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), and Hopwood v. Texas (1996).

The case of the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke was a critical case since it was one of the first cases that dealt with an affirmative action without strict scrutiny that was upheld by the courts.  This case, later on known as the Bakke law, became a basis for affirmative action cases that transpired after.  The University of California-Davis Medical School had a regular admissions policy and a special admissions program for the minority group as long as they enter as “economically and educationally disadvantaged”.

The school was offering a total of 100 slots, 16 of which were earmarked for the special program.  Allan Bakke, a white male, was trying to enter the University of California-Davis Medical School.  He attempted to enter twice, in 1973 and 1974.  On the first year, Bakke’s application was rejected despite his above average score and the school having available slots in the special program.  On the second year, Bakke was once again rejected while minority applicants were accepted into the school even when their scores were significantly lower than Bakke’s. [19]

The main issue in this case was in trying to have an affirmative action in its admission policy; did the Davis Medical School commit a violation of the equal opportunity clause of the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling deciding that putting the quota to protect the minority from competition and limiting their entry within the 16 slots violates the equal opportunity clause of the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, race as a factor in admission is not in any way unconstitutional.[20] The creation of the quota system was exactly what Sen. Smathers was referring to as an effect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Nonetheless, the Supreme Court did rule that race can be used as a factor to assure diversity in universities, as Justice Powell, one of the ruling judges said, “Racial classifications call for strict judicial scrutiny. Nonetheless, the purpose of overcoming substantial, chronic minority under representation in the medical profession is sufficiently important to justify petitioner’s remedial use of race.”[21]

This was the first case that actually reinforced an affirmative action in universities.  However, in 1996, this Bakke law was challenged in the Hopwood v. Texas case.  The issue in the Hopwood case, a case very similar to that of Bakke, involved an affirmative action case against the University of Texas, School of Law by four white applicants.   In the case of the University of Texas, the grade point average (GPA) required to enter the school was lower for Blacks and Hispanics as compared to the grade point average required for white applicants.[22]  The controversial issue here is that the lower court upheld the affirmative action that the University took with its admission policy based on the Bakke law.

However, after two years, the Appellate court decided to reverse the decision based on the fact that the Supreme Court believed that “the University of Texas School of Law may not use race as a factor in deciding which applicants to admit in order to achieve a diverse student body, to combat the perceived effects of a hostile environment at the law school, to alleviate the law school’s poor reputation in the minority community, or to eliminate any present effects of past discrimination by actors other than the law school.”[23] This is the total opposite of the Bakke case and contradicts the very existence of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 since this ruling did not just contain itself within university admissions policy but was held with regards to financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, recruitment and retention, among others.

This was major drawback for the desegregation of universities and public schools.  It was statistically known that the minority group performed academically weaker than the Caucasian population.  This gap in achievement, as mentioned earlier in the chapter, is directly related to the economic status of the student.  More often than not, the minority group’s poor education is due to belonging to the poor strata of society and this poor education will limit their economic chances which will cause a chain of never ending poverty, from ill educated parent to ill educated child, and so on and so forth.  “Without proper education and social awareness the establishment of an egalitarian society is a distant dream.”[24]

Affirmative action by giving special programs for the minority is suppose to end this chain of poverty by allowing the minority group to enter high standard universities and achieve better education.

 “The report made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations within the context of the Decade for the Eradication of Poverty confirms that universal primary education is central to the fight against poverty. Understandably so, because this is the level of education through which most poor children pass and within which their achievements should assist them to break the cycle of poverty.”[25]

Admission policies such as those in the Hopwood case, considered this gap and gave the minority group a lower entrance score as compared to those of the white applicants, but with the ruling that the Supreme Court handed diversity along and an equal opportunity could not be given to the minority group.

 In a state like Texas wherein the state has a majority minority population, this ruling was great blow to the minority applicants who wished to become lawyers.  Right after the Hopwood case, the minority population in the University of Texas went down by 90% for blacks and 60% for Hispanics, creating an almost white student filled university.[26]  According to the University of Texas:

With or without affirmative action, the average applicant to the law school has less than a 25% chance of admission.  Affirmative action makes a difference in these chances of only 2 or 3%.  With more than 4000 applicants a year, affirmative action for a hundred or so of them has little effect on everybody else.[27]

The University of Texas admits that their high standards only give average applicants a 25% chance of entering.  The drastic decrease in the enrollment of Blacks and Hispanics is because without the special program they couldn’t compete.  An extreme few were able to enter and the rest, who may be victims of their poor economic background, were not able to enter.  As mentioned by the University of Texas, a few hundred cannot possibly be too much when the minority in Texas represents more than half the population.

At this point it is very important to look at the whole picture.  It has been established that the socio-economic disparity between the minority group – specifically, the Blacks and Hispanic – and their white counterparts directly affect the students’ performance.  Most Caucasian students belong to well off families that are able to pay for extra activities, programs and equipment that will supplement their education at school and at home.  Most Black and Hispanic families belong to poorer families that cannot provide the same opportunities, and the schools, as much as they would want to equalize these opportunities, lack the proper funding.

It has been 53 years since the Brown case and yet segregation still remains.  Not exactly the same kind of segregation in 1954, but segregation has now developed a different face that divides the community into have’s and have-nots.  “The Linda Brown of today is a child in poverty. She can be any color and live in any region. We have become a society divided less by race than by the profound barriers between the haves and the have-nots.”[28]  This is something that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not consider.  It did not consider the fact that although desegregation by race can be achieved equal opportunity may not necessarily follow due to desegregation.

It is true that desegregation by race helps in improving the education of students.  The diversification of students in a classroom gives social benefits that are inherent in learning and preparing for the workplace in the future.  Having students within a classroom coming from different backgrounds contributes to the knowledge of the other students.  Students are exposed to different religions, different perspectives and different cultures that will definitely enrich each students view of self and of the world.  These are necessary skills that they will need to carry with them throughout their lives especially in the growing trends of globalization. Gerardo Marin said:

Ethnic diversity among students not only produces a more diverse qualified work

force but also improves the academic experience of students by providing multiple points of view in the classroom as well as during informal discussions. [29]

However, it is not enough to improve the academic performance of students especially if the quality of education remains disparate.  To be able to close the achievement gap, the government has to realize that the minorities have a lower educational performance, not just because of racial segregation but mostly because of economic segregation that limits their educational opportunities.  “The strong relationship between race and income has meant that most low- income neighborhoods are Latino and African American, and most middle and upper-income neighborhoods are white. Attendance boundaries keep the children in different schools.”[30]

Affirmative action is being used by educators to equalize this playing field, as in the admission policy of University of Texas. As per Justice Harry Blackmun during the Bakke case commented, “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race.”  Race, income and opportunity have to be considered in creating a proper program to close the achievement gap, ultimately eradicating discrimination and poverty.  The poor educational performance of students will lead to poor economic possibilities in the future thus the cycle of poverty will never end unless proper education is provided.

The government realizing that the problem of poor academic performance is caused by factors not solely about racial discrimination enacted the No Child Left Behind Act which puts the schools and the state accountable for the performance of students.  The act was created so that the schools will compensate for the socio-economic disparity of students in the process improving the students’ performance.  The act takes into account the involvement of the government, the school, the community and the parents.   The next chapter will discuss this legislation and how all stakeholders’ contribution, programs and movements impact on the students’ educational performance.

CHAPTER IV

Education is the universal equalizer.  However, as was seen in the previous chapter not everybody in America is receiving the proper education that they need.  Socio-economic disparity in students is greatly affecting their performance academically.  Unfortunately, most of the students that belong to the poverty level belong to the minority group, especially the Blacks and the Hispanics.

Diversity in the public schools must be responded to because the population of diverse students is ever-increasing.  There is some resistance of diversity in public schools that will not only negatively impact minorities; but it will affect the whole of the United States. Problems like disparities in education can affect areas of the community like healthcare, crime, taxes etc. For example, minorities who are not properly educated may not be able to acquire proper jobs.  If jobs can’t be found, this will cause unemployment.  If minorities could receive the same form of educational opportunity then eventually they will be able to acquire for themselves better jobs that can contribute economically.

A big factor that affects their performance is the performance of their teacher.  Most teachers that are hired in high minority schools are beginner teachers that do not have the experience or the proper certification to teach the subjects they are teaching.  Moreover, the high minority schools usually do not have the proper funding to facilitate the students with supplementary amenities that will support their education.

The whole of society has a stake in closing the achievement gap between the whites and the minority.  For one, the achievement of the students will help them break their poverty cycle and create wealth for the whole nation.  Also, with all students having proper education, the chances of these students getting proper jobs in the future will alleviate the unemployment problem and other economic problems that the country is facing.  Education is one of the most important keys in society.

Having realized this, the government, in the hopes of involving the whole community to help solve the education problem, enacted the No Child Left behind Act in 2001.

This chapter intends to examine the benefits and the consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act.  It will also discuss programs created as a reaction and as compliance to the legislation.  Finally, it will decipher if the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is effective in closing the achievement gap.

Ultimately, this chapter will conclude that, although the No Child Left Behind Act created a wave of movement towards the improvement of students’ performance and made little movement in narrowing the gap, the gap still exists because the act fails to address the socio-economic problem that is the main factor that greatly impacts on the educational performance of the students.

            The House of Representatives passed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), on May 23, 2001, which authorizes federal programs aimed at improving the performance of students by making the states, the school districts and the schools accountable for the performance of the students.  This law had put the burden of all aspects of possible improvement on the shoulders of the school body.  It has commanded that the teaching methods be reformed and the faculty body to be re-trained to address the different needs of the student, especially those that are disadvantaged.  It has also taken into consideration the importance of the parents in education by making it compulsory for the school to involve the parents in the education of the students.  Moreover, it has taken into consideration the disparity of the economic situations of the students so much so that it has mentioned that the school should be able to be approachable for the needs of both the students and the parents.

            The impact of this law has been tremendous.  Due to the accountability placed on schools, there has been a great many changes in the faculty make-up of the school.  Realizing that the teachers’ performance directly affects the performance of the students, the first move in reaction to the legislation is to affect and change the make up and the vision for the schools’ faculty.

One of the changes that has been made was more schools are hiring teachers from different ethnic backgrounds to relate to students from the same backgrounds better.  According to a study made by the National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force, having a diverse faculty has benefits that have four main benefits, namely, they serve as role-models for non-white students, a diverse faculty could educate the students regarding other beliefs and customs, they are able to support the education of diverse students due to commonalities and they serve as cultural mediators to guide the diverse students into acclimatizing into the school environment.[31]

The National Collaborative on Diversity in the Teaching Force Organization was admittedly created as a reaction to the NCLB.  The group believes that the law did not put ample focus on diversifying the faculty of schools in the different states, which contributes to the continuous achievement gap despite the enactment of the law since 2001.  “Although teacher quality has been accepted and internalized as a mantra for school reform, the imperative for diversity is often marginalized rather than accepted as central to the quality equation in teaching.”[32]  Not all groups believe that this would solve the problem; nonetheless, a diversified faculty will set the example for acceptance for diversity and will create an area of refuge for the students who belong from diverse backgrounds resulting in the creation of a lot more confidence and safety for students from different ethnic backgrounds.

With the NCLB act of 2001 up for reauthorization in 2007, the group has been aggressively moving to have the diversification of the faculty a main feature of the law when it gets renewed, which they strongly believe will happen.  Within their report, they included the results of a study that they created to see the correlation of the student’s performance and the existence of a diverse faculty.  They discovered that the students were able to perform better with the diverse faculty because the faculty served as mediator for the diverse students to be able acclimatize to the subjects and to find counselors who have commonalities with the students making them far more approachable.  The study was made on a limited number of students; nonetheless, the results are so positive that it gives hope that the achievement gap will be crossed.  Based on their study the students’ performance has improved fort he following reasons:

Student’s performance have improved academically, socially and personally when they are taught by teachers from their own ethnic backgrounds; Student’s performance has improved when culturally responsive approaches and techniques used for gifted and special children are utilized; Teachers from ethnically diverse backgrounds have higher performance expectations from students with the same ethnic background.”[33]

Despite this, the group acknowledges the fact that there are fewer teachers from diverse ethnic backgrounds that pass the certification for teaching.  It is one of their missions to achieve support from the government to provide a diverse faculty in schools since they faithfully maintain that diversity in the faculty will be able to address the needs of a diverse student body better thus improving the performance of all children.  Once again, the inability of teachers in diverse ethnic backgrounds to pass certification is rooted on the achievement gap problem.  However, other groups have a different approach with regards to the ability of teachers.  Some believe that what needs to be worked in is not in diversifying the faculty but training the faculty to accept diversity.

In the case of The California Teacher’s Association, they are working on the premise that teachers have hidden biases towards students that affect the performance of diverse students.  “Recognizing their own biases can help teachers identify how many students they’re calling on – or not calling on. If there are some students who are not being called on in the classroom, learning is diminished.”[34]  Therefore, the CTA created a Human Rights Department that creates activities that focused on the equity and realities of a diverse student population.  It also trained teachers to better deal with these realities and helped the teachers to try and go through self-inspection to find more about their hidden biases and how to eradicate these biases to help improve the performance of diverse students.

On the other hand, some organizations have created programs addressing the need for a better qualified faculty.  In the state of Maryland the Department of Education with the cooperation of the local schools has been creating programs to reform the teaching methods and to improve the skills of its teachers.  They have placed special focus on Baltimore for the reason that there are numerous schools in Baltimore whose students have been performing fully, and to avoid a governmental or private takeover, the State has been supporting the schools by providing teacher consultations and training.

Moreover, the students in the area are also being assisted so as to achieve a greater SAT score.  Another program that they have created which ahs proven to be highly effective is the Mathematics Application and Reasoning Skills project (MARS).  This particular project focuses on reforming the mathematics curriculum throughout all the schools in Maryland and to improve the math skills of teacher and improve their teaching methodology.  Out of the 122 schools in Maryland, 108 of them have implemented the program and the performances of the students in these schools have improved from 6 to 12 percent.[35]

Another program that was created which took the focus away from the teacher is a peer to peer teaching, wherein each student will be engaging in discussion about the subjects in pairs with the supervision of the teacher.  However, it is in the interaction between the students that the students learn from the most.

The elementary school in Pablo, Montana has adopted this cooperative learning method to narrow the achievement gap and it has found itself quite successful in its endeavors.  The school’s initial action was to conduct a survey wherein the students will express what the students really want, what their favorites subjects are, what activities they enjoy in school from having lunch to riding the bus.  After the survey was made the school was able to gauge their goals which were to improve performance, to increase attendance, to decrease violence and to involve the parents.[36]  The school used the Success for All models which entailed a cooperative learning strategy wherein the students will discuss the topics of their subjects, going into pairs and sharing knowledge in the process teaching and helping each other and fostering a very safe and comfortable place for all students.

The results of this strategy were mind blowing.  The attendance of the students improved dramatically and more importantly, there was a 30% increase of fourth graders who were able to meet state standards. [37]

Apart from effecting a change in the faculty of the schools, a different approach is being considered in other parts of the nation.  Since parent involvement has been considered as one of the factors that affect the performance of the students, focus is being placed in programs to involve the parents in educational activities.

In Illinois, an action plan is being endorsed to involve the parents in the education process.  As per the NCLB, they believed that more focus should be placed on the involvement of parents since studies have shown that the students that have parental educational support have fared better academically.  They have created what they have called as the Top-Down/Bottom-Up approach, a model that involves parents based on the requirements of the NCLB, research created by experts and the need to improve the achievement of students.[38]

By top-down this means that the school has to engage the parents in activities that will improve the performance f students and by bottom-up this would mean that the parents have to support the efforts of the school to have more parent participation in the activities of the students in school.  With this plan they intend to assess the participation of the parents on an individual basis since different families have different needs and different socio-economic compositions.

They also recommend that a parent community resource be created to educate the parents as to the necessity of their involvement in the education of their children.  Also, they recommend making these community groups as mediators between schools and parents to better foster a working relationship between the two institutions.  Finally, they are trying to lobby that parental involvement to become supported by the Illinois Department of Education and make it a state concern instead of a local one.  Unfortunately, the Illinois community is treating this particular action plan as more of an extra instead of a necessity.

As can be seen, the accountability placed on the states and on the schools has made these institutions move.  Due to NCLB’s accountability clause, all states have become culpable of the poor performance of their students and because this they are now forced to take action, do all possible research to reform and to change their teaching methodology and to make sure that no child is left behind as far as academics are concerned.  Groups have been established to support the education industry in this endeavor.  The whole of society has been made aware of the gravity of the problem, so much that every single sector of society is being made involved in the movement for improvement.  The manner in which the law has been phrased is so strong that not doing so creates a feeling of guilt, making it very effective for everyone to cooperate towards the goal of closing the achievement gap.

However, these movements are based, not only on the desire to close the achievement gap, but more on the fear of sanctions and repercussions if the students’ performance does not improve. “At a time when the percentage of Americans living in severe poverty has reached a thirty-two-year high, NCLB seeks to improve the schools poor students attend through threats and sanctions rather than the serious investments in education and welfare such an effort truly requires.”[39]

The assumption of the law is that the educational performance of a student can be holistically measured by test scores.  Due to this assumption, the law has placed heavy emphasis on the test scores.  Due to the emphasis placed on test scores the curriculum has been designed to focus on the same test scores, in process limiting the curriculum of the school.  Students are getting short changed with this because other subjects that are not included in the tests are not being given sufficient attention.  “Due to the focus on test scores, teachers have narrowed down the curriculum for the sole purpose of having good test scores, abandoning some subjects that are not tested and totally neglecting the intrinsic lesson and value of learning.”[40]

Tests scores are one of the ways of assessing the aptitude of children; nonetheless, the extreme concentration placed on it has caused a shift in the focus of education.  Moreover, the accountability that has been placed on the state and the school is a very simplistic way of approaching the problem.  The schools have reformed their faculty systems which is definitely a factor that contributes to the performance of the student as has been established in the previous chapter.  Nonetheless, there is the biggest factor that has not been addressed – equal opportunity which cannot be achieved due to the socio-economic disparity of students.  “The law does not address the profound educational inequalities that plague our nation. With high-spending schools outspending low-spending schools at least three to one in most states, multiplied further by inequalities across states, the United States has the most inequitable education system in the industrialized world.”[41]

The equal opportunities given to the minority students have remained at a low while the gap continues to increase. (Table 1).  This reflects that despite the enactment of the NCLB the gap remains and has not been closed while the opportunities provided these students are up to this day limited.

Source: Framing the Debate over No Child Left Behind, 2007

Figure 2

This is mainly because the NCLB does not take into account that poverty intrinsically changes the level of the educational playing field.  People with limited income cannot provide the same facilities and the schools that these low income students go to will consequentially have a limited budget as well and the NCLB does not provide enough subsidies and funding to compensate for this economic lack.  “The problem we face is less an “achievement gap” than an educational debt that has accumulated over centuries of denied access to education and employment, reinforced by deepening poverty and resource inequalities in schools. Until American society confronts the accumulated educational debt owed to these students and takes responsibility for the inferior resources they receive, children of color and of poverty will continue to be left behind.”[42]

President George W. Bush was on the right track when he said: “The quality of our public schools directly affects us all as parents, as students, and as citizens. Yet too many children in America are segregated by low expectations, illiteracy, and self-doubt. In a constantly changing world that is demanding increasingly complex skills from its workforce, children are literally being left behind.”[43]

He made this statement with reference to the No Child Left Behind Act and he believes that if the children of America cannot be properly educated then this will result in numerous national problems.[44]  He made it quite clear that every sector of society has a stake in the improvement of the educational system.  This is definitely true since the lack of education will lead to a cycle of poverty and unemployment which will affect the economy at a national level.

  The legislation of the NCLB was supposed to address this problem in education and it has achieved to put to light the gravity of the education problem, if not instill fear of being sanctioned.  Nonetheless, the NCLB has created movement throughout all the states to endeavor and improvement in their systems, or at least has made protestors think of a better way to handle the situation.  However, after 5 years of trying to implement the NCLB and observing the results, it is quite evident the answer to closing the achievement gap does not lie solely on test scores, faculty, and school sanctions.  There is a deeper problem that the community faces with regards to education, and this deeper problem lies in the inequality of opportunity brought about by socio-economic disparity.

The next chapter will recapitulate all the issues involved and attempt in making a recommendation.

CHAPTER 5

Education is usually called the universal equalizer.  The question remains: what is there to equalize? What does equality mean?  Equality has been one of the most controversial words since the French Revolution.  In this study, we will refer to it as equality of opportunity.

            At the onset, this study has examined the socio-economic disparity among the students in a public school and its impact on the students’ performance.  In a public school there are students coming from high-income families and there are students coming from low-income students.  Research has shown that the academic performance of the students coming from high-income families is better than those coming from low income families.  The reasons for this are as follows, high income families:

  • Have more resources to provide supplementary equipment for the education of their child, that is, they can provide books, computers, home libraries, etc.
  • The parents of whom have attained a higher education and thus are able to support the education of the child through guidance or through empathy of the educational struggles of their children.
  • Have more opportunities to engage in extra curricular activities and after school education that enrich the education of the student

Low Income families do not have these opportunities or resources.   This is aggravated by the situation that most low income families come from an ethnically diverse background.  Of the total population of Hispanics, only 10.4% have achieved a Bachelor’s Degree, 14.3% for Blacks, 11.5% for American Indians, 7.3% for native Hawaiians (Table 2).

With these kinds of figures most of the ethnically diverse families have education less than a Bachelor’s Degree.  That being the case, the employment opportunities they have are definitely limited which basically causes their poverty.  Therefore, all the advantages those high-income parents can afford their children, students from low income families do not experience.  Therefore, the only thing these poor and ethnically diverse students have is public school education.

Throughout American history, the face of public school education has constantly changed in the hopes of providing proper education to all students regardless of race, color, creed, and sex.  However, despite the desire to provide equal education, there remained a discrepancy in the opportunities received by whites and the minority, especially the Blacks ad the Hispanics.

One of the factors that contributed to the inequality of opportunity before 1954 was the segregation of schools bases on color.  Black students went to Black schools even if they were living near a school populated dominantly by white students.  With this segregation, the quality of education that was being offered to the “colored” students was not the same as those of the white students.   Somehow, the white people feared that if the “colored” people were properly educated they can get in a position in their life where they can retaliate against the whites for the slavery that had occurred in the past.  It was a way for the whites to control the Blacks.  “As intellectual elevation unfits men for servitude and renders it impossible to retain them in this condition, it should be interdicted. In other words, the more you cultivate the minds of slaves, the more unserviceable you make them; you give them a higher relish for those privileges which they cannot attain and turn what you intend for a blessing into a curse.”[45]

This changed in 1954 when the Brown v. the Board of Education case occurred, which outlawed segregation of schools because it was a violation of the equal opportunity clause of the 14th amendment.[46]  This was so controversial since it was the beginning of a mixed classroom composed of Blacks and white students.  Black students will now have the opportunity to have the same kind of education as the white students.  At that time, being placed in the classroom of white students was considered to mean receiving better education.

The desegregation of schools was thought to bring an equal opportunity for all.  Having a diverse classroom was maintained to benefit the education of students.  However, through the years, constant struggles were encountered with the desegregation of schools.  Even after the Brown case, numerous cases have followed regarding affirmative actions that have resulted in reverse discrimination or preferential treatment for the minority groups, which now consisted of numerous races, not only the African Americans.  The attempt to integrate classroom has met with obstacles even to this day. Diversity in classrooms is continually being challenged.

To reinforce the rulings in the Brown case, legislation was created.

In 1964 the Civil rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation and forced schools to have diverse classrooms.  Being aware of the achievement gap and trying to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools created special programs to accommodate the ethnically diverse students and economically disadvantaged students.  This attempt to accommodate “colored” students created a lot of controversy of preferential treatment due to the misinterpretation of the Civil Rights Act legislation.  The creation of quotas, created numerous affirmative action cases against universities, the most significant of which was the Hopwood v. University of Texas case because after the ruling against affirmative action a significant decline in the minority enrollees happened.

Even with this setback, desegregation and integration has been the endeavor of schools and school districts, and this has been the case for so many years.  However, it was realized that the academic performance of the minority, especially the Blacks and the Hispanics, was poorer as compared to their Caucasian counterparts.  The difference, now called the achievement gap, has resulted in different social problems from a decrease of high school graduates to an increase in the drop out rates.

To try and solve the problem, legislation was once again created.

In 2001, the House of Representatives passed the No Child Left Behind Act which made the states, the schools districts and the schools accountable for the failure of their students.  It was an aggressive move of government that had placed schools nationwide on their toes.  The full burden of the student’s performance has been placed in the hands of the educational institution.  Immediately, schools revamped their system and researched for new approaches o improve their teaching methodology.  The premise of the law was that student’s performance is greatly affected by the manner in which they are being taught.  This was a great responsibility for the schools since if their student’s failed, so did they and they will be sanctioned by government for their failure.  Numerous tactics were employed – from diversifying the faculty to cooperative strategies to involving the parents in educational activities.

Despite the diversification of classrooms and the legislation to provide equal opportunities in education, the achievement gap continues to exist.  As mentioned in the previous chapters, desegregation is still present today but in a different form, it presents itself in the form of economic status and unfortunately, numerous Americans who are below the poverty line also belong to the minority groups.  “Poverty rates in the United States of America are higher for minorities than for non-Hispanic whites.”[47]  This economic desegregation has provided students from lower income families to receive inferior education as compared to their richer counterparts due to the facilities and equipment that can be provided by schools who are financially funded by the affluent parents.

Apart from this, the poor performance of students will eventually result in the cycle of poverty since, students who do very poorly in school will most probably get lower income jobs, if they get a job at all.  This information is corroborated by a survey made in 2006.

The US census Bureau made a census in 2006 showing the earnings gap and how it is related to the educational attainment of the people.  According this data a person who has a doctorate or a master level of education receives a minimum annual salary of $79,946, a person with a bachelor’s degree in 2005 earned $54,689, a person with a high school degree on the same year earned $29,448 and a person with less than a high school degree earned $19,915 in 2006, which approximately computes to $6.80 an hour.[48]  Having these figures the likelihood that the poor students will only have a high school diploma or less is greater and this will result in their children having the same educational attainment and the same academic performance.  It is a cycle that will never end the same way that poverty is very hard to end.

The NCLB, although it has started the move to improve the education for all students, has not taken into account how the socio-economic disparity of the students affects their performance.  This is the main factor involved in the achievement gap but the law has neither provided enough funding for schools to compensate for this disparity nor have they created definite programs to address this problem.  “For the education system to truly respond to the needs of poor children and to contribute to wealth creation in communities and society at large, it needs to take the issue of poverty into special consideration in the planning of educational services.”[49]

The ideal would be to improve the quality of life by increasing minimum wage.  Earlier this year, the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25 in a three stage increase that will take 2 years.  This has been the first increase of the minimum wage in decades.  The two dollar difference makes a big difference for low income earners.  However, it took 10 years for the government to raise minimum wage by 2 dollars.  One can expect that it will take another ten years to increase that amount to another two dollars.  Another ideal would be to try and resolve unemployment but these are economic problems that are so great that they haven’t been resolved in centuries.  Nevertheless, these economic problems are the very root as to why there is an educational performance deficit.

Therefore, to close the achievement, we have to close the economic gap which, as the UNESCO has recommended, can only be achieved by proper education.

However, to be able to provide proper education, the equality in the economy of the students will have to be addressed.  The No Child Left Behind has a very good framework to address these issues, but because of the focus on tests and sanctions, the clauses that attempts to provide equal opportunity has not been placed in the limelight.  The following clauses in the NCLB Act are the parts of the legislation that have to be given more emphasis to be able to truly close the achievement gap:

  • Under Title I of the NCLB entitled Achieving Equality through High Standards and Accountability, “Federal funds will be available to states and districts to augment their efforts to provide capacity building and technical assistance to schools identified as needing improvement”;[50]
  • Under Title II of the NCLB entitled Grants for Improving Teacher Quality, “States and local districts will be permitted to use this funding to meet their particular needs and to strengthen the skills and improve the knowledge of their public school teachers, principals, and administrators”;[51]
  • Under Title IV B of the NCLB entitled Enhancing Education Through Technology, “Consolidated technology grant programs and E-rate funds will be allocated by formula to states and school districts to ensure that more technology funds reach the classroom. Funds will be targeted to high-need schools, including rural schools and schools serving high percentages of low-income students”;[52]finally,
  • Under Title VI of the NCLB entitled Impact Aid, “Funds will improve the quality of public school buildings and eliminate the backlog of repairs and construction for schools on or near military facilities and those serving children from Native American lands.”[53]

All of these clauses refer to proper funding and grants given to schools that need improvement, however, implementation of these have not been very efficient.  Given that these funding be given to the schools that have a high minority and high low income students, then this will result in the school’s capacity of trying to provide the facilities and extras that students from high income families enjoy.

The funding will be able to compensate for the financial lack that poor parents have.  The law n Impact Aid, however, should be provided for all schools with a high socio-economic disparity and not just for schools serving military facilities and Native American lands.  Numerous schools serving low income areas have a backlog of repairs and construction.  Money that is supposed to be allocated for improving quality is consumed for continuous repairs.   This clause should therefore be extended to all schools not just those serving the military or the Native Americans. Nevertheless, with the reauthorization of the NCLB is going to occur this year and in this ear, these clauses can be improved and given proper attention.

Apart from these, however, what should be added in the No Child Left Behind Act is an inclusion of the improvement of proper healthcare for the students.  It has been established in the previous chapters that the difference in the income levels of students have great impact on their performance.  Apart from the quality of education the quality of life has to be improved, and since this is improbable to happen by increasing the minimum wage of the families then the next best thing is to provide better health care for the students.  The government, in reauthorizing the NCLB should take into account the health of students coming from low income families.  A healthy body produces a healthy mind and the schools should be able to provide and create a proper health programs for their students supported and funded by the government.

As observed throughout the chapters of this study, there is a disparity in the socio-economic status of students that affect the student’s performance.  It has also been realized that the students with poor academic performance will probably not get to college which will start the same problem for the following generation.  Although it is a harsh reality, “money makes the world go around.”

It is a difficult thing to swallow but the problem lies with money or the lack of it.  The ones who have the money are the ones who are able to avail of all the pluses in life resulting in an exemplary academic performance.  Even public schools need enough money to be able to provide good facilities and hire the best teachers.  The government has created programs and laws to improve the educational system but still fails to address the inherent socio-economic factors that affect a student’s education.  Legislation cannot solely solve this problem.  They also are unable to provide the proper funding necessary to maximize the implementation of the laws that they enact and to compensate for the financial support that poor parents cannot provide.

Some people may say that certain things in life should be free and one of these things that are free should be education.  However, as mentioned, money is required to provide an inductive school premise, to hire highly educated and skilled teachers, and to build amenities and facilities to support the education receive in their classrooms.  Schools with students from middle to high income families can rely on their Parent’s Association to fund the better facility, the highly skilled teachers, etc.  Schools that have students from low income families who, more often than not, come from minority groups, cannot rely on their parent members but can only make do with what the government can provide, and it isn’t enough.

This study recommends that proper attention be given to clauses within the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that will enable the schools to try and equalize the opportunities for their students.   The reason for the recommendation is rooted in the fact that the “have-nots” will not be able to attain a certain level of academic achievement unless they have the proper economic backing to do so and since all sectors of society has a stake in their improvement then it is just civilized that everybody provide the economic backing through proper government funding.

  In so doing, there will truly be an equality of opportunity which will hopefully equalize everybody socio-economically and academically resulting in the disappearance of the achievement gap and hopefully eradicating poverty.   There will definitely be resistance in a program like this since taxes may very well increase, but the improvement of the performance of these students will bear fruit later when they start contributing to the wealth of the nation by being properly employed.  Education will equalize everyone for everyone’s benefit and any contribution, even in the form of taxes, will be worthwhile for all.

 

 

References

 

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Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka (2007) SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITEDSTATES 347 U.S. 483 Retrieved on August 11, 2007 from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0347_0483_ZO.html

New Data Reinforce the Relationship Between Educational Attainment and Earnings and Also Show Continued Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Education and Earnings. (2007) Retrieved on August 11, 2007 from http://www.thecenterformichigan.net/website/portals/0/03_29_07_educationearnings.pdf

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Ibíd.[1] Valuing Diversity in the Schools: The Counselor’s Role, 1992, para. 2

[2] US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2005

[3] Texas Education Agency, 2007

[4] Washington D.C. being the highest majority minority student population and Florida having the least.

[5] National Center of Education Statistics, 2001

[6] Kober, N. (2001).It takes more than testing: Closing the achievement gap. p.3

[7] U.S. Department of Education, (2003) The Condition of Education 2003 p.58

[8] Ibid

[9] Id

[10] Id at. p. 59

[11] Asimov, Nanette (2004) BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION: 50 years later Segregation by income Much work remains in Bay Area

[12] Ibíd..

[13] U.S. Constitution: Fourteenth Amendment, http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment14/

[14] http://www.deanesmay.com/archives/000236.html

[15] Ibid

[16] Supra note 11

[17] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2001

[18] Supra note 14

[19] US Supreme Court, 1978, 438 U.S. 265

[20] Ibid

[21] Ibid

[22] The required GPA for Blacks and Hispanics was 179 while the GPA for whites was 192.

[23] US Supreme Court, 1996, 78 F.3d 932, 962

[24] Sundrani, Dwarko. (2003). Poverty and Education

[25] UNESCO. (2001). International Workshop on Education and Poverty Eradication Kampala

[26] Laycock, Douglas (2001) The Effects of Hopwood.

[27] Ibid

[28] Supra 11

[29] Diversity as Our Strength, 2004

[30] Supra 11

[31] Assessment of Diversity in America’s Teaching Force, 2004

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Martin, Dale (2007). Could dealing with hidden biases help address the achievement gap?

[35] Reynolds, 2003, Essay: Identifying and Eliminating the Achievement Gaps: A Research-Based Approach. Viewpoints Vol. 9. Naperville, Illinois: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

[36] Sherman, Lee (2002). Achievement climbs at a reservation school high in the Rocky Mountains. Northwest Educational Magazine Vol. 8 No. 1. Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory

[37] Ibid

[38] Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, 2007

[39] Darling-Hammond, Linda (2007). Evaluating No Child Left Behind.

[40] White, Deborah. (2007). Pros & Cons of the No Child Left Behind Act.

[41] Loc cit

[42] Supra note 37

[43] Bush, George W. , Retrieved from: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/reports/no-child-left-behind.html

[44] Ibid.

[45] Woodson, Carter (2004). The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861 − A History of the Education of the Colored People of the United States from the Beginning of Slavery to the Civil War. P. 5

[46] Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0347_0483_ZO.html

[47] Rural poverty in the Americas. Retrieved from http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/english/regions/americas/index.htm

[48] http://www.thecenterformichigan.net/website/portals/0/03_29_07_educationearnings.pdf

[49] Supra note 25

[50] No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/reports/no-child-left-behind.html#1

[51] Ibíd.

[52] Ibíd..

[53] Ibid

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