June 02, 2005

Robbing the smart to pay the dull

It Comes In Pints? discusses a Californian school brouhaha where, once again, standards are modified because people just don't like the "diversity" that is produced by them:

Davis schools are making strides toward being a little more like everyone else. Davis still identified 26 percent of its students as gifted this year, more than three times the state average. But this year's total is a far cry from the 35 percent of students identified last year.

The issue is a contentious one in the college town. Concern that African Americans and Latinos were being disproportionately excluded from the school district's gifted and talented education program, known as GATE, drove the Davis school board to alter the program's admission requirements two years ago...

Tinkering with the district's identification procedure yielded a lower number this year, but in preliminary data presented to the school board May 5, the original problem seemed to have reappeared: Whites and Asians were once again much more likely to be identified as gifted than were African Americans and Latinos.

That prompted three of the five school board members to say they had serious reservations with, at minimum, the basic test the district was using.

ICIP? mentions the phrase, "soft bigotry of low expectations," and I think that phrase is completely appropriate here. Note that the school board members are not quoted as having serious reservations about the quality of education that minority students were receiving at Davis schools, nor about the quality of home life or culture that could be affecting those students negatively, or about anything else that might be the cause of the racial disparities on the GATE admissions assessments. The school board members are not stopping to ask themselves if they really understand why Asian students are six times as likely to be identified as ready to enter a gifted program as Latino students.

Nay, it's all about the admissions assessment and the resulting racial balance, and what the board members are saying here it is more important to admit certain minority students under lower standards than it is to inspire all students to meet higher standards. The trustees are upset that an objective admissions process reveals an achievement gap that they'd like to hide, but one trustee, I believe, lets the cat out of the bag with her comment:

Martha West, another trustee, said she would like to see most GATE classes eliminated and the money used for those programs spent on improving the quality of instruction in all classes.

Tell me this: If students from every ethnic group were equally qualifying for gifted classes, and it was really only a biased admissions process that produced disparities, would trustees be so nervous about the quality of instruction in regular classes that they'd suggest taking money away from the gifted to help the average? Methinks Ms. West has suspicions as to why certain groups aren't doing as well as others, and she knows just how much worse certain groups are doing, too.

Posted by kswygert at June 2, 2005 03:26 PM