Monthly Archives: July 2012

President Obama’s Plan to Help African American Students Succeed

Last Thursday, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, which is designed to support, coordinate and strengthen the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that African-American youngsters are better prepared for high school, college and productive and successful careers. He announced this Initiative last Wednesday night in a speech to members of the National Urban League at their annual convention.

In this order, which can be found here, the President defines the mission of this Initiative as “[strengthening] the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African-Americans of all ages”. The Initiative will be housed in the Department of Education, led by an Executive Director (to be named by Education Secretary Arne Duncan). The work of the group will be carried out by the Federal Interagency Working Group on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, which will include senior officials from a variety of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.

This Executive Order identified eight areas upon which the Initiative Working Group will focus to fulfill its mission. They include:

understanding the educational challenges faced by African American students;

increasing the percentage of African American children who are kindergarten ready by improving access to early learning programs and services;

decreasing the number of referrals of African American children from general education to special education;

promoting successful and innovative education reform;

supporting the efforts to improve the recruitment, preparation, development and retention of African American Teachers;

reducing the African American student dropout rate;

increasing college access and success for African American students, in part by strengthening HBCU’s; and

fostering positive family and community engagement in education.

The order also establishes the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, a 25 member body appointed by the President, which will advise the President and the Secretary on community outreach, private/public partnerships, and engaging the philanthropic, business, nonprofit, and education communities in a national dialogue on issues pertaining to the education of the African American community.

This order has created an exhaustively ambitious agenda, which includes most of the issues touched upon in any conversation about educational reform and the African American community. A very tall order, indeed (pardon the pun). Having said this, however, we must also say Kudos to the President and this administration for focusing attention and resources upon these issues, particularly in the face of the many challenges this nation faces at this time. Moreover, it is gratifying to see that the order includes “fostering family engagement in education” as one of the important means of carrying out their mission. That’s what we at GCP are talking about!

We will stay focused on the work of this Initiative and Commission, and will share and discuss the reports that they produce. Stay tuned.

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Stanford Study Confirms: Fewer Black and Hispanic Students at Elite Colleges Than There Were Decades Ago

A study recently released by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis has found that Black and Hispanic students remain significantly underrepresented in the nation’s most selective colleges. The study, which can be found here, concludes that as recently as 2004, white students were five times as likely as Black students to enroll in selective colleges. White students with family income in the upper half of income distribution were three to four times as likely to attend a highly selective college as Black students with the same family income.

More significantly, the study shows that the racial enrollment gap at these colleges increased from 1982-2004, the time span of their study. So there were even fewer Black and Hispanic students on these campuses in 2004 than there were more than 20 years earlier. In 1982, white students were only two and a half times more likely than Black students to enroll in selective colleges, as compared to their being five times more likely in 2004. The researchers note that although they do not have more recent comparable data, there is little reason to think that these patterns have improved dramatically over the past eight years. This confirms what many of us (particularly parents of soon-to-be college bound children) have sensed for a while: it is tougher for our children to enroll in these schools now than it was when we were heading to college.

The researchers note that this growing racial enrollment gap with respect to the most selective institutions can’t be attributed to a widening racial achievement gap, because this gap has narrowed, albeit slowly, over the past few decades. They suggest that this gap is driven by a number of other factors, including increased competition for spots at the most selective colleges and changes in the college application/admission/enrollment processes, including changes in who applies to these colleges, how colleges determine whom to admit, and where students decide to enroll (which can depend on tuition costs, financial aid, and the students’ perceptions of the best fit for them).

The Stanford study, which was reported in a Huffington Post article found here, also finds that low and middle-income students (regardless of race) are extremely underrepresented in the most selective colleges, and examined whether policies like the “Texas Top Ten Percent Rule” (which guarantees admission to their state universities to students who rank above a certain percentile in their high school class) are sufficient to create meaningfully diverse student bodies at selective state universities (they are not).

What can we parents of potential members of this shrinking class take from this report? The full answer to this requires more study and focus than a brief post can accommodate, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. But here are some quick responses: We can stay focused on our children’s education from day one, as a strong academic record is key to college admission and enrollment success. We can continue to talk with our sons and daughters about our expectations for their higher education. Not in anger (“How are you going to get to college with these grades?”) but positively and productively (“You are good in XX, I’ll bet you will enjoy learning a lot more about this in college”, or “When you get to college you can pick your courses, so you won’t have to take any more classes in XX if you don’t want to!”) We can begin now to make financial preparations for our children’s college education so that they are able to pick the school that best fits them academically rather than economically. Not to get all Tiger Mom on you all, but the road to college is no longer one which we can send our children off alone–we’ve got to keep their company!

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Better to be a Helicopter Parent or Let Your Kids Fail and Learn From Their Mistakes?

Today’s New York Times “Room for Debate” discussion takes on the topic of “The Hovering Parent”, and asks a number of columnists whether helicopter parenting has started to “crash and burn”. Have parents gotten so involved with managing their children’s lives that they are stunting their development into young adults who can think for themselves and learn from their mistakes?

GCP continues to seek and share ways for parents to be ground control technicians (not hovering helicopters), making sure all systems are go so that our boys can soar. Easier said than done, but an important goal. Check out the variety of responses to this issue found here. What do you think?

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Happy Independence Day!!!

Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July celebration with your sons, daughters, and your entire family!!!

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