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achievement gap

I saw this headline on Drudge today:

School cuts gifted program over lack of diversity...

Clicked on the link, and what do I find?

A popular gifted-student program at a New York City elementary school is getting the ax after school officials decided it lacked diversity.

PS 139 Principal Mary McDonald told parents in a letter Jan. 24 that Students of Academic Rigor, or SOAR, would no longer accept applications for incoming kindergartners, the New York Daily News reported.

“Our Kindergarten classes will be heterogeneously grouped to reflect the diversity of our student body and the community we live in,” Miss McDonald said in the letter posted on Flickr.com.

At least one parent described SOAR as largely white, while others disagreed…

I read this story and I groan.

It’s one thing if you truly believe that students will be better educated if they aren’t given special attention based on their test-assessed aptitude. That’s a debatable point of view, but certainly not offensive.

It’s quite another thing altogether if you are actually canceling a program that will help better serve the needs of gifted students only because you don’t like the fact that there are lots of whites or Asians in the class.

That reeks of–well, racism.

Miss McDonald’s explanation for her decision certainly gives us the impression that skin color was the driving factor.

If you want to fix the lack of diversity in this school’s gifted program, it would be much more just and fair to actually address the real cause–the breakdown of the family unit among certain racial minority groups in this country.

For example, 72% of black babies are born to unwed mothers in this country. Do you think that affects the preparedness of those children when they enter school? It absolutely does. Do you think gifted black children fall through the cracks of the system because their home lives are unstable. They absolutely do.

There is data to prove it.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address these, we have to be able to have conversations people are unwilling to have.”

Miss McDonald–it’s safe to assume–is one of the people unwilling to have the needed conversation.

It’s much easier to simply cancel a gifted program, and throw all kids together in a single classroom. Call it “diversity.” Call it “equality.” And then congratulate yourself and go about your day.

But you haven’t achieved equality–not for those children who are showing up unprepared for school.

Illegitimacy is a widespread problem, not just among blacks or Latinos, but increasingly among whites as well. There are real consequences.

This has nothing to do with skin color, ultimately. It has to do with moral choices. It’s also the result of a culture that rewards irresponsible behavior.

Platitudes about “community” and “diversity” are just a convenient way for educators to mask the problem, and feel good about themselves.

When kids grow up without both a mother and father–it wrecks their lives. Plain and simple. That’s the real problem at PS 139.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

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Inside Higher Ed reports on new research that seeks to explain why women, on average, are outperforming men academically:

The facts of women being more likely than men to go to college, perform better academically, and major in fields other than science, technology, engineering and mathematics are mostly attributable to factors affecting students before – in some cases, long before – they enter the halls of academe. But that doesn’t mean colleges can’t do anything to mitigate the consequences.

Those are the conclusions of the authors of a new book, The Rise of Women (Russell Sage Foundation), about how and why female students continue to outpace their male counterparts in education (yet still can’t seem to earn a comparable paycheck).

“We’ve seen astonishing change over a very short historical period,” Thomas DiPrete, the book’s co-author and a sociology professor at Columbia University, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

Starting with the people born around 1950, the rate of men’s bachelor’s degree completion stopped growing, and it stayed stagnant for years. In 1970, 20 percent of men and 14 percent of women finished college. By 2010, women’s graduation rates had “skyrocketed” to 36 percent, DiPrete said, while the rate among men grew only seven points, to 27 percent.

Today, women outpace men in college enrollment by a ratio of 1.4 to 1.

Beginning as early as kindergarten, the authors explained, girls have better average social and behavioral skills than boys, and that relates to girls’ higher average grades at each stage of school and why girls are more likely to earn a degree.

“The grade gap isn’t about ability,” said Claudia Buchmann, co-author and sociology professor at Ohio State University, “it’s really more about effort and engagement in school…”

“We really need schools that set high expectations, that treat students as individuals – not just as gendered groups – and also motivate students to invest in their education so that they can reach the big returns of a college degree that exist in today’s labor market,” Buchmann said.

Read the full story here.

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