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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Ballot Measures to Ban Preferences Certified in Nebraska, Rejected in Arizona
Meanwhile, Nebraska's secretary of state has determined that the campaign on behalf of such a measure in his state has indeed gathered enough valid signatures for it to be on the ballot in November.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Barack Obama Praised for Nuance in His Views on Affirmative Action
On the Republican side, John McCain has declared his support for a proposed Arizona ballot measure that would ban the use of affirmative-action preferences by public colleges and other state and local agencies. But, in explaining his position, he has said he is opposed to "quotas", which the Supreme Court took off the table 30 years ago. As Color and Money makes abundantly clear, an awful lot has happened since that time.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
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Monday, August 11, 2008
"Learning Communities" Found to Help Disadvantaged Students
A recently published study says community-college students who are low-income and academically unprepared appear to benefit from being placed in effective "learning communities" where they take classes together and can give each other support.
Two Syracuse University-based researchers--Cathy McHugh Engstrom, an associate professor of higher education, and Vincent Tinto, a professor of education--conducted the study by surveying and tracking the progress of students at 13 community colleges around the nation. They compared 1,600 low-income and unprepared freshmen who been placed in learning communities, taking remedial classes together, with nearly 2,300 who had not been placed in such groups.
In an article published in the journal Opportunity Matters the two researchers say they found that the learning-community students were more likely than the others to report feeling engaged in their studies, and were more positive than the others in their perceptions of how much encouragement they received on their campus and how much they had intellectually progressed.
The researchers caution in their article that the learning-community programs they studied were by no means representative of all such programs. To be included in the study, the programs had to focus on teaching basic skills and had to serve the full spectrum of students widely regarded as "at risk," including those who had low incomes, or were members of minority groups, immigrants, or members of the first generation of their families to attend college. Perhaps more importantly, all of the community colleges involved had previously gathered some evidence demonstrating that the programs on their campuses were effective in helping academically unprepared students.
The Chronicle of Higher Education offers more details on the study, as well as similar research dealing with four-year colleges, here.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
New Report Looks at How Lack of Accumulated Wealth Hurts Black Families
Much other research on economic mobility has focused on income, but that's only part of the picture. When it comes to dealing with dealing with economic setbacks such as the loss of a job, or making a long-term investment in your child's future by ponying up money for college tuition, it matters to have money in the bank or other forms of built up equity.
Moreover, wealth, education, and income all build on each other. The more money families have saved to finance tuition, the more likely children are to get a degree that will land them a lucrative job, enabling them to sock away money to send their kids off to college.
The center based its analysis on family-wealth data gathered from 1984 to 2003 as part of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a national study that follows families and individuals over time. The researchers looked at people who were from 6 to 21 in 1984 and measured their family wealth then and their own wealth in the 1999-to-2003 period, when they were 24 to 40 years old.
As discussed in more depth in a Chronicle of Higher Education article, white children born to wealthy families are much more likely to become wealthy adults than black children born to such families, the center's analysis found. Among those born to families in the top fourth of society in terms of accumulated wealth, 55 percent of white children and 37 percent of black children grow up to be in the top fourth as adults. At the other end of wealth distribution, 35 percent of white children and 44 percent of black children born to families in the bottom fourth end up in the bottom fourth as adults, the report says.Although the researchers did not specifically study what factors account for the black-white gap in wealth accumulation, their report suggests that discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas plays a role. The report also notes that black families in the top fourth tend to be in the bottom of that category, making it more likely, simply as a statistical matter, that they would fall into a lower bracket if they lost any wealth at all.
Similar conclusions were contained in a recent report on upward mobility published by the Economic Mobility Project—a collaborative involving the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, and the Urban Institute.
That report, by Bhashkar Mazumder, an economist, said the entire black-white gap in upward economic mobility can be explained by gaps in academic-test scores. Both black and white children with the same test scores experienced similar rates of upward mobility, and there was no racial gap in economic mobility among white and black people who had finished four years of college.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Don't Count on Remedial Programs to Help Minority Students Catch Up
Based on examinations of the long-term educational success of students who entered college with comparable levels of academic preparation, both studies found that going through remedial programs really does not make much of a difference. Students who were thrown straight into regular academic classes where they were likely to feel over their heads were about as likely as students in remedial classes to achieve key educational goals such as earning a four-year degree.
The studies, discussed here in a Chronicle of Higher Education article, focus on students who were at or near the cut-off for assignment to remedial education programs. In doing so, they avoid a conundrum that has undermined several other similar studies: Simply comparing the academic fates of all students in remedial programs with those of all students not in such programs is unfair to the programs themselves, because most members of the first group enter college in much worse shape than most members of the second.
Such a research approach had one key drawback: It prevented the researchers from determining whether remedial classes help those students who enter college so academically unprepared they stand virtually no chance of going straight into regular academic classes.
Moreover, because the studies use statewide data and base their conclusions on average performance levels for the different populations studied, they likely obscure substantial variation in the quality of remedial programs. Their conclusions that remedial programs do not make much difference is likely based on data from some programs that actually do help students, as well as some programs that do harm.
One of the studies, of nearly 100,000 Florida community-college students, was conducted by Bridget Terry Long, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University, and Juan Carlos Calcagno, a senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College. Among its findings, it concluded that students who took remedial classes ended up earning more credits over all, but not significantly more credits that were college-level.
The second study, based on Texas data, was conducted by Isaac McFarlin Jr., a research scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas and a visiting scholar at the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Francisco (Paco) Martorell, an associate economist at the RAND Corporation. It did not find any evidence that students who took remedial reading or mathematics classes were more likely to earn a college degree than comparably prepared students who went straight into academic classes.
In a third study discussed in the same Chronicle article, Ms. Long and Eric P. Bettinger, an associate professor of economics at Case Western Reserve University, tracked the long-term progress of 28,000 Ohio college students and actually did find benefits from participation in remedial classes. Ms. Long told the Chronicle that the discrepancies between the Ohio study and the others may be due to the narrower subset of the population that the Ohio study covered. It was limited to traditional-age, full-time students who had taken the ACT and either attended a four-year college or indicated on their application to a two-year institution that they planned to complete a four-year degree. The bottom-line conclusions she derived from both of her studies, as well as the Florida research, was that the effect of college remedial programs on most students "is either slightly positive, slightly negative, or zero."