Invited Testimony: Same Shift, Different Day for Latinos and African Americans
Will the tracking of Latinos and African Americans into “practical” careers redouble? Will politicians and districts pass it off as “choice”? Morgan Smith from the Texas Tribune wrote:
Only high school students who pursue an honors plan or a diploma specializing in math and science will have to take algebra II under recommendations that the Texas State Board of Education preliminarily approved Thursday.
Despite an initial proposal that had included the advanced math course in all five new diploma plans, the 15-member board was nearly unanimous in its decision Thursday. The single no vote came from Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso…
An unexpected visit from House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, and Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston. Both lawmakers urged the board to reserve as much flexibility for local school districts as possible — and not to require algebra II to fulfill all of the graduation plans.
The new law came with the support of many educators, parents and a coalition of business leaders who cited the need to provide more relevant courses for students who might not continue to college.
“There are many children that we are crowding to the side of the system because they do not see relevance in their courses,” said Aycock.
But opponents of the policy, including the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Association of Business and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have continued to raise concerns that emerged during the legislative session about how the new graduation plans would affect the academic achievement of low-income and minority students.
“With all due respect, the notion that not all students are college material or that our school system should not have a college expectation for all students is not something that is coming from African-American and Latino parents,” former state Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Richmond, said in testimony Wednesday.
Relevance=tracking is not a new conversation or outcome in Texas or elsewhere. In fact, 100 years ago an influx of African American and Latino students into segregated schools due to compulsory schooling laws drew the same response from policymakers in the Lone Star State. I discussed this retro shift in my testimony to Texas State Board of Education on November 20, 2013 (See YouTube video above):
Today I will discuss the historical context of this debate. What’s interesting about the conversation we are having today is in essence it is the…Same Shift, Different Day
During our background research process for peer-reviewed manuscripts that examined African American and Latino college enrollment in state of Texas in the midst of the Top Ten 10% plan, we came across several primary sources from nearly a hundred years ago that described a similar discussion in Texas to the one we are having today. Compulsory schooling laws have not always been on the books. In 1915, Texas was one of the final states to require young Texans to attend school. The influx of students into segregated “Mexican” and “colored” schools inspired a policy approach that education should follow along “practical lines.” In other words, training in agricultural and other manual jobs as well as domestic service should be the goals of education. It became “the general view that this type of training was more suitable for the “colored” population because it fit them for more efficient service in the basic industries of the country” (Eby, 1925, p. 270). Although there was a strong opposition to this thought from some in the African American and Latino communities— practical training “prevailed.” In fact, schools and districts doubted “the wisdom and judgment of confronting the Negro pupil with a course of study that little fits his life needs.” (Taylor, 1927, pp. 105-106).
Fast forward to 2013. We still find some districts subscribing to deficit thinking— essentially tracking students. I posit that for Texas students to remain competitive in the national and international contexts, Algebra II and other higher order curriculum and standards are important for the long-term economic success of Latino and African American communities in the Lone Star State.
Thank for the opportunity to testify on this very important issue. For a wide-ranging discussion on educational policy, please visit my blog Cloaking Inequity. I will post my full testimony there later today.
The research that uncovered the early history of tracking of Latino and African American students was aimed at understanding the pipeline of minority students into higher education (See Actuating equity?: Historical and contemporary analyses of African American access to selective higher education from Sweatt to the Top 10% Law and From Jim Crow to the Top 10% Plan: A historical analysis of Latina/o access to a selective flagship university)
In those peer-reviewed papers we were trying to understand the historical policy contexts that have caused the pipeline of African American and Latino students into higher education to leak. Not surprisingly, with this retro move by the Texas State Board of Education, it’s quite obvious why Texas continues to gush minority students out of the proverbial pipeline to college. The Texas Tribune also reported this week that while the Texas SBOE was reducing standards and talking about practical vocational education for some students, Raymond Paredes, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, stated that Meeting Goals Will Require Big Changes. Abolishing Algebra II in the majority of graduation plans, an important gateway to higher education, is the opposite action necessary in a state if we are actually interested in “Closing the Gaps” and increasing “postsecondary productivity.” It is also problematic if Texas hopes to compete with Common Core states on the SAT and ACT (See also Education Outcomes: Texas vs. California vs. New York vs. Nation) because those students will have access to Algebra II. It’s the same shift, different day.
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