Achievement Gap Solved

I went to check my email and found this jubilant news greeting me:
Urban Prep Academy Gets 100% Black Male College Attendance… Again

Well, that’s certainly an impressive sounding accomplishment. The link to the article was labelled, How the school achieves triumph. Of course I wanted to know, so I clicked through and was brought to AOL’s Black Voices. There I found a short celebratory article by Boyce Watkins, PhD, about the Urban Prep Academy of Chicago, an all male charter school for kids from the “worst” parts of the city. The article was sparse on details, but abundant with affirmations of Black greatness.

The school started with kids whose futures had been left for dead by their public schools: Only four percent of the school’s incoming freshmen were reading at grade level when they arrived on campus. But by sending all of their graduating seniors to college, they’ve not only gotten these kids up to speed, they’ve allowed them to zip past every other public school in the entire United States.

“No other public [school] in the country has done this,” said Tim King, the founder of Urban Prep.

So far, so good. Hopefully, they can tell us the secret formula they used to destroy the seemingly incurable problem of Black high school under-performance.

The students at the school are required to wear a jacket and tie every single day. They also go to school for two hours longer than other kids. They take English twice a day and are given a mentor with a cell number that kids can call 24 hours a day. They’ve clearly hit the mark when it comes to understanding that getting our children to the land of educational success requires both academic and sociological strategies.

That’s it?! So after billions of dollars spent trying to close the achievement gap, we find now that 2 extra hours of school, uniforms and a personal mentor is all that was needed to get Black students to excel? Hot damn! Time to celebrate!

Yes We Can!

Dr. Watkins spends the rest of the article bathing in the glory of the profound news and proving why he deserves the title of “Doctor” before his name.

…the men of Urban Prep Academy are firm reminders of what black men are meant to be. We are not hard wired to be thugs, athletes or entertainers. We are meant to be just as brilliant, capable and successful as everyone else in America…Every child can be college material if they choose to be. I was personally told that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college, but it takes more intelligence to make it in prison than it does to make it on a college campus. It all comes down to hard work, and black people know how to work hard.

Well, that makes sense, considering all the geniuses in prison. Go on good Doctor.

What I also love about Urban Prep is that they are translating the excellence that black men show in athletics and transferring that to academic achievement. It takes far less effort and natural ability to become a heart surgeon than it does to become an NBA basketball player.

Exactly. If they can play basketball, then they should be able to perform complex surgery. Why didn’t I think of that? Guess that’s why I’m not a doctor.

They should be given millions more dollars to pursue their objectives. Their educational model should be replicated in every city across America. They are showing us that black men are not destined for failure, fundamentally flawed or built for mediocrity. We truly embody excellence.

Tell it Dr. Watkins! We must spread this news far and wide and make sure that Congress and the President are aware of this stellar educational model so that we can transform inner city schools across the nation into shining beacons of hope for every Black child in America.

Sure there’s plenty of details that we haven’t been told, like, “What were their end of grade test results? What were their GPAs?” Who knows? Does it even matter? Well dammit, I guess I’m just too much of a cynic, because I had to delve deeper and found some pertinent facts that the triumphant Dr. Watkins failed to reveal:

Only 57% of the school’s original 166 freshmen actually graduated, well below the district’s already dismal 70% rate.

Oh wait, so they only graduate the kids that get accepted into college? Well, they all got into college so I’m sure they were excellent students, right?

Only 17% meet testing standards.

Well…hey, why sweat the small stuff when you have such a fantastic story of an entire Black senior class making it to college? So most of those that made it were woefully unqualified. So what? What matters is feeling good inside. We don’t need to worry about kids meeting requirements anymore. We can just change the requirements to meet the kids. Achievement gap solved.

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19 thoughts on “Achievement Gap Solved

  1. Yes, and the average ACT score at Urban Prep is something like a 16.1, which is roughly equivalent to an 800-815 on the old SAT scale. And this is for the kids who actually graduated – it would certainly be much lower if the dropouts stuck around longer.

    I took the SAT in 7th grade as part of a talent program and got a 760.

  2. Camlost said,

    I took the SAT in 7th grade as part of a talent program and got a 760.

    My son did the same last year for the Duke TIP program. He got a 1560, which is on the new scale. Since he made over the national average he got into an awards ceremony. I was just looking through the video of it the other day. Knowing me, of course I paid attention to the ethnicities of the other kids. It was the expected mix of Whites, east Asians and desis. There were about 5 Black kids out of a few hundred; they were all girls. They gave out a special award for the kids that scored in the top 10th percentile. There were only 8 kids that made that high achievement and they were all White kids except two desis and a Chinese kid. Surprisingly, I didn’t notice many kids with noticeable Jewish names, but that’s probably because of the demographics of this area.

  3. Yeah, that was it – the Duke TIP program. I grew up in Eastern NC.

    One of the dividing points seemed to be whether or not kids have taken algebra and other advanced courses by 7th grade. Two kids in my same class got over a 1000 on the old scale, but they had both taken algebra on the side thanks to their parents. When I coached 8th grade basketball I also had two young braniacs who scored over a 1000 as well, both of them had advanced coursework thru an early high school/community college program.

    When I was in High School there was a guy named Rodney Rogers in Durham who had to take the SAT 9 times to get the necessary 700 to qualify to play ACC basketball as a freshman. He went on to become a big star at Wake Forest and then had a strong career in the NBA, too.

    Southern SAT scores lag the rest of the US partly for reasons like these – too many poor students who aren’t true college material taking the test repeatedly because they think they’ll go on to play college sports. But that’s what happens when you have populations that are upwards of 25% black like in Georgia and the Carolinas.

  4. Oh, and if you want to see something hilarious just check out the Facebook page of Isaiah Crowell, he’s the #1-rated running back in the US who just committed to the University of Georgia in football:

    http://www.facebook.com/people/Isaiah-Crowell/100001749184644#!/people/Isaiah-Crowell/100001749184644?sk=wall

    Read the comments on his wall and you’ll see that he’s the true definition of “scholar-athlete”. His postings make him out to be a living, breathing caricature of every southern black stereotype you can imagine, and he seems quite content with that. I’m sure that his coaches, tutors and other handlers will make sure that he signs up for only the most challenging course material at the University of Georgia, since they don’t want the school system to “fail him”.

  5. Many kids who make the DUKE TIP program probably score higher on the SAT than most of the Duke basketball players did. Unfortunately, the majority of them will be denied by Duke. I remember participating in the program a while ago and scored…an 11xx or something, good enough to pay $$$ and participate in the summer camps full of smart kids. woohoo.

  6. Hey I like your blog, do you know what happened to GuyWhite?

    His blog is now set to private, I think he has gotten into some personal trouble maybe.

  7. …do you know what happened to GuyWhite?

    We were just talking about that in another thread. No one has any idea what happened to him. He dropped off the face of the earth. He used to have articles posted over on globalpolitician.com, but those are all gone now too.

  8. I took the SAT in 7th. It was over 20 years ago so I don’t really remember what I got.

    My oldest just got a letter from them a few weeks ago but it wasn’t to take the SAT. Apparently, they’ve expanded the program to include “enrichment” for 4th graders who scored 95 percentile on at least one subtest of a standardized test. That’s a pretty weak definition of “gifted”.

    For $35 they get to enter a writing contest and submit drawings, articles, etc for “possible publication”. Well, whoopty-f’ing-doo! But they let them take a test developed by ACT for 8th graders when they’re in 5th grade. If they score 99 percentile they get a “medallion”. That could mean some pretty sweet bragging rights.

  9. Only 57% of the school’s original 166 freshmen actually graduated, well below the district’s already dismal 70% rate.

    So there we have it. The way to solve the achievement gap is to kick the dummies out of school. I’m all for it.

  10. So there we have it. The way to solve the achievement gap is to kick the dummies out of school. I’m all for it.

    The black-run Atlanta public school systems has been doing something very similar to help ease their dismal student output and awful test scores (student body is 85% black). There’s been a huge scandal here proving teachers cheated in a vain effort to show improvement under NCLB:

    1. Cheating on end-of-year tests – this involves actually changing test scores for kids on the fly, or having teachers access large numbers of test sheets at night to correct them. There’s erasure marks a-plenty.
    2. Unenrolling some of the dumbest kids temporarily just before CRCT tests, and then re-enrolling them later.
    3. Cheating on their dropout statistics to show a “miraculous” 25% improvement in the dropout rate in only a 3-year span. Then the graduation rate mysteriously dipped again to its former levels when the school system had to start using federally-mandated guidelines on how to record dropouts.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/education/08atlanta.html

    Strangely, there were no allegations of cheating at any of Atlanta’s schools with a substantial number of whites and/or Asians…. hmmmmm I wonder why.

  11. Fred said:

    If they score 99 percentile they get a “medallion”. That could mean some pretty sweet bragging rights.

    Ha, my son got a medallion placed around his neck during a butt numbingly long two hour ceremony. He felt pretty proud of himself. I almost didn’t sign him up to participate because I felt like it was a joke. His grandma insisted, saying that it would open doors for him and that it was important for him to get recognition. I think it’s like getting recognition for being tall. If he had worked hard studying for it, that’d be one thing. We didn’t even do any test prep for the SAT. I didn’t feel that he needed to sweat over it, since it wasn’t the one that was going to count. I was actually surprised that he scored as high as he did.

    So there we have it. The way to solve the achievement gap is to kick the dummies out of school. I’m all for it.

    But what about people like Dr. Watkins up above? If they kicked the dummies out of high school, he would never have made it as far as he did.

  12. If he had worked hard studying for it, that’d be one thing. We didn’t even do any test prep for the SAT.

    Jr high and high school can be awkward times for kids. And it doesn’t hurt to have an ego boost every now and then. But I can definitely see your point. One should be rewarded for effort rather than simply being smart. I read a study a while back that compared the performance for kids who were praised for intelligence vs hard work. As it turned out, the children who were praised for intelligence tended to work less and rely on “being smart” whereas the children praised for their hard work tended to, well, work harder. The end result was that the children praised for hard work made much bigger gains.

  13. As it turned out, the children who were praised for intelligence tended to work less and rely on “being smart” whereas the children praised for their hard work tended to, well, work harder. The end result was that the children praised for hard work made much bigger gains.

    I firmly believe that. I butt heads with my son’s grandmother a lot over this (his mom isn’t really in his life). She paid $1100 to get him evaluated and then went on and on telling everyone his IQ. After that he got extremely lazy. He tries to coast by on his intelligence and I constantly have to stay on him to do his work.

    My daughter, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as smart, but her grades are way better and she’s much more enthusiastic about applying herself. I don’t allow my son to even bring up his SAT or end of grade test scores, because I don’t think that’s what matters. When my son talks about being smart, I always tell him, “Well, then you have no excuse for not having straight As.”

  14. Its an irony that to be smart is a blessing but to know it is a curse. One tends to think, I’m smart so I can just get by on brains. But the truth is that one would be much better off if they were both smart AND hard working. Smart and lazy just doesn’t cut it. There’s just no substitute for hard work. It took me a long time to figure that out.

    I didn’t want my son to have that “handicap”. So, when they tested my oldest I didn’t tell him his IQ. He knows he’s smart because he’s way ahead of everyone else in his class. But I try to gloss over it by telling him how important it is to work hard rather than just being smart. And I reinforce it by praising him when he works hard.

    It’s daily practice that develops one’s ability to work hard. That’s one of the reasons I have him take piano lessons and practice every day. He’s also independently working through a series of Saxon math textbooks. My wife complains that I should just let him “be a kid”. But I know his personality. If I didn’t ride his @$$ he’d be lazy. He usually gets his homework done at school and the piano and math take him less than an hour combined. That actually seems rather modest to me. But I hope it pays off. Not only for the piano and math but for the discipline and work ethic, as well.

  15. Fred,

    What you are doing with your son is a good thing. Humans are creatures of habit and it all comes down to what habits you train your kids to have. I always say, “Kids learn to be kids from other kids, but they learn to be adults from their parents.”

  16. Camlost,
    I am very familiar with the schoolteacher scandal down in ATL last year and in no way do I condone or endorse it. That said, what do you recommend by done for those Black schools? Any ideas?

    O.

  17. I always say, “Kids learn to be kids from other kids, but they learn to be adults from their parents.”

    I’m going to have to remember that one. If for no other reason than to inspire me to set a better example for them.

    When my oldest was a baby I shared an office with a crotchety old man. His kids were early 20’s and they had both turned out fantastic. I asked him what his secret was and he said, “I beat the sh* out of them!”

    I said, “Really, I want to know.” He said, “To be honest, I yelled a lot but I never spanked them much. The real secret is their friends. You can’t choose their friends but you can put them in groups, activities, clubs, etc where they will make the right kind of friends. And if they make friends with good kids then you’re home free because they’ll keep each other honest.”

    So I asked, “What kind of clubs and things did you do?” He said, “Scouts and band. You’ll get all kinds of kids in sports and other things. But you only get good kids in scouts and band.”

  18. Fred said

    I’m going to have to remember that one. If for no other reason than to inspire me to set a better example for them.

    Yeah, I have to constantly remind myself that as well. My parents passed on some bad behaviors to me, like my explosive temper, and whenever I get mad at my kids and start yelling, I tell myself, “Is this the kind of adult you want your kids to be?” There’s some family traditions that are worth breaking.

  19. “It’s daily practice that develops one’s ability to work hard. That’s one of the reasons I have him take piano lessons and practice every day.”

    We’ve discussed this before, but I cannot convey how deeply I think having applied instrumental music training has helped me in other ways, intellectually.

    Also, I didn’t start out being the most mentally or physically organized person in the world, but there too instrumental lessons and practice has worked wonders on me.

    T

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