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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions Lost Opportunities: The Difficult Journey to Higher Education for Underrepresented Minority Students Patricia Gándara University of California, Davis As a group, African-American, Latino, and Native American students do not fare well in American schools. Beginning with their very first encounters with the U.S. education system, these students appear to underperform academically when compared with their white and Asian peers. Numerous explanations are provided for this phenomenon, and some inroads have been made in recent years in closing the achievement gaps. However, disparities among groups remain large, and in some cases, appear to be growing. By the time that students complete their K–12 schooling and go on to higher education, outcomes for the various ethnic groups are significantly different. White students are twice as likely as black students to earn a college degree, and Asians are more than five times as likely as Hispanics to reach this level of education. Of course, these enormous discrepancies in education result in very different life chances. At the beginning of the 21st century, Latinos are emerging as the nation’s largest minority group, and California is the state with the largest Latino popu TABLE 1 Percent of 25–29 Year Olds with BA degrees, by Ethnicity, 2000 Ethnic Group Percent with BA Asian 53.9 White 34.0 Black 17.8 Latino 9.7 SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau data, 2000.
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions lation. Unfortunately, Latinos are also the least educated of all ethnic groups. Recent years have also seen the increasing dispersion of Latinos, and other immigrants, across the country, such that the population diversity that characterizes California—a state in which there is no ethnic majority—is soon to be replicated across the nation. Thus, as the harbinger of the nation’s future, California’s experiences are worth noting. As the American humorist, Richard Armour, noted, “So leap with joy, be blithe and gay Or weep my friends with sorrow What California is today, The rest will be tomorrow.” For this reason, this paper will occasionally return to California as an indicator of future trends for the nation. Certainly one disturbing trend that can be seen in California is the large gap in educational achievement and attainment by ethnicity that exists in the state, and the consequences this has for the economic welfare of California’s citizens. For example, while Latinos represent 28% of the labor force in the state, they earn only 19% of the wage income. The single biggest reason for this discrepancy is the education gap between Latinos and all other workers. Similar to national data, 33% of white wage earners have at least a bachelor’s degree, but only 8% of Latinos are similarly well educated (López et al., 1999). As Latinos form a larger share of the population—by 2020 they are projected to exceed 50%—their level of education will surely affect the structure of the state’s economy. The impact on the nation will undoubtedly follow. WHAT DOES THE EDUCATIONAL PIPELINE LOOK LIKE FOR THESE DIFFERENT GROUPS AND WHERE ARE THE POINTS OF LEAKAGE? Why do some children do so much more poorly in school than others? Where are the points along the way where these students are lost? Below, I trace the pathways of underrepresented students through school in order to identify the significant points of leakage from the pipeline, and the areas in which there exist often untapped opportunities to change this scenario. Access to Preschool Attending center-based preschool is linked to higher emerging literacy scores for both disadvantaged and advantaged children (National Center for Education Statistics, 1995). However, the opportunity to “catch up” to the skills of more advantaged peers is particularly critical for black and Hispanic children who are more than four times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be raised in
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 2 3- to 5- Year-Olds in Center-Based Preschool and Kindergarten in the United States by Ethnicity, 1999 Ethnicity Preschool Age 3 Preschool Age 4 Kinder Age 4 Total Age 4* Preschool Age 5 Kinder Age 5 Total Age 5* White 46.0 66.2 1.8 69.3 23.1 54.7 92.9 Black 59.2 79.4 1.3 81.4 20.2 55.2 98.5 Hispanic 25.0 56.8 5.8 63.6 13.4 66.2 88.6 Other 56.3 65.0 4.5 70.0 23.4 61.1 97.8 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2000. poverty (U.S. Department of Education, 1995), and there are large differences in preschool attendance by ethnicity. Nationally, black children are more likely to attend preschool than any other group; but Hispanics are the least likely to attend (U.S. Dept of Education, 2000). These differences in participation reflect both cultural and socioeconomic realities (Fuller et al., 1994). The pattern of differences in preschool attendance, however, demonstrates the ways in which some children may be placed at higher risk for school failure than others. Table 2 shows the rates of preschool and kindergarten attendance for 4- and 5-year-old children by ethnicity. Black children attend center-based preschool programs at the highest rate of all children and Hispanic children are much less likely to be in a program than all others. Hispanic children, however, are much more likely to go to kindergarten at an early age than other groups. A relatively common pattern for Hispanics appears to be early enrollment in kindergarten without attending preschool, as Hispanic children are much more likely than others to be found in kindergarten at ages four and five. Early enrollment in kindergarten is also associated with higher risk for less positive educational outcomes, especially when kindergarten has not been preceded by preschool attendance (NCES, 1995). National data can obscure as much as they reveal because population characteristics differ widely across the states. For example, the Hispanic population in the United States is comprised of high-income, well-educated Cuban-American families in the Southeast, and low-income, poorly educated Mexican Americans in the Southwest, as well as more moderately educated, middle-income Hispanos who have lived in New Mexico since the founding of the nation. This wide variation in Hispanic groups obscures the particular challenges that exist for some segments of this population. California has the largest Hispanic population of any state, and being largely Mexican origin, it is also among the poorest and least well educated. Figure 1 shows the preschool attendance rates of entering kindergarteners in that state by ethnicity, and here it is apparent that all non-white groups attend preschool in much lower proportions than white students, but this is particularly true for Hispanics (Latinos).
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions FIGURE 1 Children in Kindergarten Who Attended Preschool the Year Before, by Ethnic Group (1997). SOURCE: California Research Bureau of the California State Library using the 1997 October Current Population Survey. Estimates for this graph on Asians and Blacks are based on a small sample size and thus many may be unreliable. A recent study of the characteristics of entering kindergartners shows that black and Hispanic children are much more likely than white or Asian children to have multiple risk factors for school failure (NCES, 1995). This study considered five factors known to be associated with depressed schooling outcomes: poverty, single parent household, mother with less than high school education, primary language other than English, and mother unmarried at time of child’s birth. Whereas only 6% of Whites and 17% of Asians had two or more of these risk factors, 27% of Blacks and fully one-third (33%) of Hispanics had two or more risk factors. Conversely, 71% of white kindergartners and 39% of Asians had no risk factors, while only 28% of both black and Hispanic children were without risk factors. In sum, black and Hispanic children are much more likely to enter kindergarten with multiple risk factors related to poor school outcomes, while Hispanics are much more likely to begin kindergarten early—a potential risk factor—but only Blacks appear to offset the risks by attending preschool in high proportions. While the social class of children does not appear to be highly related to whether they attend preschool for all but white children (U.S. Department of Education, 2000), the kind of preschool experience they have is related to their family’s socioeconomic status. Middle-class children may attend a wide variety of private preschools as well as publicly supported programs in the community. More high-quality preschool options exist for those individuals who can afford to pay for them. Moreover, for those middle-class children who stay at home, many will receive enriched educational opportunities from well-educated parents and care givers, in more informal contexts. Considerable research evidence exists showing positive effects on cognitive functioning, health status, and socioemotional adjustment of children who attend high-quality preschool programs (Zigler
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions & Styfco, 1993; Karoly et al., 1998). However, for low-income children, the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool programs is much more limited. Head Start is the primary federally sponsored program for low-income preschoolers, but its quality is uneven (Zigler & Styfco, 1993), and it is only able to serve about half of all eligible children (Children’s Defense Fund, 2000). A substantial body of research has demonstrated that very early intervention can prevent negative outcomes for at-risk students (Haskins, 1989; Karoly et al. 1998; Schweinhart, Weikart, & Learner, 1986). Karoly et al. (1998) reviewed nine preschool programs that served low-income children and that had been carefully evaluated. They concluded that high-quality preschool intervention can have a significant impact on long-term outcomes for participants. Included in the study was the now-famous Perry Preschool Program (Schweinhart et al., 1986). While cognitive effects as measured by IQ tests were not sustained over time for the Perry preschoolers, program participants had higher rates of high school completion and employment and lower rates of delinquency and teen pregnancy than the control group, which had not been exposed to any preschool intervention. Campbell and Ramey (1995) reported on a carefully designed study of the effects of high-quality preschool intervention on at-risk youngsters. The Carolina Abecedarian Project involved four groups of students: a preschool and early elementary intervention group, a preschool-only group, an early elementary intervention group only, and a control group. Altogether, 111 children and their families, of which 98% were African American, were involved in the experiment. All of the children were considered at risk for poor developmental outcomes and the intervention involved parent training as well as extensive educational enrichment for the treatment children. On the basis of a longitudinal study of the children—seven to ten years after intervention had ceased—the researchers concluded that early intervention in infancy resulted in better academic outcomes, including maintenance of IQ advantages and higher academic achievement, than the control group or the early elementary group. The research supports the idea of intervening early and intensively in the lives of low-income and minority youth and suggests that when intervention occurs early and extends over a lengthy period, intellectual gains may be sustained over time. Head Start is the primary program supported by the federal government to intervene in the lives of low-income and minority children. However, Zigler et al. noted that because Head Start is a funding source and not a specific intervention, there is large variation in the way it is implemented. Nonetheless, a recent study of the effects of selected Head Start programs for children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds found that cognitive gains may be substantial and persistent for Mexican-American children. When compared to stay-at-home siblings, some programs were able to narrow the test score gap with white children by at least one-quarter and to close the gap in the probability of having to repeat a grade by about two-thirds. African-American students also made significant test score gains as a result of completing a Head Start program; how
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions ever, unlike white students, for whom the test scores gains were sustained, black students’ gains were quickly lost (Currie & Thomas, 1996). The researchers argued that this is probably related to the poor schooling that so many African-American students receive subsequent to preschool (Currie and Thomas, 1995). In sum, the evidence suggests that early intensive enrichment can have long-term effects on cognitive functioning. This finding also lends support to the notion that early intervention could have a positive impact on higher-level functioning for children who are not at serious risk. However, low-income, minority children are less likely to have access to high-quality preschool experiences that could result in better educational outcomes for them. Thus, differences in both rates of preschool attendance, as well as the quality of that experience, represent initial lost opportunities to affect the academic fate of many low-income and minority youngsters. Kindergarten While some research has suggested that children from different ethnic groups begin school with similar skills and that differentiation occurs as a byproduct of schooling (Entwisle & Alexander, 1992), recent national data on kindergartners suggest otherwise. The achievement gaps among groups are noticeable at the earliest stages of formal academic assessment. Table 3 shows the percentages of kindergartners in different ethnic groups who score in the lowest or in the highest quartile on reading and math readiness. The lower performance of Hispanic children vis-à-vis African-American children, in spite of the fact that they outperform Blacks on tests of academic achievement in elementary school, is probably related to the large numbers of Hispanic kindergartners who are tested in English, but who do not speak the language when they enter school. TABLE 3 Percent of Kindergartners in Lowest and Highest Quartile of Reading Skills, by Ethnicity, Fall 1998 Group Percent Lowest Quartile/ Reading Percent Highest Quartile/ Reading Percent Lowest Quartile/ Math Percent Highest Quartile/ Math Black 34 15 39 10 Latino 42 15 40 14 Native American 57 9 50 9 Asian 13 39 13 38 White 18 30 18 32 SOURCE: America’s Kindergartners, U.S. Dept of Education, NCES, 2000.
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions The very large discrepancies in academic performance among the ethnic groups at the very beginning of schooling suggests that where preschool was provided, it was not of high enough quality or long enough duration to equalize home advantages. Moreover, these early differences presage a pattern of lower achievement for those students who begin school behind. If children leave kindergarten with significantly lower reading readiness skills than their peers, they can be expected to be placed in lower reading groups in first grade, and this fact augurs poorly for their later academic outcomes. Barr and Dreeben (1983) have shown how, in spite of the best intentions of teachers, the boundaries between reading groups formed early in the first grade often become impermeable barriers to upward advancement in reading groups thereafter. Students have a strong tendency to stay in the groups into which they are initially placed. Those students who come to school with readiness to read—usually those from more advantaged homes that have encouraged early literacy—tend to maintain their advantage over time. This is largely because low-level reading groups cover significantly less material than high-level reading groups, increasing the gaps in exposure to curriculum content among different reading groups over time. In this way, teachers’ early judgments at the beginning of schooling, based in part on preschool experiences, can set the stage for underachievement thereafter. What might be an opportunity to equalize children’s life chances is turned into a vehicle for solidifying the status with which they entered school. Many states have policies that delay the entry of children into kindergarten until they can pass a screening test of school readiness skills (Meisels, 1986). This policy has been a response to the studies that show that younger children, as well as children who have not met certain developmental milestones, tend to do more poorly in kindergarten than older, more developmentally advanced children (Shepard & Smith, 1989). Such a policy makes sense if the objective is to equalize students’ skills at the beginning of kindergarten. However, if kindergarten is viewed as an opportunity to strengthen students’ skills in order to get them ready for first grade, then such a policy defeats that goal. Delaying the kindergarten entry of low-income children and those from backgrounds that may not be able to provide the skills and knowledge valued by school only sets these children farther behind their peers. Failure to provide high-quality, intensive preschool and kindergarten experiences for low-income minority children constitutes a significant lost opportunity to capture more of these children in the academic pipeline. Elementary School Researchers studying the academic achievement of children in federally funded programs for low-income, low-performing students (Chapter 1) found that achievement gaps between white students and Latino and African-American students in Chapter 1 schools remain relatively constant across the six elementary
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions grades (Stringfield et al, 1997). This study, known as the Special Strategies Study, found that African-American students trailed white students on CTBS/4 reading by .71 to .82 standards deviations, while Latino students lagged about one-half standard deviation behind white students. Likewise, the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed similar discrepancies. While 39% of white students in the fourth grade scored at or above proficient, only 10% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos reached this level (Donahue et al., 1999). Similarly, African-American students remained more than three-quarters of a standard deviation behind white students through elementary school on the mathematics portion of the CTBS/4, while the gap between Latino and white students ranged between one-third and two-thirds of a standard deviation. The Special Strategies Study attempted to assess the effectiveness of several school-wide intervention programs in K–6, including Success for All, the School Development Program (Comer, 1988), Padeia, Chapter 1 school-wide projects, and Chapter 1 extended-year projects. Data were aggregated to ascertain if they yielded significant improvement in academic achievement of program participants. All students served by these programs, as well as the control group students, were in schools serving low-income (minority) students. Data for students from the national study of Title 1, Prospects (Puma et al., 1997) were used as controls. Stringfield et al. found African-American students in the Special Strategies schools learned at a faster rate than their controls, and that their achievement levels surpassed the controls’ over the four-year period of the study. More importantly, the high-achieving African-American math students not only grew at a faster rate, but they also surpassed the achievement levels of all initially high-achieving math students in the control group (Borman et al., 2000). Thus, without disaggregating data to determine the independent effects of particular programs or implementations, the Special Strategies study did confirm that school-wide reform efforts directed toward strengthening the curriculum (among other things) can have an impact on raising the achievement of high-achieving African Americans to even higher levels. One troubling finding from the study, however, was the extent to which low-income students continued to disengage from school throughout the elementary years. Researchers defined disengagement as the downward trajectory of grades for students who initially were high performers. They noted that “the process of disengagement begins at first grade and continues through the sixth grade for high achieving students of low SES levels [and] …African American students who began third grade at or above the 50th percentile disengage at a significantly faster rate than comparable white students” (Borman et al., 2000, p. 79). It would appear, then, that some of the potentially most academically talented minority students are at greatest risk for academic failure. Many other school reform strategies geared toward increasing the achievement of low-income and minority children in grades K–8 are underway across the nation. Unfortunately, very few rigorously evaluate their activities and so it
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions is difficult in most cases to know what is working, and why. One exception is the work of Cook, Hunt, and Murphy (1998). This was a very careful longitudinal study of 10 elementary schools in Chicago that had implemented the Comer program—a school-wide reform effort that focuses on bringing the community into meaningful contact with the schools in an effort to change fundamentally the schools’ climate—the attitudes and aspirations that school personnel have for their students (Comer, 1988). The investigators compared the reforming schools with 9 others in the district that had similar demographic characteristics, and statistically controlled for the differences that remained. They found that where the program was carefully implemented and also had a strong focus on strengthening the rigor of the curriculum to which students were exposed, there were small, but significant and positive differences in both behavioral indicators (decreased behavioral problems) and academic achievement. While the differences were not earth-shattering in size, the findings were nonetheless very important. Detecting differences in anything in whole school efforts, with all the messy variation that exists across classrooms, teachers, and students, can be viewed as an indicator of probable larger effects, if only our instruments were more sensitive and our samples more stable. Project GRAD, a Ford Foundation-sponsored program that began in Houston, Texas, is another such beacon of hope in the evaluation literature. Project GRAD is a large-scale effort now being implemented in several sites around the country. Its goal is to provide every student with a greater opportunity to learn. It involves research-based instructional reforms and addresses many of the shortcomings of low-income, inner-city schools. Although it is relatively new, it appears to be already creating important changes in school climate and some student achievement indicators. A recent evaluation of the Houston site reveals that referrals to the principal’s office across the feeder elementary schools declined by 74% since the inception of the program in 1994–95. Student achievement is also on the upswing. Across all cohorts of students in the original feeder elementary school cluster, as well as in the 10th grade of the high school, Project GRAD students are outperforming their comparison schools in math, and in some cases in reading on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test (Opuni, 1998). Such programs appear to demonstrate that the achievement of underrepresented students can be enhanced on a large scale, with structured, sustained efforts. Unfortunately, most schools are untouched by truly systemic reform, and most children must rely on the traditional means that have largely failed them, for gaining access to a high standards curricula. A primary gateway is through the gifted and talented programs. Considering their overall achievement patterns, it is not surprising that African-American, Latino, and Native American students are underrepresented in programs for the gifted and talented throughout the nation, and white and Asian students are overrepresented. Table 4 shows the percentage of each ethnic group participating in these classes in K–12 in the 1997 school year.
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 4 Percent Participation in Gifted and Talented Classes by Ethnic Group and Percent K–12 Population, 1997 Ethnic Group Percent of Gifted Percent K–12 Population White 76.61 64.0 Black 6.63 17.0 Hispanic 8.56 14.3 Asian 6.63 3.1 Native American .90 1.1 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 1999. Access to gifted and talented programs in elementary school is important because it predicts placement in high-level math courses in middle school, which determines the level of mathematics a student will be able to complete in high school. Based on analyses of High School and Beyond data, Adelman (1999) concluded that the rigor of the curriculum to which students are exposed is more predictive of long-term academic outcomes than even the powerful variable of family socioeconomic status. Adelman argued that the greatest amount of the variance in long-term academic outcomes among ethnic groups can be attributed to the differences in the groups’ exposure to high-level curricula— most particularly to advanced mathematics, which black and Latino students are least likely to take. Given the important gateway role that classes for the gifted play, many educators have long rued the underrepresentation of minority students in the programs (Figueroa & Ruiz, 1999). The failure to identify and place more minority students in these programs represents another lost opportunity to increase the achievement trajectory of these students. Middle School While grouping practices in elementary schools determine to a large extent the breadth and depth of curriculum to which students will be exposed, curriculum tracking begins in earnest in the middle schools. Students who are assigned to pre-algebra in the 7th grade and algebra in the 8th grade are on track for a college preparatory curriculum (Adelman, 1999). Those who are held back in more basic mathematics courses will have difficulty catching up and may not be able to complete the college preparatory science prerequisites either. Using 8th grade data from the NELS database, Rumberger and Gándara (2000) asked if students from different ethnic groups who were in gifted programs had an equal chance of being assigned to algebra in the 8th grade. Table 5 displays the percentages of students from each major ethnic group who were in gifted and talented programs in the 8th grade and who were also assigned to algebra. All data are based on student self-report.
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 5 Percent of Students in Gifted and not in Gifted Programs Who Are Assigned to Algebra in Grade 8 (NELS 88 Database) Ethnicity Percent Gifted in Algebra Percent Non-Gifted in Algebra White 73 28 Hispanic 52 26 Black 60 27 Asian 83 35 Evidently, being in a gifted and talented program is highly associated with being assigned to algebra in the 8th grade, suggesting that students who have been identified as gifted are generally perceived as being more academically able, at least in mathematics. Students in gifted and talented programs were two to three times more likely to be assigned to algebra than students who were not in the program. For students not in a gifted program, differences among ethnic groups in the percentage of students assigned to algebra were relatively small. However, there are considerable discrepancies by ethnicity in assignment to algebra for students who are in a gifted and talented program. Asian and white students are much more likely to be assigned to algebra than are African-American and Hispanic students. Hispanic students have the least likelihood of being in algebra, whether they are in the program or not. To determine why this is so, we examined grades and achievement test scores for each of the groups to determine if students’ grades or test scores were responsible for the discrepancies in algebra placement. Table 6 displays the percentages of students falling into each test score quartile and at each of four levels of grade point average by ethnicity. Grades and test scores probably explain a fair amount of the variance in assignment to algebra in the 8th grade by ethnicity. For white students, 82.4% had overall grades of 3.0 or higher, and for Asians, 90.4% had 3.0 or higher, while 20 to 30% fewer black and Hispanic students had grades this high. Overall, grades correlate highly with assignment to upper-track classes. However, the TABLE 6 Percent of Students with Specified Grades and Test Scores by Ethnicity for 8th Grade Gifted and Talented Students (NELS 88 Database) Ethnicity Test Score 1st Quartile (Low) Test Score 2nd Quartile Test Score 3rd Quartile Test Score 4th Quartile (High) Grades Less than 2.0 Grades 2.0– 2.99 Grades 3.0– 3.49 Grades 3.5+ White 18.1 25.8 30.3 23.0 2.2 15.3 20.0 62.4 Hispanic 29.7 22.6 22.9 20.9 6.9 24.8 28.3 40.1 Black 39.6 19.1 13.7 18.9 17.7 30.4 22.6 29.3 Asian 11.4 7.7 17.0 37.9 2.2 7.5 21.7 68.7
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 8 SAT Scores for Six Ethnic Groups: National SAT Sample, 1999. Verbal Math Percent Scoring 500+ Verbal Percent Scoring 500+ Math White (705,019) 527 528 61% 61% Asian American (85,128) 497 552 50% 66% Mexican American (42,750) 452 456 32% 33% Native American (8, 118) 484 481 45% 43% Puerto Rican (13,897) 455 448 33% 30% African American (116,144) 433 421 25% 21% SOURCE: The College Board, 1999 SAT administration data. graduate from schools that provide a less enriched education than those attended by Whites and Asians, all diplomas and degrees are not equal. Moreover, in many minority families, it may take several wage earners to produce the income that one working member of a white or Asian family can provide. Finally, many minority families that are categorized as middle class may have held this status no more than one generation—scant time to establish the patterns and routines that promote high educational achievement in youth (Miller, 1995). FIGURE 2 Mean SAT Scores by Income and Ethnicity
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions The particular high school that a student attends can also have a significant impact on his or her academic achievement. Schools in more affluent neighborhoods have been shown to provide more rigorous college preparatory and honors courses than schools in lower-income communities that largely serve populations of underrepresented students. For example, in a recent study of California schools, Betts et al., (2000) found that the lowest-income schools offered only 52% of classes that met college preparatory requirements, while this figure rose to 63% in the highest-income schools. Similar patterns held up when the analysis was done by percent non-white in the school. Likewise, Betts et al. found that “the median high-SES school has over 50% more AP courses than the median low-SES school” (p. 72). Unlike many other states, the University of California awards additional grade points for AP and honors courses. Thus, students who take these classes have a significant advantage over those who do not when calculating grade point averages. Of course, if the particular school does not offer these courses, students are at a significant disadvantage. As important as grade point average, however, is the effect that taking these courses has on students’ test scores. Students who take rigorous AP and honors classes are more likely to score high on college entrance exams, thereby increasing their chances of gaining entry to more selective colleges (Adelman, 1999). Segregation of Minority Students Within and Between Schools Racial and ethnic segregation continue to have an impact on school performance for underrepresented students. Inequalities in educational opportunity between segregated white schools and segregated schools with students of color have been well documented (Orfield, 1996) and served as the catalyst for a decades-long experiment with desegregation and busing. That experiment has largely come to an end. Today, both black and Latino students attend increasingly segregated schools. Latino segregation has been increasing since data were first collected in the 1960s. In 1997, 35.4% of Latino students were attending schools that were 90% to 100% minority (Orfield & Yun, 1999). And as Orfield (1996) pointed out: Low-income and minority students are concentrated in schools within metropolitan areas that tend to offer different and inferior courses and levels of competition, creating a situation where the most disadvantaged students receive the least effective preparation for college. A fundamental reason is that schools do not provide a fixed high school curriculum taught at a common depth and pace. Th actual working curriculum of a high school is the result of the ability of teachers, the quality of counseling, and enrollment patterns of students. (p. 67) Not surprisingly, Borman et al. (2000) also found that high-achieving black students tended to come from more desegregated schools than their lower-performing black peers.
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions Of course, even within nominally desegregated schools, the organization of schooling often operates to re-segregate students by ability track within the school. Thus, minority students are much more likely to be found in the vocational and general education tracks that provide weaker curricula and fail to prepare students for the option of going to college than are white or Asian students (Oakes, 1985). Failure to acknowledge and compensate for very large gaps in family and community resources among groups places many underrepresented minority students at a serious disadvantage in any academic competition. Greater resources and more time to acquire the skills and abilities that many more advantaged children bring from home must be provided if there is to be any hope of narrowing the performance gaps among groups. College access programs now proliferate in schools across the nation. The goal of these programs is to prepare students who would otherwise not go on to college with the prerequisites to attend college. These programs include access to college preparatory curricula, counseling, tutoring, mentoring, college field trips, and sometimes parent involvement activities. As with the school reform projects, few good evaluations of these programs exist; however, those that have been conducted provide us some insights into what can and cannot be accomplished over the high school years. The best of these programs appear to significantly increase the college-going rates of participants, and to ratchet up students’ aspirations. Students who might otherwise have only attended a two-year college will more often attend a four-year college, and those who were not headed for college at all are more likely to enroll in a local community college. These changes in students’ college-going behavior may set them on an entirely different life trajectory than they had once aspired to. However, the challenge of significantly changing most students’ academic profiles (grades and test scores) appears to be more than a single program can usually deliver. To change this would require the more long-term and intensive efforts of systemic school reform (Gándara & Bial, 2001). Nonetheless, such programs appear to lift some participants over the final hurdles to college and to help ensure that well-prepared students from low-income and minority backgrounds actually get there—an outcome that is far from certain even for the best prepared students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Special Challenges for Limited English-Proficient Students Most students with limited English proficiency also come from low-income homes and confront the same challenges as other underrepresented students. However, these impediments are typically accompanied by additional barriers. A recent study in California—the state with the highest number and proportion of limited English-proficient students—showed that these students were the most likely to have a teacher without adequate training as measured by possessing appropriate, or any, teaching credentials (Shields et al., 1999). The underpreparation of teachers to serve limited English-proficient students has been a longstanding problem in
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions the United States as controversies over best methods of instruction have unnecessarily impeded real attention in preparing teachers to meet the needs of these children (August & Hakuta, 1997; Gándara & Maxwell-Jolly, 2000). In addition to underprepared teachers, most limited English-proficient students face classrooms that either do not take their language needs into account, or are structured to provide an impoverished curriculum that often does not prepare them to succeed academically or meet the requirements for high school graduation or college admission (August & Hakuta, 1997; Olsen 1999; Ruiz-deVelasco & Fix, 2000). The Prospects Study (Puma et al. 1997), a federally mandated study of student achievement, found that limited English-proficient students scored consistently lower than all other children on achievement tests, even when compared to students at similar high-poverty levels. And even highly competent limited English-proficient students, who may have mastered the grade-level curriculum in their primary language, can find themselves unable to pass English tests and gain access to the classes they need to graduate from high school or attend college (Minicucci & Olsen, 1992). Disenfranchised and discouraged, they frequently drop out of school altogether (Steinberg et al., 1997). By failing to provide classes tailored to the needs of the more than seven million limited English children in the United States, a critical asset is lost. Research has shown that many of these students—immigrants and children of immigrants— are among the most ambitious and high-aspiring students in our schools (Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 1996; Rumbaut & Cornelius, 1995). Higher Education Gaining access to college is important, but it is only part of the story. Where students go to college is almost as important as going at all. There is considerable difference among ethnic groups in the types of postsecondary institutions that students attend. Lower-income, African-American, and especially Latino students, are much more likely to go to two-year colleges than are white and Asian students, and they are much less likely to actually complete their degrees (Rendon & Garza, 1996; Grubb, 1991). Moreover, while a little more than one-third of all college students attend two-year institutions, more than half of all Latino and Native American students who attend college are found in these institutions. One primary mission of the community colleges is to provide low-cost, easy, and local access to postsecondary education for students who might not otherwise be able to attend because of limited resources or inadequate preparation for a four-year university. But these colleges can also function to divert students off the path to an undergraduate degree (Rendón & Garza, 1996). Burton Clark (1980) first identified the “cooling out” function of two-year institutions, citing the multiple ways in which they can dampen, rather than encourage, aspirations of low-income youth through organizational, cultural, and curricular
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 9 Percentage of Students Enrolled in Two-Year Colleges, by Ethnicity, 1996 Group Percent enrolled White 36.8 Asian 39.4 Black 41.5 Latino 56.0 Native American 51.0 All 38.7 SOURCE: Almanac of Higher Education, 1998–99, Chronicle of Higher Education, 1999. features that may fail to meet the needs and expectations of students. It would be unfair, however, to lay the problem of uncompleted college education solely at the feet of the community colleges. These colleges serve multiple functions and, therefore, their success rests on many different kinds of outcomes. Many students who enter community colleges do not have the intention of completing a four-year degree in the near term, or ever. Many who do articulate such a goal, however, may be less well prepared and less focused in their objectives than students who go immediately to four-year colleges. Thus, there is a clear interaction between the goals and preparation of the students and the effectiveness of the institutions in ensuring the completion of an undergraduate degree. Given the multiple barriers that minority students face through the educational pipeline, it is not surprising that African-American, Latino, and Native American students are significantly underrepresented among the pool of students receiving bachelor’s degrees from American universities and colleges (Table 1). The failure to attend to the significant loss of potential college graduates from this sector of the higher education system is a lost opportunity of major dimensions. Underrepresented students are even less likely to be enrolled in biological/life sciences or health professions (nursing and other non-physician) undergraduate programs than the typical white or Asian student. TABLE 10 Bachelor’s Degrees Conferred, by Ethnicity (U.S. Citizens), 1997 Group Percent of U.S. Population Percent of All B.A.s Conferred White 72.0 76.9 Asian 3.5 5.8 Black 12.0 8.1 Latino 11.0 5.3 Native American .7 .6 SOURCE: American Council on Education, 2000
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions TABLE 11 Percent of Students in Biological and Health Professions Undergraduate Programs by Ethnicity, 1997 Group Percent of Population Biological/ Life Sciences Health Professions White 72.0 72.5 81.3 Asian 3.5 13.6 5.2 Latino 11.5 4.4 3.6 Black 12.0 6.5 7.7 Native American .7 .4 .6 SOURCE: American Council on Education, 2000. FUTURE PROJECTIONS Vernez and Krop (1999) have projected the educational scenario for American minorities for the year 2015, based on 1990 census data. In these projections, Hispanics take on an even larger role in the nation’s future well-being. They calculate that Hispanics will double in number over this period of time and that Hispanics will make up 13.6% of the United States adult population. Blacks, too, will actually increase their population share slightly from about 10.5 to 11.6% of the adult population. Asians should also double their population from 2.7% in 1990 to 5.8% of the population in 2015. In turn, the share of the non-Hispanic white population is projected to decline from almost 80% of the population to just 70%. The youth population (0–24) is faster growing than adults. While the percentage of the total youth population is just slightly higher for all ethnic groups except Whites (for whom there is a precipitous drop in population share from about 70% in 1990 to less than 58% in 2015) in 2015 compared to 1990, it is among the Hispanic population that the greatest growth is noted. While only about 12% of the youth population was Hispanic in 1990, by 2015 nearly 21 % will be. All groups are projected to increase their educational attainment. However, the disparities in attainment are projected to increase among groups, and particularly between Hispanics and all others. Whereas in 1990 Mexican-origin adults in the United States were three times more likely than white adults to have fewer than 12 years of education, they will be four times more likely to have this low level of education in 2015. A majority of the children in the United States who will be raised by parents without a high school education in 2015 are projected to be Hispanics and their numbers are projected to double from 1990 levels. Thirty percent of all Hispanic children will be raised in families without a high school education. All told, 85% of children from families with parents who have fewer than 12 years of education will be underrepresented minorities. The anticipated changes in demography will occur even more
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The Right Thing to do, The Smart Thing to do Enhancing Diversity in the Health Professions quickly in the high immigrant-receiving states like California, because immigration is viewed as a major driver of these changes. Projected changes in the ethnic composition of the United States and the concurrent shift in educational preparation of parents raise serious questions for the nation. A country that is increasingly Hispanic—with a Hispanic population that is seriously undereducated—represents a challenge of enormous proportions, and one that we have not met well to date. Vernez et al. (1999) also looked at the potential costs and benefits of closing the education gap between white and Asian students and underrepresented minorities. Their calculations show that under any scenario—closing the high school graduation, college going, or college completion gap between these groups—the public benefits, including decreased social welfare costs and increased taxes, outweigh the costs to provide the education. It behooves us all to seize upon the multiple lost opportunities in the academic pipeline to capture these students before they are lost, and to make every effort to defy the educational projections for the year 2015. REFERENCES Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the tool box. Academic intensity, attendance patterns, and bachelor’s degree attainment. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Alexander, K., Entwisle, D., & Thompson, M. (1987). School performance, status relations, and the structure of sentiment: Bringing the teacher back in. American Sociological Review, 52, pp. 665–682. August, D., & Hakuta, K. (1997). Improving schooling for language minority children. A research agenda. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council. Institute of Medicine. Baron, R., Tom, D., & Cooper, H. (1985). Social class, race, and teacher expectations. In J.Duser (Ed.), Teacher expectations. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Barr, R., & Dreeben, R. (1983). How schools work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Betts, J., Rueben, K., & Dannenberg, A. (2000). Equal resources, equal outcomes? The distribution of school resources and student achievement in California. San Francisco: The Public Policy Institute of California. Borman, G., Stringfield, S., & Rachuba, L. (2000). Advancing minority high achievement: National trends and promising programs and practices. New York: The College Board. Brooks-Gunn, J., Denner, J., & Klebanov, P. (1995). Families and neighborhoods as contexts for education. In E.Flaxman & A.Passow, (Eds) Changing populations, changing schools: Ninety-fourth yearbook for the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II. Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education. Brophy, G., & Good, T. (1974). Teacher-Student relationships: Causes and consequences. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Burstein, N., & Cabello, B. (1989). Preparing teachers to work with culturally diverse students: Another educational model. Journal of Teacher Education, 40, pp. 9–16. Campbell, F., & Ramey, C. (1995). Cognitive and school outcomes for high risk African American students at middle adolescence: Positive effects of early intervention. American Educational Research Journal, 32, pp. 743–772. Children’s Defense Fund (2000). Fact sheet on Head Start. www.Childrensdefense.org.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: