Why Racial Integration and Other Policies Since Brown v. Board of Education Have Only Partially Succeeded at Narrowing the Achievement Gap

Ronald F. Ferguson with Jal Mehta1

Evidence from the middle of the 20th century provided little if any reason to expect that closing skill gaps in reading and math could substantially reduce inequality in black-white earnings (Cutright, 1972, 1974; Jencks et al., 1972). Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, conditions are different because the value of such skills to employers has grown, and racial barriers to employment have weakened (Murnane et al., 1995). By the late 1980s, disparities in reading and math skill predicted half or more of the hourly earnings gap between black and white young adults (Johnson and Neal, 1998; Ferguson, 1995).2 Discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity still affects who gets some jobs (e.g., Fix and Struyk, 1991). Indeed, reading and math scores are much stronger predictors of what people earn, once employed, than of whether they are employed. Nonetheless, because skills help to determine earnings, skill disparities among racial and ethnic groups help to perpetuate historical inequities in every aspect of life that depends on financial resources.

The good news is that achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups in the United States are smaller than they were several decades ago. The reading-score gap between black and white 17-year-olds in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) was less than half as large in 1988 as in 1971, when the Educational Testing Service (ETS) first administered the NAEP Trend Assessment (also see Lloyd et al., this



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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary Why Racial Integration and Other Policies Since Brown v. Board of Education Have Only Partially Succeeded at Narrowing the Achievement Gap Ronald F. Ferguson with Jal Mehta1 Evidence from the middle of the 20th century provided little if any reason to expect that closing skill gaps in reading and math could substantially reduce inequality in black-white earnings (Cutright, 1972, 1974; Jencks et al., 1972). Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, conditions are different because the value of such skills to employers has grown, and racial barriers to employment have weakened (Murnane et al., 1995). By the late 1980s, disparities in reading and math skill predicted half or more of the hourly earnings gap between black and white young adults (Johnson and Neal, 1998; Ferguson, 1995).2 Discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity still affects who gets some jobs (e.g., Fix and Struyk, 1991). Indeed, reading and math scores are much stronger predictors of what people earn, once employed, than of whether they are employed. Nonetheless, because skills help to determine earnings, skill disparities among racial and ethnic groups help to perpetuate historical inequities in every aspect of life that depends on financial resources. The good news is that achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups in the United States are smaller than they were several decades ago. The reading-score gap between black and white 17-year-olds in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) was less than half as large in 1988 as in 1971, when the Educational Testing Service (ETS) first administered the NAEP Trend Assessment (also see Lloyd et al., this

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary volume). Similarly, the gap between Hispanics and whites was 40 percent smaller in 1990 than in 1975.3 For both blacks and Hispanics, there were years around 1990 when the gap with whites in math scores was more than 40 percent narrower than in 1973. The bad news is that progress stopped around 1990.4 In 1999, when the latest NAEP test was administered, large differences remained between average scores for blacks and Hispanics on one hand and whites and Asians on the other.5 Focusing on test-score disparities, this paper concerns what researchers have learned about equalizing educational opportunities and outcomes among racial groups, primarily blacks and whites, in the last half-century. While progress is evident and many milestones have been achieved, especially in civil rights, policy measures focused on rights, resources, and testing requirements for students have not achieved their full promise for raising achievement and narrowing gaps. Failure to foster high-quality instructional practices in all schools and classrooms and for all students is strongly implicated in these disappointing results. Now is a time to supplement other policies with a more determined, high-quality research-based emphasis on improving what happens in classrooms. We agree that the types of incentives being imposed by the current standards movement are important, but principals and teachers need help knowing how best to respond to them. Chapter 6 in this volume describes what progress might entail, by discussing instructional regimes that recent research has shown to be effective. It reports experience introducing those regimes into schools and classrooms and working to make them routine. This paper provides some historical background with an emphasis on what research has shown about the effectiveness of past policies. We present a historical overview that touches on a number of topics related to rights, resources, and requirements in education reform over the past half-century. Then we focus in more detail on research about ways that desegregation, grouping and tracking practices, and class sizes relate to achievement disparities. We focus on these topics because of their interdependence with instructional quality and their historical and contemporary policy importance. For example, we ask, “Are grouping and tracking practices among the reasons that racial desegregation seems to produce only small achievement gains, and how does the answer relate to instructional quality?” And “Do we know enough about class size effects to justify strong claims about the advantages of class size reductions for raising achievement, compared with investments in instructional quality?” Our aim is to present an informed perspective on what research has established and what remains to be learned about a number of important questions.

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary HISTORICAL OVERVIEW One hundred and five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the doctrine of “separate but equal” in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Although the conflict was over passenger accommodations on the East Louisiana Railroad, the “separate but equal” doctrine that the Court’s decision affirmed was codified in state laws governing schools and virtually all other types of public accommodations in the South, where the majority of black Americans lived. Representing an eight-person majority, Justice Henry Brown wrote: “The object of the [Fourteenth] Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.” Half a century later, the doctrine of separate but equal still dominated the South, but the question being litigated was whether enforced segregation in public schools deprived black children of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court issued the court’s decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education (Martin, 1998). The Court’s opinion granted that it might be possible with segregation to achieve equality of “tangible factors”— things that money can buy—but the Court rejected the idea that separate could be equal or that laws maintaining segregation could provide equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Informed by the work of social scientists, including the black psychologist Kenneth Clark, the justices wrote the following about the harm that segregation was doing to black children: “To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone” (Martin, 1998). Thus, Brown v. Board of Education was not merely about equality of resources. It was also about children’s “hearts and minds” and “status in the community.” The decision struck down the doctrine of separate but equal. It was a landmark event.6 In challenging the separate but equal doctrine of the Jim Crow South, the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education aimed to challenge white supremacist ideology and the moral injustice of forced segregation. In addition, they hoped that giving black children access to the schools and classrooms in which white children studied would help to equalize educational resources and academic outcomes. Unfortunately, implementation of the court order was exceedingly slow and limited (see below). Most of the school integration that actually happened in the South took place after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and after other court orders took

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary effect in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Evidence regarding the impacts of desegregation on achievement and other outcomes when it finally happened is mixed (see below). Parallel to the desegregation cases, there have been dozens of school finance cases in state and federal courts, with plaintiffs alleging that patterns of school funding violated state or federal constitutions (see Rebell, this volume). When successful, these cases have helped to increase spending in low-income districts (Evans et al., 1997, 1999).7 After the mid-1970s, forced integration was no longer the standard judicial remedy for segregation, and the desegregation cases came to resemble the school finance cases, especially in the North. They focused increasingly on state aid and compensatory education. James E. Ryan writes, “In sum, school desegregation and school finance litigation have converged around money. That poor and minority schools will remain separate from white and wealthier schools [because they are in different political jurisdictions] appears to be taken as a given, and, if anything, is reinforced by the fact that advocates are fighting not over integration but resources” (1999:272). Courts in the 1990s began releasing districts from desegregation orders issued in the 1970s. The likely result is that court-ordered desegregation will soon be only a memory. Around the time that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 set the wheels in motion to enforce desegregation orders, the War on Poverty introduced the federal Head Start program (in 1965) in order to give children from disadvantaged homes a “head start” on school success. In addition, Chapter I (now Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was intended to supplement academic resources for low-income children who needed extra support in the early grades. Head Start and Title I were not explicitly race targeted, but a major motivation among supporters was to reduce racial inequities. Over the years, recipients of these services have included large numbers of poor minority children. Title I is a funding stream to supplement school-level resources and is not a highly prescriptive intervention. Schools have great discretion in how the funds are used. Before reforms in 1994, federal legislation targeted Title I funds to the early elementary grades, with the intention that funds should assist only the students in those grades who were most in need of supplemental support. However, reforms passed in 1994 encouraged support for students across all grade levels, not only the early elementary years. They also encouraged whole-school reforms in high-poverty schools and an increased emphasis on accountability. Some critics of the reforms, including Farkas and Hall (2000), argue that the reforms of 1994 dilute the focus on high-need students by spreading funds across all grade levels and, furthermore, that whole-school programs encourage

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary substitution of Title I funds for local spending that would have happened anyway.8 Others (e.g., Slavin, 2001) applaud the reforms and argue that, with refinements, they offer the potential for broad-based improvements in high-poverty schools. Indeed, Slavin (2001:236) asserts, “Whatever the average effects of Title I resources may be, Title I is the crucial resource for reforming the education of students in high-poverty schools. Whenever an inner-city or poor rural school is found to be achieving outstanding results with its students by implementing innovative strategies, these innovations are almost invariably funded primarily by Title I.” This includes the Success For All (SFA) Program, a whole-school reform designed and disseminated by Slavin and his associates at Johns Hopkins University. Success For All has been adopted in hundreds of schools across the nation. Neither of the two large-scale evaluations of Title I has reached the conclusion that it substantially narrows achievement gaps between disadvantaged and middle-class students, as policy makers intended (Puma et al., 1997; Carter, 1983). Reanalyses by Borman et al. (2001) of the data from the study conducted by Puma et al. (1997) and a quantitative synthesis by Borman and D’Agustino (2001) of state-level studies produce somewhat more optimistic conclusions, but none of the studies finds effects that are impressively large. To put these findings in proper perspective, it should be noted that all of the estimates depend on contestable decisions about how to estimate what would have happened to Title I student achievement in the absence of Title I support. Even if Title I has failed to narrow the achievement gap between disadvantaged and middle-class students, it might nonetheless have helped to keep the gap from widening, and to a degree that existing studies have no way to reliably estimate. The most definitive and defensible methodology for this purpose would be to randomly assign students to a treatment group that receives Title I support or to a control group that does not. There have been no such random assignment studies of Title I, probably because it would seem unfair to the control group. Again, the possibility exists that outcomes might have been worse in the absence of Title I, but existing studies have no way of establishing it because they have not used random assignment (or, alternatively, carefully executed quasi-experiments that use comparison instead of control group designs). Findings on the effectiveness of Head Start are somewhat more positive than those for Title I. Specifically, most studies find that Head Start raises school readiness, as measured by achievement test scores (see the discussion of this point in Oden et al., 2000). However, most also find that the initial advantage fades during the elementary years, such that achieve-

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary ment scores among Head Start graduates eventually resemble those of nonparticipants from similar backgrounds. The most likely reason for the fade-out is that Head Start graduates attend inferior schools that fail to motivate them sufficiently and to build optimally on the skills they bring (Campbell and Frey, 1970; Lee and Loeb, 1995; Currie and Thomas, 1995). There is evidence (though not much) that, with favorable conditions, fadeout is not inevitable. For example, preschool programs, including Head Start, have sometimes shown sustained benefits (including but not limited to test scores) all the way into adulthood (Barnett, 1992; Oden et al., 2000). Increasing the long-term sustainability of the gains generated by Head Start depends almost surely on improving the primary and secondary schools that Head Start graduates attend, including those assisted by Title I. While the federal government was introducing Head Start and Title I in 1965, local districts were continuing a century-long trend toward reducing class sizes for children of all backgrounds. Classes historically have been larger in schools that blacks have attended (Coleman et al., 1966; Boozer, Krueger and Wolkon, 1992). However, class-size reductions have been larger for blacks than for whites. By 1990, the national pupil/ teacher ratio for all races and ethnicities in elementary school classrooms was only 70 percent of what it was in 1965 (18.9 pupils per teacher in 1990 versus 27.6 in 1965), and there was no clear remaining difference among racial groups.9 Most of the reduction that took place after 1965 was complete by 1980 (Table 65, U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Debate continues about the effect on achievement, but there are reasons to believe that it was positive at the elementary school level, especially for blacks (see below). The period from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s was also a time when schools went “back to basics.” The back-to-basics movement spread rapidly during the 1970s in response to media attention to such things as falling SAT scores. It was driven to a substantial degree by parental concern that their children were not acquiring basic skills. It produced systemic and results-based accountability reforms that were precursors to those of today, raising many of the same issues about “teaching to the test” and diluting curricula. Jennifer O’Day and Marshall Smith write (1993:258): By and large the instruction, curriculum, and tests for many low-achieving children were mutually reinforcing during a substantial part of this two-decade period [1965-1985]. Many states instituted regulations requiring passage of minimum competency tests as a graduation requirement. These tests, like the reading and mathematics portions of standardized norm-referenced tests, emphasized recognition of facts, word

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary analysis, mathematics computation skills, routine algorithmic problem solving, and little else. By 1985, 35 states were mandating statewide minimum competency testing (MCT) and 11 required passing such tests as a prerequisite for graduation. Some also used the scores to determine eligibility for remedial programs and promotions. O’Day and Smith believe that instruction focused heavily on basic skills in preparation for minimum competency tests was among the important reasons that black students’ scores rose on the NAEP during the 1970s (for 9-year-olds) and during the 1980s (for 17-year-olds). However, analysts who have looked closely at the timing of the gains are skeptical for a number of reasons (Office of Technology Assessment, 1992: Chapter 1). First, scores rose on tests even in states without MCT. Second, scores began to rise before MCT could have had much of an impact. Third, all states were reporting performance of their students on nationally normed achievement tests above the national average, which is a statistical impossibility. Fourth, the degree to which NAEP and SAT scores rose varied from place to place in ways that seem inconsistent with MCT as the explanation. It seems most likely that MCT and rising scores were both products of the movement to strengthen basic skills, but that MCT was not a key causal factor in the rise in NAEP scores. The critique that ultimately weakened the basic skills movement was that it did not focus enough on higher-order thinking. Students, it was argued, needed much more than basic skills. This meant they needed teachers who had more than basic skills themselves. Attention during the 1980s shifted to improving the quality of new teachers. Only 3 states required initial certification testing of new teachers in 1980, but 42 states did by 1990. States also adopted measures encouraging students, including minorities, to take more academically advanced courses (see the discussion and statistics in Ferguson, 2001b). From the late 1980s to the present, the nation has searched actively at both state and federal levels for ways of improving whole schools and whole school systems. Ideas about “systemic reform” and “standards-based accountability” have been influential at every level of policy making.10 A more extensive discussion of this latter period is beyond the scope of this chapter, but see the papers in Ravitch (2001). Compared with 1954, much has changed and much has not. On one hand, segregation is still high and, as Gary Orfield mentioned at the conference, improving schools for the most disadvantaged children with current levels of segregation and isolation is a gargantuan task. On the other hand, political leaders at all levels of society are claiming public education as their number one concern, and they are talking publicly and opti-

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary mistically about prospects for improving outcomes for even the most disadvantaged children. That’s progress from 1954, but there remains a long way to go. DESEGREGATION In 1955, the Supreme Court issued the implementation order for Brown v. Board of Education, known as Brown II. In it, the Court ordered Southern states to desegregate their schools with “all deliberate speed.” However, it defined neither “desegregation” nor “all deliberate speed.” Instead, the ruling left the interpretation and enforcement of Brown II to federal district courts in the South.11 Under heavy pressure from local Southern politicians, schools remained heavily segregated, with only 1 out of 50 Southern black children attending integrated schools in 1964 (Orfield and Eaton, 1996:7). For roughly a decade, the decision in Brown v. Board of Education did little to raise achievement among Southern children, because it did little to affect the conditions of their schooling. Southern patterns of segregation in public schools persisted until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in all schools receiving federal dollars. Four years later, in another landmark decision, Green v. County School Board, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregated or dual systems of public education had to be dismantled “root and branch.” The mandated desegregation applied to facilities, staff and faculty, extracurricular activities, and transportation. By 1970, Southern schools were less segregated than schools in any other region. Desegregation in the North and the West faced a different set of challenges, because large-scale white suburbanization after World War II had left too few whites in cities to achieve meaningful integration without crossing city-suburb lines. Interdistrict desegregation plans sprung up in the wake of the civil rights legislation, and segregation decreased in the North. But there was a limit to how far this movement would go. In 1974 the Supreme Court in Milliken v. Bradley overruled a metropolitan-wide desegregation plan under which children from Detroit would have integrated with children from the mostly white suburbs. Absent a court finding that suburban districts had conspired to maintain segregation in Detroit schools, the Court ruled that there was no legal reason that the suburbs of Detroit should be part of the remedy.12 This made it effectively impossible for Detroit to achieve extensive integration, since there were too few whites left in the city. Instead, in a companion case, Milliken v. Bradley II, the remedy approved by the Court required the state of Michigan to help fund remedial and compensatory education programs. Court rulings in the Milliken cases, combined with continuing outmigration from

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary cities to suburbs by the largely white middle class, effectively foreclosed the possibility of meaningful desegregation in the North and the West. In recent years, segregation has begun to increase due to continuing suburbanization of whites and because courts are no longer writing and enforcing desegregation orders. Achievement Impacts of the Desegregation Orders A number of studies in the 1960s and 1970s evaluated the effects of the desegregation orders. Reviews of this literature have pooled estimates from multiple studies to reach summary conclusions. They suggest the following: (1) white achievement is entirely unaffected by desegregation;13 (2) desegregation does not lead to an increase in black mathematics achievement; (3) desegregation does tend to raise black reading scores, but by relatively small amounts, probably between 0.06 and 0.26 standard deviations; and (4) gains are likely to be greatest among the youngest children (Cook, 1984; Schofield, 1995). These studies have been subject to a number of methodological criticisms, the most important of which is that the time frame for the majority of the studies is far too short (Crain and Mahard, 1983). Many studies estimate effects on achievement after only one year, and none estimates the effect of desegregation on the cumulative achievement of black students over a number of years (Jencks and Mayer, 1990). Another problem is that the studies rarely attend to the details of implementation, and thus the factors that create greater gains from integration in some schools than others are almost entirely unknown. Finally, it is unclear whether the effects of court-ordered plans from nearly three decades ago can be fairly generalized to today (Schofield, 1995). Other Studies of Integration Effects Beyond studies of court-ordered desegregation, a parallel literature seeks to understand whether natural variation in the level of school integration can explain differences in student achievement, controlling for family background factors. While these studies use nationally representative data for schools that are not operating under desegregation orders, they cannot overcome the possibility that selection bias has affected their findings. In this context, the selection bias issue is that black families who send their children to integrated schools may differ in unmeasured ways from black families that do not. Therefore, some of the estimated effects that studies attribute to integration might instead be the result of these unmeasured differences in families and children. For example, we know that, on average, more-advantaged blacks in nationally representative

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary data are the ones more likely to attend integrated schools. Some characteristics, such as parental ambition, are not accounted for in the research. Therefore, the positive effect of integration is likely to be overestimated if more ambitious black parents are the ones more likely to integrate (which seems likely). With this caveat in mind, Jencks and Mayer (1990) in their review of the literature on the racial composition of schools suggest that the best evidence comes from the Equality of Educational Opportunity study (Coleman, 1966) and the National Longitudinal Survey (NLS, 1972). They show (by one achievement-score measure) that blacks who attended predominantly white Northern schools during the late 1960s and early 1970s scored 0.30 standard deviations higher than blacks who attended all-black Northern schools. Phillips (2001) analyzed the same issue using the Prospects data—a nationally representative sample collected in the early 1990s to study the effect of Title I. Phillips found effects of integrated schools on black reading achievement of about 13 percent of the black-white reading gap, but she found no effect on math achievement. She speculates that the repeated findings in the literature that reading, but not math achievement, is affected by integration, suggest that black students in integrated schools benefit not so much from better instruction or more advanced curricula as from interaction with teachers and peers who speak the mainstream dialect. There has been some research on ways that integration affects other important outcomes besides test scores. The latter include rates of high school completion, college attendance and completion, and lower rates of delinquency and teen childbearing (Mayer, 1991). Authors who emphasize this longer list of impacts are careful to point out that the advantages of integration probably come less from racial mixing per se than from middle-class educational environments (Orfield and Eaton 1996:57): Unfortunately, the framing of the issue in racial terms often leads both Blacks and whites to conclude that desegregation plans assume that Black institutions are inferior and that Black gains are supposed to come from sitting next to whites in school. But the actual benefits come primarily from access to the resources and connections of institutions that have always received preferential treatment, and from the expectations, competition and values of successful middle-class educational institutions that routinely prepare students for college. Consistent with this view, there is a considerable literature that documents the reduced opportunities available in schools that have extremely high concentrations of poverty. Schools in high-poverty areas are less likely to offer college preparatory classes, and they have much higher rates of teachers’ teaching out of subject areas, greater teacher turnover, and lower test scores. Parents are less likely to be involved in school

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary affairs, less able to ensure high standards, and less likely to pressure administrators to fire or transfer bad teachers (Kahlenberg, 2001). While there has been considerable debate in the academic literature about how much these school-level factors affect achievement independent of student background, it is undeniably true that the interaction of poverty, segregation, and inadequate school resources heavily disadvantages the poor and minority students who attend high-poverty schools. Accordingly, the most striking effects of integration have been measured in case studies of interdistrict programs in which a limited number of city children are bused to suburban schools. For example, Wells and Crain (1997) found that of the students who remained in the suburban schools they studied in the St. Louis metropolitan area, approximately 50 percent graduated from high school in 1994, compared with 24 percent of all students in central-city public schools. Of the suburban stayers, 68 percent of those who graduated from high school went on to college, about two-thirds entered four-year colleges and the rest two-year colleges. Of the much smaller proportion who graduated from city schools, about 50 percent went to college, with one-third of those attending four-year institutions. Rosenbaum’s (1995; Rosenbaum et al., 1993) study of the Gautreaux program concerned a semirandomized program comparing families that moved to the Chicago suburbs with those who moved to other urban locations. Rosenbaum found greatly increased educational outcomes among suburban movers. Specifically, suburban students (who experienced both residential and school integration) were four times less likely to drop out of school, more than twice as likely to attend college, and almost seven times more likely to attend four-year colleges compared with city students (Rosenbaum et al., 1993:1533). Unfortunately, there are methodological problems with both the St. Louis and the Chicago studies, so their findings are far from definitive. The Wells and Crain study compares the students who stay in suburban schools with mean values for city public schoolchildren, and there is substantial reason to think that this might be a source of selection bias. The Rosenbaum study may also suffer from selection bias, because the response rate for those whom they followed up was fairly low, raising the risk of self-selection. With a more robust study design, the federally sponsored residential mobility program Moving To Opportunity (MTO) began operating in 1994 in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Qualified households were low-income families with children living in public housing or Section 8 project-based housing in selected high-poverty census tracts. Families who volunteered were assigned randomly to one of three groups. The experimental group was offered rental subsidies that could be used only for private-market housing in census tracts with 1990

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary standard levels of achievement among all groups of students. There are active debates under way about how to improve instruction. Some favor an emphasis on attracting more talent to the teaching profession (Ballou and Podgursky, 1999), while others work to refine teacher training and professional development (Darling-Hammond and Ball, 1998). We believe that both emphases are important to pursue and potentially quite consequential. CONCLUSION It seems clear that the nation’s future depends fundamentally on the degree to which schools and communities can raise skill levels among children from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Achievement disparities among today’s students foreshadow socioeconomic disparities among tomorrow’s families. Large socioeconomic disparities among families are morally objectionable and politically dangerous for the future of a society. As we stated in the introduction, the United States has achieved substantial progress in narrowing gaps among racial groups since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. At the same time, there have been missed opportunities and the gaps remain large. Integration came too slowly and then produced fewer benefits than it should have. Head Start failed to produce as many lasting benefits as it would have if the schools to which graduates matriculated had more often been strong enough to sustain the gains. Title I has been a disappointment, but still has lots of potential. Class size effects are only now beginning to be understood, although they might have been many years ago if there had been more support for experimental research in education. Small classes on the order of 15 students per classroom seem to produce benefits for black children in kindergarten and 1st grade. We ought to be acting on this knowledge while we await better evidence for later grades. In addition, we need much more information about which types of teacher training and professional development regimes produce the best outcomes for the children that trainees end up teaching. The fact that such information has not been developed using high-quality research standards and then widely shared represents an extremely important set of missed opportunities. Examples of underachieved policy potential constitute a very long list, including examples in the current standards movement, which this paper has not addressed (see Ravitch, 2001). However, the nation’s habit of missing opportunities to improve educational outcomes need not continue to such a degree. Recent assertions by political leaders regarding the need for more research-based practices and policy decisions are encouraging, especially if there is a focus on

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary improving classroom practices complemented by results-based accountability. If practitioners, political leaders, and researchers can make real the promise of current-day public discourse about the need to provide a high-quality education to all children, then the next 50 years may be more successful at finishing the long-term journey along which Brown v. Board of Education was a key milestone. We are guardedly optimistic and ready to work with others in getting it done. Other chapters in this volume describe some promising approaches to instructional improvement and thereby offer reasons to be hopeful. NOTES 1.   We are grateful to Alexandra (Sandy) Wigdor of the National Research Council for proposing that we should write this paper and to Timothy Ready, David Grissmer, Sara Stoutland and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. 2.   By the time that young people are age 23, the relationship of hourly earnings to scores is clearly evident even within racial groups. This statement is based on our analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979 cohort). It is a nationally representative sample of roughly 12,000 youth who were ages 14 to 21 in 1979. Ninety-five percent of the sample took the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) in 1980. See Ferguson (1995) for a discussion of the relationship of AFQT scores to earnings disparities both within and among racial groups, even after taking years of schooling and several family background measures into account. 3.   The baseline date here for Hispanics is 1975 because they were not separately identified in NAEP reports before 1975. 4.   Ferguson (2001b) has explored some possible reasons. 5.   Of course, there are also large disparities within each group. And, there are many whites and Asians who do poorly and there are many blacks and Latinos who do quite well. 6.   Southern whites were not ready to share their schools. Immediately following the decision, the Court provided for a “cooling off” period. As reported in the Atlanta Constitution Daily Newspaper on May 18, 1954, “Not until next autumn will [the Court] even begin to hear arguments from the attorneys general of the 17 states involved on how to implement the ruling. . . . It is not time to indulge the demagogues on either side nor to listen to those who always are ready to incite violence and hate.” An article in the Jackson Mississippi Daily News was less open-minded. Entitled, “Bloodstains on White Marble Steps,” it proclaimed, “Human blood may stain southern soil in many places because of this decision, but the dark red stains of that blood will be in the marble steps of the United States Supreme Court building. White and Negro children in the same schools will lead to miscegenation. Miscegenation leads to mixed marriages and mixed marriages lead to mongrelization of the human race.” 7.   The impact of the finance cases on achievement has not been extensively studied and would be difficult to estimate with much accuracy. 8.   Farkas and Hall believe that well-trained tutors for students in the early elementary grades would be a much more efficient alternative use for Title I funds. Farkas and his associates have developed such a program, called Reading One-on-One. It has shown positive results and its designers have been frustrated at times by the refusal of some schools to adopt it, even where existing uses of Title I funds are clearly inefficient and ineffective.

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary 9.   Boozer and Rouse (1995) suggest that the data may be hiding remaining differences, if black and white students are in different types of classes. They point out that for each type of class, blacks may still on average be in larger classes. 10.   Nowhere are they more apparent than in the blueprint entitled “No Child Left Behind,” which President George W. Bush has introduced as a framework for making education the cornerstone of his administration. Key from the perspective of this paper are proposals to hold schools accountable for the achievement of every group. For example, states will receive incentives from the Bush administration to test every child annually in grades 3 through 8 and to require schools to report results separately by race, gender, English language proficiency, disability, and socioeconomic status. 11.   In its Ruling on Relief issued on May 31, 1955, the Court wrote, “Traditionally, equity has been characterized by a practical flexibility in shaping its remedies and by a facility for adjusting and reconciling public and private needs.” In judging whether states were moving “with all deliberate speed” to implement the ruling, the district courts were advised to consider a number of factors. These included “problems related to administration, arising from the physical condition of the school plant, the school transportation system, personnel, revision of school districts and attendance areas into compact units to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis, and revision of local laws and regulations which may be necessary in solving the foregoing problems.” 12.   However, Orfield and Yun (1999) point out that there were “findings of intentional discrimination by both state and local officials, which intensified segregation in the metropolitan area.” 13.   Crain and Mahard (1978) say that all the studies agree on this point. However, Jencks and Mayer (1990) argue, on the basis of a reanalysis of the Coleman et al. (1966) data, that being in a more white school may have a positive effect on white students. 14.   This discussion of tracking and ability grouping draws heavily on an expanded discussion in Ferguson (1998b). 15.   For example, we often hear anecdotal reports about minority youth who forgo advanced courses because they would be one of only a few black or Hispanic students in the classroom (Fordham, 1996; Ferguson, 2001a). Initiatives to provide supports and incentives for students to take more advanced courses are high on the agenda of many schools and experience with them is developing. Efforts that provide tutorial assistance to help minority students move to more advanced levels in groups, rather than as individuals, are among the most promising. 16.   See Kulik (1992) for a summary of how ability grouping has gone in and out of favor at various times during the 20th century. 17.   The review in Ferguson (1998a, 1998b) finds generally that teachers have similar expectations of black and white students who have similar past patterns of performance. Ferguson (1998a) points out, however, that this says nothing about whether there are similar expectations (and treatment) of black and white students who have similar levels of latent, unexpressed potential. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that blacks and other relatively disadvantaged groups have past patterns of performance that understate their latent potential by larger margins than other, higher-performing groups. 18.   See Tables 9-4 and 9-5 of Ferguson (1998b) for tabulations of effect size estimates from Kulik’s study. 19.   Any residual bias in placements seems more related to socioeconomic status than to race and more prevalent in the postelementary years. More highly educated parents push harder to get their children into higher ability sections (see references in Ferguson, 1998b, and in footnote below.) They may also have more wherewithal to support their children’s success in such sections if it turns out that they struggle.

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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary 20.   Currently, educators seem to be paying a great deal of attention to “differentiated instruction” as a collection of ways to accommodate different interests and proficiencies in the same classroom. The September 2000 issue of Educational Leadership (58:1) is dedicated to the topic of differentiated instruction. The future may bring random assignment studies that rigorously establish the effectiveness of these approaches. 21.   There is a more extensive discussion of these issues and additional references in Ferguson (1998a, 1998b). 22.   For ability grouping at the elementary school level, see Sorensen and Hallinan (1984), Pallas et al. (1994), Dreeben and Gamoran (1986), and Haller (1985). For tracking at the middle or high school level, see Garet and Delaney (1988), Gamoran and Mare (1989), and Argys et al. (1996). Using the nationally representative data set High School and Beyond, Lee and Bryk (1988) found no residual racial difference in course taking during the early 1980s after accounting for academic background and previous test scores. Also, Loveless (1998), using the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), which began with 8th graders in 1988 and followed them for several years afterward, reports that “once test scores are taken into account, a student’s race has no bearing on track assignment.” 23.   Hedges et al. interpret their findings to mean that resources are used productively in most schools, but individual studies do not have enough statistical power to establish this using the technique of vote counting. Conversely, Hanushek asserts that what Hedges et al. have answered is the uninteresting question of whether resources “might matter somewhere.” He points out that their results would be what they are even if resources were used effectively only in a small minority of schools—but a larger number than would occur merely by chance—which Hanushek believes is closer to the truth. 24.   The data are often inadequate and the quality of available studies is variable. Typically, studies cannot compensate adequately for the fact that causation is sometimes reversed: districts may aim for smaller classes at schools where children are performing poorly, just as individual schools provide smaller classes for children whose past and expected levels of performance are low. Hence, classes are sometimes smaller precisely because the children in them have special needs for more individualized attention. Any tendency for lower class sizes to produce higher achievement can be obscured by this type of reverse causation, by data that are inadequate in other ways, and by the poor quality of many available studies. 25.   Note that even these large classes may be smaller than the levels at which large class sizes harm performance the most. Some studies, such as Ferguson (1991) and Glass and Smith (1979), suggest that class size may have threshold effects. The existence of such effects has not been widely explored, however, and, like the rest of the literature on education production functions, problems with having the appropriate data make it difficult to be certain regarding the levels at which such thresholds might occur. Perhaps a more dependable method is to ask teachers. Repeated surveys over the years by the Educational Research Service have found that teachers report class size shifts from a minor to a more important problem at the point of 23 or 24 students per class (see Robinson and Wittebods, 1986). If this is the case, then the Tennessee experiment may have missed some of the effect. 26.   See Lazear (1999) for a theoretical discussion about how the optimal class size depends on the probability of disruptions. If predominantly black schools are more likely to have classroom disruptions than predominantly white schools, perhaps because children are less well behaved or because they ask more questions, then Lazear’s analysis suggests that the optimal class size will be smaller. 27.   That higher test scores predict higher future earnings is a standard finding. See, for example, Johnson and Neal (1998).

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