Many can agree that taking rigorous college-preparatory courses in high school is necessary to successfully transition into college and excel in upper-division courses. So, it’s clear that placing African American, Hispanic, and Native American students in general education/vocational education program that offer fewer courses in important areas, such as English, mathematics, and science, is doing a great disservice to them – it prevents them from reaching their full potential.
That is to say, when there are a limited number of teachers who can teach the advanced courses, tracking tends to occur – in part because good teaching is a scarce resource, and thus must be allocated. Teachers who are judged to be the most competent and experienced are assigned to the top tracks that consists of the most advantaged students while students in the lower tracks are left with the teachers who steer away from implementing a rich, challenging curricula in their instruction (Murnane and Steele). A disproportionate number of low-income, minority students are placed in the lowest tracks, which prevents them from learning necessary skills that will be of service to them in the future. Teacher interaction with students in lower track classes is less motivating, less supportive, and less demanding of higher-order reasoning, which dissuades students to take on new challenges. Without a good instructor there to guide the students in the right direction, these students are left to be mediocre. They become underachievers and exhibit behavioral problems due to boredom and disengagement, which compromises their career goals and potential.
Furthermore, institutional racism permeates every aspect of our education system and society. Students of color routinely face bias in school: they are disciplined more severely, less likely to be identified as gifted and have limited access to opportunities and resources. Given the abundance of negative stereotypes that situate Black youth as dangerous and threatening to society, racial discrimination is a common experience for many minority students. Teachers are more likely to have preconceived negative notions about ethnic minority students, scrutinizing their classroom behaviors, over white students. Moreover, black students indicate a perceived difference in teachers’ expectancy beliefs with regard to the students’ academic performance. According to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, white teachers expect significantly less academic success from black students than do black teachers. White teachers are almost 40% less likely to believe that their black students will graduate high school, and this finding substantiates the racial biases at play. This is an important finding as expectations often become self-fulfilling prophecies. The low expectations could hamper the learning and performance of the student and will heavily weigh into how the student feels about himself and his future.
Closing the racial achievement gap has posed a persistent challenge for educators. There is a lot of debate as to what causes the racial achievement gap. Some people believe that the gap in test scores is not reflective of race, but rather it is due to the socio-economic status of the students’ families. The idea is that students from poor backgrounds do not have the financial resources to compete with other students from families that are more well-off; hence the real gap is between the different social classes. However, what many fail to recognize is that a lot of poverty is caused by race. There is certainly an element of racism in our society that continues to perpetuate the racial achievement gap. It explains why affirmative action laws were instituted by the government to protect opportunities likely to evaporate if the affirmative obligation to act fairly ceases to exist.
That is to say, from the perspective of Americans who believe that the vestiges of discrimination vanished, affirmative action gives minorities an unfair advantage. To advocate that racism is no longer prevalent in the United States would mean that minorities are paid fairly and are equally as likely to advance in their education/career as the members of the majority – regrettably, this just isn’t the case. The response to elite colleges and universities implementing affirmative action in their admission cycles is mixed; however, most can agree that the practice promotes diversity and ensures those who are otherwise shut out from the American postsecondary system have the chance to earn a quality degree.
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