A better 'striver' theory

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Paleoliberals are smitten with a particularly irritating and insulting argument about black parents that leave traditional district schools for charter schools. When students from these families do better there is a magical answer that explains away their success while suggesting moral uprightness for "real public schools." I call it the Better Parent Theory (BPT).

Without any evidence whatsoever, the paleosliberals claim parents selecting high performing, low-income, very black schools are more motivated and more involved simply because they "choose" an option other than district schools. According to BPT, giving school choice to poor parents skims the "strivers," those kids who have Paul Tough-ian "resilience" and "grit," from the top of the poverty heap. Further, this supposed creaming leaves behind the feeble kids with feeble parents that overtax and ruin the district school system.

BPT is an uncharacteristically savage argument for any liberal to make because it basically requires us to believe that only smart, motivated, involved poor black parents leave district schools when given the option. Conversely, it tell us the opposite about the majority of poor black parents that are "left behind."  Are they dumb and unmotivated as exampled, ironically,  by their decision to enroll their children in district schools?

Context is important in these issues. The casting is important. We have to ask who is the proponent of BPT and who is the subject? In doing so, we see a white woman like Diane Ravitch and her legion of Twitterers proposing a concept disparaging a mostly working class and underclass group of black mothers. Most of us should see there is something very wrong with allowing that illiberal bell to continue ringing.

Justice, then, is turning tables on aggressors. If BPT is a white female proffered assessment of urban black mothers, what would be the just reverse?

Maybe we should consider a different theory, one I'll call Better White Woman Theory (BWWT).

In his book "Same thing over and over: how school reformers get stuck in yesterday's ideas" Frederick Hess argues that prior to the 1960's teacher recruitment in public education was predicated on the assumption of a continuous supply of high-achieving, college educated (white) women. They were relatively abundant and readily available to teach because other occupations were closed to them. Sexual segregation of the American workforce created a boon for school systems in need of talented teachers because talented woman had few options.

The challenge to occupational sexism in the U.S. was a historical upside for woman overall, but it was less positive for quality in the teaching profession. The happy consequence of the white woman's liberation movement was that striving white women moved. They became doctors, lawyers, marketing directors, managers, executives, and an assortment of other high-level titles.

In short, other occupations creamed off the motivated, smart white women and left behind the underachievers. Today's talented and college educated white women have a world of options, and those with the highest academic achievement are not trapped into teaching.

Consider these numbers from the Department of Labor illustrating female dominance in other occupations:

Registered nurses………………………………………………………91.1 %

Medical and health services managers…………………………72.5

Psychologists……………………………………………………………66.7

Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents……………66.1

Education administrators……………………………………………63.0

Advertising and promotions managers……………………… 61.1

Accountants and auditors……………………………………… 60.1

Public relations managers………………………………………… 60.0

Insurance underwriters…………………………………………… 59.3

Medical scientists…………………………………………………… 53.7

Financial managers………………………………………………… 53.2

The downside of an end to segregation is that people have choices, and today high achieving women enter colleges of education less than before. Unfortunately, the ones that do enter have lower SATs and colleges of education have notoriously low standards and high grade inflation.

According to" Cory Koedel "... a sizable fraction of the workforce in the education sector is trained in education departments where evaluation standards are astonishingly low.

The message here: the teacher workforce, absent the strivers that were creamed away by a new system of occupational choice, is in trouble.

Authors of a ConnCAN blog post see the significant consequences of low standards and grade inflation in education colleges:

First, lower standards for high marks lead to students in these programs exerting less effort in their class work than if standards were more rigorous. Secondly, low standards in education departments can perpetuate a culture of low standards for educators after they graduate, which is partially reflected by current evaluation systems that deem 98 percent of teachers to be “effective.”

Given what we know about the need for high quality teachers, especially in classrooms with low performing students in failing schools, it would seem that addressing BWWT is an order of magnitude greater in importance that navel gazing about BPT.

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