Some students are more equal than others

The Sequester’s dirty upside.  

For all the hubbub last year about the sequester’s detrimental cuts to education and particularly financial aid, surprisingly little is being said as the schoolyear approaches. Perhaps that’s because what sounded like horrible news for America’s college-bound youth turns out to be good news for the majority of them, at least when it comes to getting admitted to college in the first place.

Upper-middle income parents (you know yourself as ‘middle class’) needn’t worry about the cuts: Your kid will still be admitted to, and enroll in, the college of her dreams, because you’ll likely find a way to afford it even without as much financial aid. In fact, cutting programs that help low-income students prepare for and apply to college is actually a helpful blow to your daughter’s competition.

Because in the case of sequestration, with its so-called ‘equal cuts’ across the board, some students are more equal than others.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.

It starts with preschool

The achievement gap between America’s rich kids and poor kids is getting worse—the latter need preschool, too.

This year at Stanford, a professor in the Graduate school of education discovered something startling: Contrary to the assumption that America’s youth, rich or poor, have increasingly egalitarian access to good education, Sean Reardon found education in America is actually becoming more unequal. The achievement gap on standardized test scores between wealthy students and poor ones increased by 40 percent over the last 30 years. This gap continues — or grows even more pronounced —when it comes to college. Reardon found that 15 percent of upper-income American high school graduates in 2004 went on to a ‘highly selective’ four-year college, whereas only 5 percent of middle-income graduates, and 2 percent of low-income graduates did.

A natural reaction by policymakers to this fact is to look for ways to get these qualified, lower-income high school graduates to apply to and enroll in college at higher rates (story on that coming next week). But it turns out this sort of approach is merely patchwork: “The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students,” discovered Reardon.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.

Diversity shouldn’t be just for the privileged.

While we focus on diversifying America’s colleges, a New York high school student may never encounter a classmate of another race.

Today in America, two-fifths of whites but only one-fifth of blacks and about one-tenth of Hispanics hold a college degree. Eight percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics don’t even graduate from high school, compared with 5 percent of whites. Three-quarters of those students admitted to America’s most selective colleges come from the richest quarter of the population; only 3 percent come from the bottom quarter. Meanwhile, Americans with a college degree earn 1.5 times the median income, more than those with just a high school diploma, and more than twice as much as those who dropped out of high school altogether.

Even more startling: These disparities are getting worse. After all the progress made toward racial equality since the time of slavery, through the civil rights era and Brown v. the Board of Education, through today, is America resigning itself to let its poorest, who are disproportionally black and Hispanic, live an existence that is no longer separate, but still unequal?

The oft-cited notion of America being an educational meritocracy, in which any student, rich or poor, black or white, has an equal opportunity to advance herself, is of course a myth. But now, the tools that have been created over the past half-century to slowly create a more egalitarian reality are failing.

Read the  story at Medium.

Why the Supreme Court got Affirmative Action right (and what the pundits missed)

Legal experts are stunned by the ruling that colleges must exhaust all other options for diversity before using race. They shouldn’t be. 

By Jacob Kushner

If you followed news coverage leading up the Fisher v. Texas case decided Monday by the US Supreme Court, you may well have concluded that the Court was on the verge of ending affirmative action in higher education, forever.

MSNBC’s “The Cycle” co-host Touré said in November that if the court ruled against affirmative action, “the entire leadership of America would become entirely white.”

Even the man who led the 2003 Supreme Court case that upheld race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan wanted you to believe that, if the present Court had overturned that precedent, it would have meant the end of racial diversity in higher education.

“It is too easy to think that striving for racial and ethnic diversity is such a powerful part of our culture that surely it will continue. But if the Supreme Court were to declare it unconstitutional, then it will not, and should not, continue,” Lee Bollinger, now President of Columbia University, told Columbia Magazine last year.

So it must have surprised Bollinger when the Court threw a curveball this week announcing it would send the case back to a lower court to determine if the University of Texas had considered race only after exhausting all its other options for diversifying the college.

Those familiar with the rich case history on affirmative action in America shouldn’t be surprised: there was no logical reason to believe that the affirmative action debate was anywhere near over.

Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.