Middle Tennessee’s big program: not enough blacks and Hispanics in AP classes

Robert C. writes from Nashville:

Thought you would enjoy this anguished discussion in The Tennessean of why black science and math high school scores remain unchanged, despite twenty years of effort in Wilson County, next to Nashville. Once Vanderbilt professor Donna Ford can use a conclusion as a premise, “All races are equal in ability and intelligence,” and any disagreement with that idea is enough to get you tenure challenged, it becomes perfectly clear that some other reason, any other reason, must be the the answer. How about … “low expectations,” which she declares blacks have of themselves, but which whites are forbidden to have about blacks.

In addition to “low expectations,” Ford offers these other reasons why so few blacks take AP courses:

- black students are not aware of the option they have, to take science and math courses;

- blacks are perceived by whites as not being up to the work, and blacks are affected by this perception and so become discouraged;

- blacks do not see other blacks taking science and math courses.

There may be an Auster law in here somewhere!

Here is the article. Below the article I’ve copied a Lucianne.com discussion, in order to see how the mainstream conservatives deal with the issue of the racial gap. Some of the L-dotters repeat standard liberal slogans. Others speak the truth. See in particular commenter No. 37, who puts the issue bracingly. The denial of the obvious truth is so systematic, that perhaps only language like that of this commenter can penetrate it.

VFR comments begin here.

AP classrooms reveal a racial divide in Middle TN
Minorities are rare sight in some of area’s top classes
by Julie Hubbard, The Tennessean

In Rutherford County, Blackman High School’s physics classes were missing something.


In Wilson County, not one black high-school student took an advanced-level math, science or foreign-language class during the 2009-10 school year.

Things were slightly better in Williamson County, where 12 percent of black high-school students took Advanced Placement classes compared with 27 percent of white students.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights tracked minority student trends at more than 72,000 schools in 2009-10, including those in Middle Tennessee. Its report shows many of the region’s minorities are in classrooms led by inexperienced teachers, and relatively few of those students seek out high-level courses.

The report calls on schools to make changes and offer equity to low-income and minority children, improving their chances of completing high school and college.

But local observers say doing so has been a challenge for decades.

“I’ve been studying this since 1991, and the issues are almost the same in 2011 as they were 20 years ago,” said Donna Ford, a Vanderbilt University professor who researches underrepresentation of minorities in gifted and Advanced Placement programs. “There are a number of barriers … Low expectations is number one.”

Those who study the trends say minority students aren’t aware of their options, perceived as not able to tackle the work or don’t sign up because they don’t see students like themselves in those classes.

The exception are Asians, who represent a small number of students in the region but disproportionately take advanced-level classes, both in Middle Tennessee and nationally. They’re generally excluded from conversations about access to better education for minorities.

The report also said Limited English Proficient students—foreign-language speakers who make up 6 percent of the U.S. high school population—represent 15 percent of students who finish high school with algebra as their most challenging math course.

“The truth is, these data paint a portrait of a sad truth in America’s schools,” said Russlynn Ali, the office’s assistant secretary for civil rights. “The promise of fundamental fairness hasn’t reached full groups of students that will need the opportunity to succeed to get out of poverty and to ensure their dreams come true.”

Students pushed to aim higher

In Rutherford County, no black or Hispanic students took any of Siegel High School’s five calculus classes in 2009-10.

Districtwide, 4 percent of black high school students took Advanced Placement courses, compared with 11 percent of white students.

“Obviously, in those AP classes, you have to have the ability to do it, and we have many minorities who (do), and counselors always try to challenge and encourage kids of all colors to get into those classes,” Rutherford County’s Director of Schools Harry Gill said.

Some school officials are trying to push all students into at least one advanced level course. [LA replies: That’s mad. That’s proof that we’re living in an insane country. Doing AP work is contingent on the ability to do AP work. Someone with a 100 IQ does not have that ability, let alone someone with an 85 IQ or a 75 IQ. But these schools want all students, many of whom have 85 or 75 IQs, to take an AP course.]

“We really push to try just one AP course, even if it is out of the student’s comfort zone,” Blackman High Principal Gail Vick said. [LA replies: it’s not just out of their comfort zone, Miss Vick, it’s out of their ability zone. Which is why it’s out of their comfort zone. You’re an educator, and you don’t know that? Would we hand over our automobiles to be repaired by people who think that cars move according to magic and wish fulfillment? But that’s what we’ve done with our schools. There is one certain result of pushing blacks and nonwhite Hispanics into AP classes: the AP classes will cease to be AP classes.]

Her school also holds a recruitment night to encourage students to take advanced-level courses, hoping to break the trend of no minority students taking physics.

In Metro Nashville,14 percent of black high school students and 12 percent of Hispanic students took advanced classes, compared with 24 percent of white students. Minorities are about two-thirds of the district’s high school students.

Walter Searcy, chairman of the state NAACP legal redress committee, said he’s noticing more awareness of minority student achievement, but those students’ challenges begin long before they face the choice of taking advanced classes.

“There are so many other issues regarding our children that seemingly are more basic and fundamental, and they take much more of our time, like suspension rates and how do we keep them in school, let alone excel,” he said.

Metro’s minority students generally finish Algebra I later in high school. The report showed 71 percent of black students and 20 percent of white students took it in 11th and 12th grades.

The district offers its AVID program, which aims to close the achievement gap, at 12 high schools and three middle schools to help middle-of-the-road students with note-taking and organization with the goal of success in higher-level courses.

“We are aware of the gap, and we are working to address it,” said Jay Steele, Metro’s associate superintendent for high schools.

Metro offers open enrollment into Advanced Placement courses and, when capable minority students don’t enroll, administrators will sign them up.

“A lot of times, we didn’t make course placement a choice … we assigned them in rigorous classes,” said Tony Majors, the district’s assistant superintendent for student services and former Glencliff High principal.

Minority schools face teacher gap

Majority-minority schools in Nashville and elsewhere also tend to hire less-experienced teachers.

At Glencliff, where students speak 60 languages, 30 percent of teachers have one or two years of experience.

At Hillsboro High School in wealthy Green Hills, the figure is 8 percent.

At Brentwood High School in Williamson County, it’s 3 percent.

Cesar Ovalle, a Latino teen who graduated from Glencliff this year, said he received little encouragement to take advanced classes.

“I think sometimes you have easy teachers and get used to easy teachers, and are expected to do less,” he said.

Some veteran teachers choose not to work in urban or “hard-to-staff” schools, so it can be harder to recruit experienced ones, Majors said.

“Understandably, there are additional demands,” he said, but that doesn’t mean new teachers aren’t good.

Metro school officials have offered to pay bonuses for the first time this school year to attract and retain veteran teachers at those schools.

Contact Julie Hubbard at 615-726-5964 or jshubbard@tennessean.com.

Here, for a sample of mainstream Republican/conservative opionion on the subject, are comments at Lucianne.com on this article:

Reply 1—Posted by: zenith, 7/19/2011 1:59:35 PM

The real truth here is that there has been a two-tiered system of education in virtually every school from elementary on. In elementary in our district, it’s based on ‘other giftedness’ virtually qualifying any student they want, allowing them to have a racial quota and therefore escape the old all white and asian program that drew attention in the 80’s. In secondary school, it’s AP or IB.

Recently a local high school, sensitive to the fact that blacks were underrepresented in the AP program, put everyone in it. You have to opt out of the preferred instruction. Novel idea. Who is complaining?

Parents of the original IB kids who claim it’s being dumbed down. The school pulls out statistics and evidence saying it is not but they really don’t like the fact that their kids are not so special anymore. It matches my experience with the parents in elementary. They want preference and not just different, but much much better.

Reply 2—Posted by: US Veteran, 7/19/2011 2:00:14 PM

I guess we’ll just have to lower the grading curve for these people.

again …

Reply 3—Posted by: mackrand, 7/19/2011 2:02:37 PM

At least that shows pragmatic thinking. Why take an advanced class when you know you won’t successfully complete it? And when you know you will never use the knowledge.

Reply 4—Posted by: fireman28, 7/19/2011 2:04:49 PM

FTA—“I’ve been studying this since 1991, and the issues are almost the same in 2011 as they were 20 years ago,” said Donna Ford, a Vanderbilt University professor who researches underrepresentation of minorities in gifted and Advanced Placement programs. “There are a number of barriers … Low expectations is number one.”

See the Professor’s last sentence. Low expectations has not been a phenom just for the past 10 years.

Remember, IQ is a bell shaped curve; therefore, at least 20% of kids in any group have the capability to be all A students.

Ever since the Great Society, libs think throwing more money at it is the answer. Whereas, the real answer is to have minority kids in kindergarten learn to set their expectation way higher. [LA replies: Thank you, George W. Bush.]

Reply 5—Posted by: NorthernDog, 7/19/2011 2:05:21 PM

FTA: minority students aren’t aware of their options, perceived as not able to tackle the work or don’t sign up because they don’t see students like themselves in those classes.

The exception are Asians, who represent a small number of students in the region but disproportionately take advanced-level classes

So why are Asian students ”over represented” in the AP classes? The very excuses they make for some students are debunked by the results of others.

Reply 6—Posted by: formerNYer, 7/19/2011 2:06:43 PM

My son took many of the AP classes in Williamson Cty, TN; he is now an honor student in college with a 3.8 in chemistry, starting Graduate school in Sept.

he also goes to a traditionally minority univ. here in Nashville, he says there are just a few black students in the science dept. & they are women.

Reply 7—Posted by: snowoutlaw, 7/19/2011 2:10:42 PM

It’s a cultural thing, can’t risk acting white and uncool, just like Obama, he’s an idiot but many think he’s cool.

Reply 8—Posted by: fireman28, 7/19/2011 2:11:44 PM

An aquaintance in church just got her Specialty Degree (above a Masters); she teaches Special Ed. We discussed this topic this weekend.

Her assessment is that generally minorities come from a single parent home. Often the mothers are only 16 or so years older than the child. There is no incentive to do better. The home life is a wreck with Mom’s boyfriend trying to hit on female children.

And peer pressure is to not “act white.” High school girls are pregnant and on welfare. The cycle continues generation after generation.

Reply 9—Posted by: gramma b, 7/19/2011 2:14:25 PM

Well, the socialist answer to this problem is just to eliminate AP classes, and make all the gifted kids sit and twiddle their thumbs while the teachers struggle to help the slow kids. After all, it’s not “fair” that some kids learn ten times as much as others. We have to bring them all down to the same level.

Reply 10—Posted by: DocH, 7/19/2011 2:16:08 PM

Note that it says that in one of the schools the students speak 60 languages. They need to speak one. English.

Reply 11—Posted by: curious1, 7/19/2011 2:16:38 PM

The solution is to drop welfare, AA and any and all government handouts—including quotes in AP or any other classes. If you can’t hack it on merit, tough noogies. They are responsible for themselves, period. And they own their own success or failure, nobody else does.

Reply 12—Posted by: Attila DiMedici, 7/19/2011 2:16:56 PM

#8, you make an excellent point. Several years ago (since 2000), a liberal group did a study and they discovered that when you adjust for the children of single parents, the gap between whites and blacks disappears.

Reply 13—Posted by: jond, 7/19/2011 2:21:08 PM

The Bell Curve means no such thing, #4. It means that, within any group, measurements will cluster around a mean (maybe not the right statistical term.)

Different groups can have different means.

Academic achievement, among other things, is cultural, and appears to track race only because culture also tracks race.

There are many cultures, many “Black” cultures, many “White” cultures, and many “Yellow” cultures.

Putting a kid who can’t handle the work in an AP class is cruel, wasteful, and harmful.

Reply 14—Posted by: whyyeseyec, 7/19/2011 2:22:21 PM

Perhaps the public school administrators should bone up on Newton`s Third Law of Gravity which states: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction….

Reply 15—Posted by: jalo1951, 7/19/2011 2:34:42 PM

I work in a middle school where the students are rigorously evaluated before they are placed in advanced classes in HS. There are written tests (more than one), interviews, recommendations from teachers, parent/student interest. We do have minorities in advanced classes but a much smaller number. Affirmative action in advanced classes does not work. I have a friend whose two daughters are quite intelligent (IQ approaching 150). They were in every advanced class available. Their mother told me that the only difference than the high level classes that were offered is that they had more homework not necessarily advanced instruction.

Reply 16—Posted by: tennman, 7/19/2011 2:38:15 PM

How special that Asians are discounted since they don’t fit the preconcieved notion.

Reply 17—Posted by: Time4AR2, 7/19/2011 2:39:09 PM


This link will explain the smart fraction theory of IQ and the wealth of nations, and how some populations of people do better than others.

Reply 18—Posted by: Teleologicus, 7/19/2011 2:40:58 PM

Another example of political correctness, in this case the unexamined and undemonstrated assumptions that something called a “racial divide” exists unless arbitrary AP enrollment quotas are met. Who says that it is a law of nature that black students must be represented in the same proportion in such classes as white students or any other students? What is the proof that the lack of such representation constitutes a problem to be addressed? What is the proof that anything can, much less that it should, be done about it?

It is claimed that the problem is low expectations—but it might as easily be high or unnecessary expectations. The mania for proving that blacks are or can be “just as good” as whites, i.e. demonstrate the same aptitude for academic subjects, is a source of much grief and confusion.

What is the evidence for the claim that enrolling in an AP class in physics -or anything else- is intrinsically a good thing, or that it adds anything to the student’s prospects in life? It seems intuitively true and obvious, simple common sense. But this is only if still more unexamined assumptions are brought into play in order to justify the conclusion.

Political correctness and quota-bound approaches to education have made it all but impossible to identify and respond to the actual needs of individual students. The race mania with its arbitrary political expectations and goals has made a shambles of much public education. Instead of teaching students, the system often exists to prove some preconceived beliefs and to validate political claims.

Reply 19—Posted by: mythman, 7/19/2011 2:57:40 PM

#7 said it for me. Since one third of Black children, and their parents, believe they are going to have careers in professional sports, they don’t need to do chemistry.

Reply 20—Posted by: greggojo, 7/19/2011 2:58:04 PM

Ah yes, the time tested liberals’ recipe for minority failure:

Strip inner city schools of capable and qualified science/math teachers who are white.

Install (this happened decades ago) “people of color” in all administrative positions, even if they are illiterate.

Lower the testing standards and requirements for teachers and label existing tests as “racist”.

Applaud and put forward Black leaders who tell Black kids that studying is a “white thing”.

Fill the curriculum with easy A courses like Black Studies and Women Studies and Environmental Studies and various other complete nonsense.

Criticize learning to speak and write English grammatically as racist.

Try it, it’s worked perfectly for nearly 50 years.

Reply 21—Posted by: rarebear, 7/19/2011 3:18:13 PM

How are they going to keep those youngsters on the entitlement plantation if you prepare them to think for themselves?

Reply 22—Posted by: Evocatus, 7/19/2011 3:24:25 PM

If the students can do the work, put them in the advanced class. If the students cannot do the work, do not put them in the advanced class. Period. Done Here. Why is this even open to discussion?

Reply 23—Posted by: logiclogger, 7/19/2011 3:36:31 PM

What is the percentage of AP Students that play varsity sports? We have to get that number increased pronto!!

Reply 24—Posted by: Deedo, 7/19/2011 3:40:36 PM

This article demonstrates the madness of liberalism at every level. First, the government looked at 72,000 schools (!) to look for racial imbalances at every level of education. This is over and above the States doing the exact same thing, which is over and above the cities and towns themselves doing the exact same thing. Talk about burning barrels of cash in waste.

So from among the 72,000 schools they find a pocket of schools that are outliers from the average. Liberals think that an outlier must be proof that something is wrong there, but for me, lack of outliers from such a large sampling would be far more alarming. So, focusing on the outlier, with very vocal pronouncements that the bureaucracy is going to fix the outlier, they justify their bloated and completely unnecessary existence.

Reply 25—Posted by: revolution76, 7/19/2011 3:42:34 PM

There they go again. Confusing equal opportunity with equal outcome. This country will not survive the damage done by these social justice lunatics. Not once does this Liberal moron turn her spotlight on the ones responsible for the lack of minorities in AP classes. The minorities. It is always someone else’s fault. There is never any personal accountability. Thank you Liberalism for creating a worthless multitude of mindless drones who will vote us all into slavery to the LIberal government machine.

Reply 26—Posted by: ebolamadcow, 7/19/2011 3:49:37 PM

A large part of the negro community is lazy and shiftless. They are also simply not as intelligent. There; said; get over it. Stop putting white expectations on a race that, by and large, cannot keep up. Stop trying to find a cultural solution for a genetic problem. And for God’s sake, stop calling it racism.

Reply 27—Posted by: linda ann, 7/19/2011 3:50:26 PM

In Rutherford County, no black or Hispanic students took any of Siegel High School’s five calculus classes in 2009-10.—English is their second language.

Reply 28—Posted by: Teleologicus, 7/19/2011 3:57:58 PM

The simplistic approach advocated by #22 does not yield politically acceptable results. Whenever students are evaluated on the basis of objective criteria, the performance of certain groups does not come out the way it is supposed to come out. This has long been a thorn in the side of liberals.

Large sectors of the public educational establishment are devoted, not to education per se, but to proving that everybody is just as good as everybody else, that everyone is a winner, and that there are no losers. It is important that students not suffer irreparable harm to their self-esteem by failing or even coming out second best. Everyone must succeed and everyone must come out in first place. It is vitally important that blacks are shown to be just as smart and capable as whites and others.

This poses a number of difficulties for those responsible for the demonstration project called public education. Eliminating competition, abolishing singular “winnership” and declaring that everyone is a winner, inflating grades, and cheating on standardized tests are partial solutions, but more is need to achieve success.

The first thing that is needed is more money for education. Lots and lots more money money.

The solution to the “racial divide” in AP classes is perfectly obvious and should be implemented at once. The solution is to abolish the AP classes. No AP classes, no “racial divide.”

Reply 29—Posted by: brownshoepogue, 7/19/2011 4:02:22 PM

On a related topic some time ago, an L poster opined: Life is about choices, some students are motivated to go to the library to study challenging subjects such as science or math. Other students are motivated to go to the gym and practice challenging sports such as football or basketball.

IMO: The former is better equipped to be a success in the real world of making a living and being a tax contributor. The latter, is not so well positioned for success, and not as productive as a tax contributor.

Reply 30—Posted by: Sherlock, 7/19/2011 4:27:52 PM

Stop providing taxpayer befits to people who do not want to provide for themselves, stop paying people for their continuing bad behavior, stop letting the teenagers, any color ‘get’ on welfare under the age of 18 just because they didn`t have sense enough to keep their legs crossed-let the lazy low-down dad and mom PAY for their kids bad behavior and stop thinking that YOU are the victim and its everyone else s job to take care of you. Maybe if the schools had lessons in car jacking, robbery, raping, pimping, stealing, lock-pickings and drug selling, than maybe …

Reply 31—Posted by: Cedarina, 7/19/2011 4:30:48 PM

Well, what a surprise! The Bell curve at work, right?

Reply 32—Posted by: BoeufRiver, 7/19/2011 5:03:48 PM

My spouse who has 30+ years experience in secondary ed.(in the classroom, not admin) sees everyday the black and Mexican resistance to being educated. In her on-level(not AP) classes, the minorities refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance and they refuse to participate in the educational process and no educational theories of motivation have proven to be successful: they do not want the ‘white man’s” education, period!

Those in her AP classes are more involved and participate generally in the same vein as her white students!

The liberal poison of political correctness is wasting billions of dollars to try to force equal outcomes not equal opportunities!

Reply 33—Posted by: ClangClang, 7/19/2011 5:37:12 PM

IQ is the dominant factor in determining whether you can master an AP class. IQ is genetic, passed from parents to child. Blacks and Latinos, on average, have lower IQs than Whites and Asians.

Overall classroom achievement has little to do with bad teachers, culture, expectations, money or any of the hundreds of excuses for the “racial divide” propagated by the Left over the last century. Blacks and Latinos cannot compete with Whites and Asians in the classroom because of their genomes. It’s that simple.

The important implication is that as our country becomes more “diverse,” we will become poorer as less productive people come to dominate our demographics. You may not think this effects you, but the current recession was caused by the very same hand wringing that is shown in this article.

Reply 34—Posted by: jond, 7/19/2011 5:53:54 PM

Two things about AP classes:

1) If a college accepts them, they are essentially giving credit for free. I’m not sure why they do that, but an ambitions kid who starts as a freshman with credit for 5 or 6 AP courses has saved a bundle.

2) If the AP course is in an area that you intend to specialize in, retake the course in college. The quality varies, and some courses are a lot better than standard, but, especially in the hard sciences, they often aren’t up to college standards.

Reply 35—Posted by: zenith, 7/19/2011 5:53:57 PM

It isn’t IQ. Really, educational levels of instruction aren’t so high that a kid with a middling intellect can’t pass with proper instruction.

It isn’t a color, it’s a culture, it’s an attitude, it’s a defense against looking white, it’s an excuse for labeling teachers and schools as biased.

It’s not I Q and I do not believe in the bell curve; I’ve taught too many highly intelligent, non academic minorities in my classroom. Some do just enough to get by, and then they are constantly in transition—parent to parent, house to apartment—school to school. The culture is against their academic achievement but some persist and some are resilient.

Reply 36—Posted by: kanphil, 7/19/2011 5:59:13 PM

Math. Chemistry. Physics. Those are hard. Black youth have been taught that they don’t have to do hard.

Reply 37—Posted by: subguru, 7/19/2011 6:05:21 PM

From the article: The exception are Asians, who represent a small number of students in the region but disproportionately take advanced-level classes.


Look, I’m sorry, but the majority of US black people are stupid and are not capable of taking these kinds of classes. I don’t know if it’s true for black people all over the world.

As to why they are stupid, I leave that to you. I didn’t make their brain or their background.

I would have said something different 20 years ago, but

I. give. up.

I have friends that grew up where I did, got into the same schools, good families, seemed bright, etc. and STILL couldn’t do the work on an appropriate level.

Nothing has changed and we should stop going crazy every time there is a disparity like this. We may as well get used to the fact that change on the advanced thinking level is going to take many many many generations.

Reply 38—Posted by: Teleologicus, 7/19/2011 7:31:30 PM

Guilty and clueless white liberals are responsible for most of the major problems in contemporary American society.The so-called “racial divide” is but one of many afflictions these people and their good intentions have visited upon America.

Regardless of the amply documented differences in the average IQ of various races and ethnic groups, there is absolutely no doubt that the great majority of black students in public schools are not pushed and challenged to achieve anything close to what they are capable of doing.

Grade inflation, fraudulent evaluations, social promotions, and, as we have lately seen, widespread corruption and cheating on objective assessment instruments by, of all people, the very ones responsible for and entrusted with their education, have done them a grave and reprehensible disservice. [LA replies: Oh, please. Talk about reversing cause and effect. WHY does the cheating exist? Because the students can’t do the work.]

White liberals are to blame for every bit of this. The wasted minds and ruined lives are the fault of white liberals who exploit black Americans to make themselves feel good and to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that result from facing reality and making tough choices. White liberals excuse, justify, rationalize, minimize, deny, and cover-up unacceptable performance in every venue by blacks and other minorities. This is the root of the whole problem. [LA replies: By “white liberals,” does the commenter mean, not just Democrats, but George W. Bush and the entire Republican Party and the entire conservative establishment? If he doesn’t, then he’s blind.]

- end of initial entry -

Lara S. writes:

I am a white woman. I have found that with few exceptions I am more intelligent than the black people I’ve worked with or gone to school with in my life. My high school offered many AP classes and I never took one nor was it ever suggested I should take one. I understood these classes were very challenging and really for only the most academically talented and driven students, not average smart ones like I was.

LA replies:

Lara is absolutely correct. AP classes are, or used to be, really difficult, both in the nature of the subject matter, and in the required amount of work. In my senior year of high school, I took, as I remember, just one AP course, in English. I could have taken more, but the very heavy demands of those courses, which were, let us remember, college-level courses (that’s what Advanced Placement means), represented a greater burden than I wanted to bear. The idea that all students—the above average, the average, the below average, and the positively stupid—should take at least one AP course is simply insane.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 21, 2011 11:16 AM | Send

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