Monday, November 20, 2006

Black Enrollment in AP Surges in Montgomery

Black Enrollment in AP Surges in Montgomery - Washington Post

We should applaud the Montgomery students for their Advanced Placement (AP) efforts, as this looks to be an example where pushing the 'envelope' in school is substantially within their realm of acting 'right', versus the often miss labeled 'acting White'.

The numbers from the article, however, give us a window into the up-coming challenges facing these aspiring college-bound kids - and that view contains more than a dark cloud. If the average AP pass rate was 79%, this means that White and Asian kids are significantly above this mark, indicating a performance gap of more than 22 percentage points. When the Black kids apply to college, affirmative action admissions programs will give them added points based on their race, erasing the gap - and herein hides the problem.

"Of the Montgomery students who take AP tests, 79 percent earn passing scores of 3 or higher -- a remarkably high rate, considering that participation has effectively doubled in five years. The passing rate for black students is 57 percent, lowest among all racial groups..."

The extra points they get for the color of their skin, while making them 'competitive' on paper, will do nothing for their actual competitiveness in the college classroom. As a result, their performance in college will suffer. They will struggle in greater numbers than their classmates; their grades will be lower; their attrition will be much higher. The number of them that go on to graduate school will be lower, and the jobs and salaries they garner when they graduate will be lessened, reflecting their under performance and lesser abilities.

So what is happening to turn a program that was meant to help disadvantaged groups into one that actually hurts them? In admissions, affirmative action shifts these kids off their 'center of competence', or that place where they will perform at their best. In essence they trade the elite-ness of the school that affirmative action promotes them into, for the better grades and result that race-blind admissions would deliver, in schools that better match their true abilities. The phenomenon occurs at all tiers of schools, public and private. Research shows however, that it is better grades, not school brand or tier, which leads to more degrees, better paying jobs, graduate-level study, and greater career success.

In the debate of whether diverse learning environments are ideal, or whether affirmative action is unfair to Whites or not, we should add the direct harm that the program does to Black higher education progress, the very group it was meant to help! Affirmative actionomics, the objective study of the impact of this program, shows there to be a net loss of degreed Black professionals, when compared to race-blind admissions studies.

As difficult as this is to consider, it is imperative that we remove the emotion-fueled blinders of the past for the sake of our better future.

James C. Collier


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1 comment:

Liz Dwyer said...

I think a bigger problem is a lack of mentorship once black students arrive at college. There's so much emphasis on just getting kids to college and too much assumption that they'll be fine once they get there. It's difficult for students to navigate the waters of how to be successful at an elite university without mentorship and structure.

Clearly, the white and Asian students that pass the AP exam are more intelligent or more prepared for college than their black counterparts. They just have more folks in their families that have gone to college and can show them the ropes.