So my life is still data gathering and Excel, but I’ve been noticing some interesting things that I may look into later. The first thing I’ve been noticing was a trend in Salinas, CA elementary schools that I was using as a comparative sample to my MLK school in Salinas. At these schools, male and female students are either nearly dead even in math proficiency scores or the females are proficient 10-20% points above the males. The schools in Salinas are completely Latino, as far as statistically reportable goes. This has me wondering if this pattern will emerge in other fully Latino schools. I haven’t seen it in more diverse schools.
Another random thing I’m noticing is in San Francisco middle schools. California apparently collects data on the level of parental education for their students who test. Now, traditional thought on this subject is that the higher the parental level of education, the higher scores the children will get. But check these scores out! (the percentage refers to the percentage of children who got proficient or above on state testing whose parents are in the particular category)
At Visitacion Valley Middle, the breakdown was :
Not high school grad – 25%
High school grad – 17%
Some college – 35%
Decline to state – 18%
At Horace Mann Middle:
Not high school grad – 25%
High school grad – 21%
Some college – 10%
Decline to state – 18%
It seems that the kids of non-high school grads are really holding there own there! I have two theories of why this could be. First theory is that maybe the non-high school grads are also not able to afford day care and are thus at home with their kids during the day to supervise and assist with homework to a greater extent than the other parents. The second theory would be that those parents wish they had more opportunities for a better education and push the importance of learning on their children more than some other parents would. I saw a lot of both groups growing up. A lot of the migrant families I knew pushed education very hard for their children and their kids did very well, even though the parents had a limited education (often only to 8th grade, if that). I also grew up in the days without time limits on welfare and knew plenty of welfare moms who made sure their kids did their homework and helped them learn at home to supplement what the school was doing.
I’d love to hear any other theories if anyone has any! I just thought I’d share my little bright spot in this whole data collection thing. There’s some really random trends in some of these neighborhoods. I’m loving how researching one thing can lead to so many more ideas to work on later.
I finally feel like this project is moving forward! I spent a lot of time (too much time??) deciding on data/sample parameters that would provide for accurate results. I suppose that is really the most important part. If the design is bad, the whole thing is bad, right? So, I’m definitely running behind, but at least whatever I get done I will be confident in and be able to defend and stand behind. My intention for this project has always been thoroughness and publication so if it isn’t 100% at the end of U.Discover, I will be able to present some representative findings, but not the “final word” in findings. Luckily the school library is open about 15 hours a day, so I might actually get back on track 🙂
As for some results, out of 9 schools, the MLK school in the Tuscaloosa City District in Alabama has the lowest test scores in the district.
“You know what’s sad? Martin Luther King stood for non-violence. And I don’t care where you are in America, if you’re on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there’s some violence going down.” –Chris Rock
Many people in the U.S. have heard the comedy routine by Chris Rock talking about the violence on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Part of great comedy is the comedian’s ability to tap into the stereotypes and nuances of society, exaggerate them and laugh heartily. Chris Rock did exactly that. There is a fairly pervasive stereotype that locations named after Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) are in bad neighborhoods, substandard, and even violent. Focusing in on schools named for MLK, there is a wide belief that these schools should be avoided as they are under-performing institutions serving poor, minority children.
Naming schools in honor of MLK has continuously raised controversy. In the early 1970’s in Omaha, Nebraska, members of the Black community spoke out against putting a school named in honor of MLK in the heavily Black section of northern Omaha because they felt it would cause further segregation (School’s website). In 1998, a controversy arose in Riverside, CA over the plan to name a new high school after MLK in an area that was predominately White. Many parents expressed concerns that their children would be perceived as coming from a Black school and that perception would hurt the children’s college prospects. People also expressed concerns that MLK was not relevant to the area and should not have a school named for him (Alderman 2002). As recently as June 18, 2009, Dr. Ben Chavis, advisor emeritus and former principal of American Indian Public Charter School, on the Bill Handel Show on KFI 640 in Los Angeles, stated:
“I’m Indian. Why can’t something good be called American Indian? Most schools called American Indian or Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King, they suck! If you want to check out a bad school, call it after a minority […]or the streets, Martin Luther King Way. Don’t hang out on Martin Luther King Way, you’ll get jumped.[…] They name these schools and we’re embarrassing our former leaders by doing that because Martin Luther King wouldn’t want all these losing schools after him.”
This stereotype where MLK schools are often perceived as being rough, inner-city schools with low academic performance inspired this research paper. While Dr. Alderman addressed the perception of MLK schools as being “Black schools” in his 2002 research published in Urban Geography, his focus is from the perspective of a cultural geographer with more of a focus on location and dispersal. The focus of the research herein is to directly address the concept of MLK schools churning out uneducated citizens more so than other neighborhood schools. To address this issue, a sample of over 100 MLK schools is examined as to racial composition, percentage of students receiving free/reduced lunch or classes as “economically disadvantaged”, and academic proficiency as quantified on NCLB testing. This data will also be collected on a sample of non-MLK schools within 5 miles and within the same district as each MLK school in order to compare whether or not MLK schools are really doing any worse than the other schools in the neighborhood.
I may have vastly underestimated the difficulty of my summer research. After all, making a list of public schools named for MLK and comparing them to other area schools doesn’t really sound that hard. However, I have decisions ahead of me!
Magnet schools? Should I include them? The national stats consider them public schools but they aren’t a traditional school. However, it appears some of the newer MLK schools are in this category. I’m leaning towards including them (and the charter schools) as long as the assessment data is there.
What about MLK schools that have closed in the recent past? For instance, there is data available for MLK Elementary in Toledo, OH up to 2006 when they closed the school, but obviously this is not a currently-operating school. Toledo is reopening the school in a new building this Fall, however. Toledo also re-drew its school boundaries this year so the new MLK school will not be the old MLK school. There is also the matter of the MLK Elementary in New Orleans, LA. This school is listed as “temporarily closed” since Hurricane Katrina. I haven’t determined its future status or current condition beyond being currently non-operational. Data for MLK New Orleans is available up to 2005. I’m strongly leaning towards removing these schools from the sample since they are currently closed.
And what about schools named after two people? Oh yes, this exists! We have a set of King-Chavez schools in San Diego, CA and King-Kennedy schools in NY and MO. There is also a King-Elcan in GA that I am still trying to determine if it is named for MLK. I’m inclined to include these schools, but I’m completely uncertain what to do with these schools.
Making that list of MLK schools is definitely turning out to be a bit messier than I had anticipated.
On the upside, it appears that JSTOR is not the final word in scholarly sources because I actually found (quite randomly too) an article in Urban Geography written on MLK schools. It appears Dr. Derek H. Alderman used the same sources I’m looking at (yay!) in the 1997-1998 publishing by CCD. The first thing I noticed is that it appears that MLK schools have both come and gone since then and it will be interesting to have his starting point for some of the data. His research is a different direction than mine but the demographic parts are certainly the same tack. He also referenced a study on MLK schools in 1988 but I haven’t pulled that yet. I’m kind of excited that there may be something to build on when I (and Dr. Niemonen) thought it had never been done. In any case, JSTOR certainly didn’t list these articles so thank goodness for Google!