Thanks to Sarah Bachner for sending this article – Great Expectations: Can research change the character of the affirmative action debate? -by David Kirp, a UC Berkeley Public Policy Professor. While critics of affirmative action argue that beneficiaries of affirmative action would be better off at less selective colleges (where expectations are lower and the work is easier), Kirp presents research to show that students, and minority students in particular, perform better when they are in a “high academic expectations environment”.
Kirp points to the ten-percent admissions policy in Texas where high school graduates in the top tenth of their class are guaranteed spots in the state’s flagship universities. African-American and Latino students who attend Texas’ most competitive colleges “are 21 percent more likely to earn their bachelor’s degree than are students with similar qualifications who opt to enroll in one of the less selective universities.” The findings in the Kirp article are similar to those in a recently released book “Crossing the Finish Line” that I discussed in a recent post.
On another note from the expectations front: a recent education survey of high school educators, low-income students and parents revealed major differences in their beliefs about the purpose of high school. While 48% of low-income students felt that the most important purpose of high school was to prepare for college, only 9% of teachers felt that their primary mission was to prepare students for college (38% of teachers felt that their primary mission was to help students master the subjects they teach and 30% of teachers felt that their primary mission was to teach students basic life skills). Additionally, 40% of teachers felt that it was either “not too important” or only “somewhat important” that their students attend college. I can’t help but wonder how teachers’ responses might have been different if they were asked about the the importance of college for their own children instead of the young people they teach.