California's high school exit exam is keeping disproportionate numbers of girls and non-whites from graduating, even when they are just as capable as white boys, according to a study released Tuesday. It also found that the exam, which became a graduation requirement in 2007, has "had no positive effect on student achievement."
The study by researchers at Stanford University and UC Davis concluded that girls and non-whites were probably failing the exit exam more often than expected because of what is known as "stereotype threat," a theory in social psychology that holds, essentially, that negative stereotypes can be self-fulfilling. In this case, researcher Sean Reardon said, girls and students of color may be tripped up by the expectation that they cannot do as well as white boys.
Or maybe, just maybe, some "girls and non-whites" aren't as prepared as they should be. That would actually be the simplest explanation, and doesn't require any psychological theories. And I guess it's a good thing Asians expect to do as well as white boys.
Jack O'Connell, idiot extraordinaire, chimes in:
The heart of this report speaks to why I've called out California's racial achievement gap and why I am so committed to implementing the14 recommendations made by my P-16 Council aimed at closing these gaps. The recommendations include the creation of a statewide strand of culturally relevant pedagogy and a culture survey of our students and education staff to discuss and address issues of unconscious racial bias in our schools.
Blame everyone but the students themselves, or the culture from which they come. I'm not really interested in covering that terrain again. Must be part of that unconscious racial bias, or something. I wonder how O'Connell explains that well over half of university students in California are female.
The stupid argument, though, and one that I cannot let pass without comment, is that the test has "had no positive effect on student achievement." Let me be clear: tests aren't supposed to have an effect on student achievement, they're supposed to measure achievement. And people who can't pass that test, no matter what the reason, shouldn't get a diploma. Maybe we could give them a ribbon instead.