Steven Goode, The Hartford Courant, September 27, 2013
After a year of disagreements over the Equity and Excellence Review at Windsor High School, the school board had an opportunity Thursday to ask followup questions about the study’s findings.
The study conducted by James, an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago, sought to find underlying causes of the achievement gap between white and minority students at the high school.
The study concluded that educational expectations and opportunities were more plentiful for white students than their African American and Hispanic counterparts and that “institutional racism” is part of the problem.
The study was supposed to take place over three years at a cost of about $330,000. But it was called off after the first year after the university determined that constant battles among board members and the politicization of the study was causing harm to the community.
In a mostly civil discussion, James repeated the basis for much of his findings, citing interviews with students and teachers, the disparity between whites and minorities in the most challenging courses and a tracking system that keeps minorities in lower-level courses.
James said the school system will never be able to close the gap until it increases the number of minority teachers and rids itself of the notion that some kids can’t learn.
“If the idea continues that black children can’t learn, that Latino children can’t learn, that poor white kids can’t learn, nothing changes,” he said.
James said that he would have begun to address that issue in year two by “bringing teachers up to speed in cutlural responsiveness.”
“The key to that is personal transformation, dealing with our beliefs, assumptions and world views,” he said. “That takes time, at least two years.”
James also said that the notion that teacher comments were withheld from the final report because they would have refuted the study’s conclusions was “a myth.”
“They were more critical than the students,” James said, adding that teachers at the high school were suffering from “occupational depression.”