Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Race and Education

Over the next few months, we’ll publish some pieces that relate, broadly speaking, to education and race. For some time now, we’ve been advocating for more conversations and critical activity concerning African American intellectual and academic interests. So ideally, our identification of pertinent news articles might allow us to collect and share information for a broader discussion in the near future.

Recently, we were thinking about multiple influences Obama might have on educational outcomes. In his article Stimulus Plan Would Provide Flood of Aid to Education, Sam Dillon writes about how Obama's proposed stimulus plan would benefit schools. Many governmental officials noted that the plan would “bring crucial financial relief to the nation's 15,000 school districts and to thousands of campuses otherwise threatened with severe cutbacks.”

Most notably in the context of education, the stimulus “could profoundly change the federal government’s role in education, which has traditionally been the responsibility of state and local government.” According to Dillon, “The Department of Education’s discretionary budget for the 2008 fiscal year was about $60 billion. The stimulus bill would raise that to about $135 billion this year, and to about $146 billion in 2010.”

In an earlier article Study Sees an Obama Effect as Lifting Black Test-Takers, Dillon reported on a preliminary research finding that suggests the President might have an effect on education beyond his policy decisions. According to the findings from a small study, select groups of African Americans appeared to score better on tests as a result of the “Obama effect.” As Dillon noted, “The inspiring role model that Mr. Obama projected helped blacks overcome anxieties about racial stereotypes that had been shown, in earlier research, to lower the test-taking proficiency of African-Americans.”

It’s perhaps too early to figure out what kind of effect Obama will have on black test-takers. However, putting some thought into what motivates and inspires African American students to do better in tangible ways is worth considering. Also, the increased funds directed at schools might also have some major effects on educational outcomes and levels of achievement for large numbers of African American students.

--Massinga, Smith, and Rambsy

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