How English Learner Statistics Debunk Enlightenment Theory

by James A. Bacon

It’s a dogma among practitioners of critical race theory (or whatever label you want to apply to Woke doctrines) that Hispanics relate to blacks as “underrepresented minorities,” or URMs. abbreviated. As MRUs, Hispanics would be victims of systemic racism, white privilege and whiteness, as evidenced by the disparities in educational outcomes between blacks and browns on the one hand and whites and Asians (who are considered “adjacent whites” even when their skin color is dark) on the other hand.

Leftist ideology holds that Hispanics are discriminated against – either individual prejudice, structural racism, or both. But are they? Isn’t it possible that the #1 challenge holding back Hispanic academic success in Virginia public schools is the language barrier?

A high percentage of Hispanics come to the United States from poor countries with little education and minimal working knowledge of English. They have to learn the language when they get here. It’s not a monumental problem for adults living in autonomous communities where everyone speaks Spanish, but it’s an obstacle for school-aged children who have no choice but to learn the language. , especially when school districts struggle to find qualified teachers. to teach English as a second language.

The shortage of teachers who can teach in Spanish is a very different problem from rampant prejudice and racism, and it calls for different solutions.

The Virginia Department of Education maintains an extensive database that allows analysis of the relationship between various demographic factors and learning standards test scores, which are the primary measure used to assess the extent of disparities in learning outcomes. school results.

I created two charts – one of economically disadvantaged students (those who qualify for free lunch programs), seen at the top of this article, and one of NON-economically disadvantaged students (all others), seen below. Within each of these groups, I have broken down the four main racial/ethnic categories – White, Asian, Hispanic and Black – by those who are enrolled in English language learning programs and those who are not. .

Take a look at the graph above. Among economically disadvantaged students, Hispanic students who are fluent in English pass SOL English tests at a low higher than whites and significantly higher rates than blacks. White-Hispanic disparity disappears. Whatever the reason for the overall disparities between whites and Hispanics in SOL reading achievement rates, it’s not about systemic racism.

It’s a different story when you compare Hispanics with whites who are still learning English. Hispanics succeed at half the rate of whites. The disparity is huge. Why would there be a white/Hispanic disparity for English learners but not for students who are fluent in English? My working hypothesis is this: Hispanic students disproportionately come from low-income Central American countries with poor education systems, where most students have learned little or no English. In contrast, whites come from European countries with better education systems that have given them earlier and more intensive exposure to English. They have less ground to make up for. Racism has nothing to do with it.

In this sense, it is instructive to compare the experience of economically disadvantaged black English learners. They pass their English reading SOL at a higher rate than white and Hispanic English learners, and trail Asians by only a small percentage. Here too the disparity disappears. If racism is so pervasive, why would it be? My working hypothesis is that black learners of English are from the Caribbean or Africa and that they do not bring with them any cultural baggage of native-born black English speakers who, for various historical and contemporary ideological reasons unique to United States United States, are more likely to dismiss academic excellence as a sign of ‘whiteness’. African and Caribbean blacks do not have this complex.

We see the same trends among students who are NOT economically disadvantaged, as shown in this graph.

English-speaking Hispanics pass SOL English reading exams at about the same rate as whites. But there is a small disparity – four percentage points – worth exploring. My working hypothesis is that the difference can be explained by the fact that Hispanics are more likely than whites to attend low-performing schools. In other words, the quality of the schools explains the difference. When Hispanic students enter better school systems, the disparity likely disappears. But follow-up analysis is needed.

Another familiar trend is that among NON-economically disadvantaged students, black English learners achieve their SOL in English reading at about the same rate as whites – a gap of just 1.6 percentage points. What happened to all white prejudice and structural racism?

(Asians, whether economically disadvantaged or not, achieve at higher rates than their peers at all levels.)

The greatest disparity among the NON-economically disadvantaged is between Spanish-speaking English learners and everyone else. This surprises me. After all, white English learners encompass a wide range of languages ​​from Russian to Romanian, Asian English learners from Urdu to Korean, and African/Caribbean English learners from Haitian French to a number of Bantu dialects. Good luck finding teachers who master all of these languages! Why the problem with Hispanic English learners, who all speak Spanish? The explanation may be the same as for economically disadvantaged Hispanics – poor schooling in their home country. I do not know.

I would say that, if our goal is to actually improve educational outcomes rather than impose a leftist ideology, answering this particular question would be a good place to start. Marinating students, parents, teachers, and administrators in grievance ideology, viewing all issues through the prism of white supremacy, sheds no light on the issues facing English-speaking Hispanics. Virginia needs solutions based on practical reality, not ideology.