Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who Said Hope Isn't A Solution?

Actually, I've said it and quite often. Don't get me wrong. It's necessary to get anything of significance done; it's just not a plan of action. Or maybe it is:
One intriguing hint of what researchers led by Ray Friedman of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management calls the “Obama Effect” suggests that maybe, just maybe, Obama will do more for the scholastic achievement of African-Americans than anything since Brown v. Board of Education.
Apparently, a mere four days into Obama's term, the recalcitrant Black-White test score gap may have all but disappeared:
The results varied according to when the students took the test. Before the convention and in early October, the performance gap was as wide as ever: white students got a median score of 12.1 compared to blacks’ 8.8 before the convention; the scores were 12.9 and 8.4, respectively, in early October. But just after Obama’s convention speech, and just after election day, “when Obama’s stereotype-defying accomplishments garnered national attention,” as the researchers put it, there was a remarkable effect. Among students who watched Obama’s speech, blacks’ and whites’ scores were statistically equal (10.3 vs. 12.1) after the acceptance speech and 9.8 vs. 11.1 after election day. The difference is considered statistically insignificant--that is, likely due to chance.
If I didn't know any better, I'd immediately write off this study as containing a fatal flaw. But I do know better. I know that there is an extensive body of research experiments that supports the theory that a significant portion of the Black-White test score gap has to do with stereotype threat, as explained in this article.

As a scientist, I'm still not ready to gleefully embrace the results of this study. In fact, I can't wait to read it so I can pore over it for flaws and limitations (as we are brainwashed to do in grad school).

But dammit, living in this city and through this current turd of an economy, I'm takin' a li'l Hope wherevers I can find it.


Clifton said...

I'll take some of that hope.


Editor B said...

Interesting. I only just learned of stereotype threat in a book I'm reading, "What the Best College Teachers Do," by Ken Bain. I'm not a college teacher but I work in faculty development, at a historically black college, so this was quite interesting to me. As is this new study.