College Racial Gap Continues to Grow

On Friday, a mix of good and bad news came in a U.S. Census report on the nation's college degree rates.

Richard Perez-Pena reports in The New York Times that the nation reached a milestone as of last March, with more than 30 percent of American adults holding at least a bachelor's degree, and nearly 11 percent holding at least a master's degree. That is up from 26.2 percent and 8.7 percent 10 years earlier.

With more women graduating from college than men in the last few years, the gap between men over age 25 and women over age 25 who hold bachelor's degrees fell to less than 1 percent.

And Asians remain the best educated group of Americans, with 50.3 percent having bachelor’s degrees, and 19.5 percent holding graduate degrees.

But the news is less hopeful when it comes to blacks and Latinos, "who not only continue to trail far behind whites, the gap has also widened in the last decade." The Times reports:

Among Hispanics, the share of adults holding bachelor’s degrees grew from 11.1 percent in 2001 to 14.1 percent last year, and among blacks it climbed from 15.7 percent to 19.9 percent. But the distinction rose even faster among non-Hispanic whites, from 28.7 percent to 34 percent.

The census report also found mixed news when it comes to so-called STEM education -- science, technology, engineering and math.

"Taken together, engineering and science are the most common areas for bachelor’s degrees, representing 34.9 percent of the total," The Times reports. But:

The persistence of men in those fields is waning, a significant trend given that engineers and people with science backgrounds tend to be in high demand, and have above-average incomes. Among college graduates 65 or older, only 23 percent of those with degrees in science or engineering majors are women; among people 40 to 64, the proportion of women rises to 36 percent; among those 25 to 39, 45.9 percent are women.

The same report also found that engineers and science majors are most heavily concentrated on the East and West Coasts, with the highest percentages in the District of Columbia, California, Washington and Maryland, and the lowest in Southern and Plains states.

Friday will see the release of the teacher-data rankings. Gotham Schools reported Thursday that it will not publish the rankings, saying, "We determined that the data were flawed, that the public might easily be misled by the ratings, and that no amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics."

It’s true that the ratings the city is releasing might turn out to be powerful measures of a teacher’s success at helping students learn. The problem lies in that word: might.

Gotham goes on to provide a reasoned examination of value-added ranking.

The Times and WNYC will publish the rankings on SchoolBook on Friday. Jodi Rudoren, The Times' education editor, wrote on Thursday:

The ratings are imperfect, according to independent experts, school administrators and teachers alike. There are large margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave.

But the data figured in high-stakes decisions about public employees, and the debate about value-added ratings is continuing as the city and state overhaul the evaluation process.

SchoolBook will present the results for individual teachers grouped by schools. We will not only include the city-issued ranking for the most recent year available, 2009-10, but also a career ranking from multiple years of scores.

And SchoolBook is inviting teachers to respond to their rankings, submitting any explanations they deem relevant. The responses will live alongside the rankings on SchoolBook. The United Federation of Teachers president, Michael Mulgrew, said in an e-mail message on Thursday, “The UFT encourages teachers to comment on their reports, particularly if they contain significant errors.”

To submit the response to their data report, teachers can fill out this Google form or scroll down to the bottom of this page. They will need their most recent teacher data report or an e-mail address so that we can ensure that the response is indeed from that teacher.

Gotham Schools' Rise & Shine post has a more complete roundup of what is in the news on Friday.

Public school parents, teachers, students and staff: Enjoy the last day of February break.