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Learning Curves

Report: Do College Admissions Offices Ignore Black Activist Applicants?

Wanted: Black College Students (just not at our college). Diane Ravitch’s Power Elitists. An inconvenient truth for LAUSD.

Bill Raden

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Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to  braden@capitalandmain.com, @BillRaden.


 

Topping this week’s list of least surprising findings in an education study: White college admissions officers are more prone to screen out prospects who appear to be black civil rights activists. At least that’s the conclusion of “We Want Black Students, Just Not You,” a Sacha Baron Cohen-esque sting of admissions offices devised by Florida Gulf Coast University assistant professor of sociology Ted Thornhill and published by the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.

Thornhill created four fictitious black personas, ranging from an assimilationist milquetoast to a racially woke activist, and sent emails in their names to 517 white admissions counselors at predominantly white colleges and universities. He asked each of them if “he” or “she” would be “a good fit” at their colleges. The result? “Racially salient” emails had a response rate of only 55 percent — 10 percentage points lower than the nondescript milquetoast. The response to the likely Black Lives Matter applicant dropped 17 more points.

Black Names Matter: Names chosen by Ted Thornhill to hint at racial identities to admissions counselors.

Looks like the Trump rescue of for-profit colleges — via Betsy DeVosproposed gutting of Obama-era “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” rules — has come too late for Education Corporation of America. The national for-profit college operator said on Wednesday it will close 26 campuses by early 2020, including four of its 10 California Brightwood College campuses, located in Bakersfield, Fresno, Palm Springs and Sacramento. “Insufficient enrollment demand,” explained an ECA spokesperson. Regulatory crackdowns, negative publicity and a booming job market, adds Inside Higher Ed’s Andrew Kreighbaum.

This week’s must-read for the informed anti-privatization activist comes courtesy of Diane Ravitch and an encyclopedic trove of new research from her Network for Public Education Action. “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools” is not exactly a Forbes 400 of anti-public education plutocrats — call it a description of a dark money pipeline that has been financing the destruction of America’s democratic system of universal public education, one school board race at a time. Los Angeles Unified school board members Ref Rodriguez, Nick Melvoin, Kelly Gonez and Monica Garcia get featured billing — and an interactive money map — in one of “Hijacked’s” nine national case studies of the independent expenditure spigot in action.

The looming likelihood of a teachers’ strike at the nation’s second-largest school district wasn’t on the official agenda of this week’s Los Angeles Unified School Board meeting, but the boardroom fairly seethed with subtext. Especially when the district’s positive budget was down-certified by L.A. County Office of Education’s chief financial officer, Candi Clark, to a “qualified” rating. That’s when District 1’s George McKenna gave a lesson in leadership to a board majority weirdly complacent with the coming storm: Resurrect and put before voters, McKenna advised, the parcel tax that had polled high in July but which the majority flatly rejected. “How can bold people lack the courage to take the step?” demanded the ex- Compton Unified deputy superintendent incredulously. “I’m saying it’s in good faith to [show] our labor partners that we’re trying to do something other than to threaten them with cuts.” Mediation is set for September 27.


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