Tag Archives: high school

How I Became an Unfair Teacher

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

I was invited to my first high school reunion this past December and I also recently received my first request for donations from the school’s alumni association (as if I have the money for that, ha!). These two events started the process in my head of sloughing through my massive memory bank of those years in my life, and I’ve come up with two conclusions so far: it was awesome, but it also sucked beyond belief. While I had a great social life, was involved in activities that continue to hold my interest to this day, and had some truly inspiring teachers along the way, I also had my fair share of rotten experiences.

I was always an advocate against ageism from a very early age, even before I knew what it was. My parents raised me more or less as an adult: I was allowed to drink alcohol at family dinners, I was socialized early on with “adults” and could hold my own in “grown-up” conversations, I was allowed to fashion myself with clothes and crazy hair colors, and my parents backed me up whenever I got in “trouble” at school. This “trouble” was often a result of my rebellions against the established pecking order of “teachers/administrators know best.”

This tendency to resist authority figures usually ended in two ways:

1. They would give up and let me do what I want (which resulted in stuff like “science fair” projects on which brand of nail polish was more durable and how different heights of high heels affected walking rates)

Or,
2. They would cite an arbitrary rule that I was violating and punish me (one memorable instance being a ban in 6th grade on wearing costumes to school on Halloween day; instead of wearing “costumes,” my friend and I dressed up as Goths (a valid fashion trend at the time) and were promptly assigned pumpkin-carving duty for the 3rd graders and banned from attending the “Fall Dance” (we continued to protest by dressing as Goths at school for the next two weeks))

I continued this push against authority figures throughout my high school career and thus many of my memories from that time are about how these teachers and administrators made me feel. In one instance, I remember arguing with my 7th grade science teacher about whether clockwise is left to right and counterclockwise is right to left, or whether it depended on where you start. I argued that if you start at the bottom of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you are going right to left. But if you start at the top of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you go left to right. He refused to accept what I said as valid and continued on with his lesson. I remember feeling irate and disrespected, to the point of having to scream into my sweatshirt to release the anger.

A more psychologically damaging instance involved my P.E. teacher in 10th grade. I remember him being a retired military general or something of the sort, and, as a P.E. teacher, he continued his relationship with the military by offering community service hours to military personnel in exchange for helping with his classes for a day. So one day, we arrive for P.E. and he tells us that we will be playing a game with active military members for our daily activity. Now, at this point in time, I was an active member of a school club called S.A.W. (Students Against War). We were in the middle of the Iraq War and I had been developing an increasing distaste for all things military. So, to make a point, I calmly told the teacher that I would not be participating in the activity that involved the military personnel. He sneered at me and walked away. When the class had gotten to the field, I walked over to the side and sat down.

I saw the P.E. teacher say something to the military personnel and point over to me, and within minutes one of them walked over to me to ask why I was not participating. I told her that I did not believe in the military (probably a bad choice of words on my part) and she immediately launched into a yelled (yes, yelled) lecture about how the military is not make-believe and that there are people (her friends!) who are dying out there. I told her that, yes, I understood that the military was not make-believe and that I simply had no desire to participate with them in the activity. She continued to scream at me for another five minutes, during which the group of students that had followed my protest and sat on the edge of the field with me decided that it wasn’t worth the fight and went to participate in the activity.

At some point, the screaming turned into a lecture about physical activity. She was accusing me of being against physical activity and P.E. in general when my teacher walked over and joined her in the verbal assault. They both continued to yell at me even after I offered to take part in another P.E. class for the day that didn’t involved military personnel. I just sat there, stunned by the sheer amount of volume and vitrol that was being thrown my way. Eventually they realized that they weren’t getting anywhere and granted my request to join a different P.E. class. So I walked over to another teacher, asked if I could join their class, and played baseball for the rest of the period.

That day after school, I went home and told my parents the entire story and they offered their support if/when I decided to take action. I tried to get various teachers to help back my complaint to the principal, but none offered assistance and the issue eventually faded into the background of my memories.

Another example that had lasting effects on both myself and my friendships at the time was my 12th grade English teacher. Her and I had had numerous arguments and tensions throughout the year, all stemming from the fact that she refused to take my opposing opinions as valid. My opinions were often creatively “outside the box,” such as a statement I made once about chemistry being an art. I had argued that the mixing of chemicals could be considered just as artful as the mixing of paint or words. She laughed at me.

The most notable example of her blatant disrespect, however, happened toward the end of the year, when we were both ready to get out of each others’ hair. We had been studying the book Hamlet, which was a personal favorite of hers (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she wrote her dissertation on it or something). The assignment that she had given us was to write a psychological evaluation of the character Hamlet, as revealed in his four soliloquies. She expressly instructed us to forget the rest of the play and just focus on the soliloquies. So I sat down one night and wrote out an evaluation in the voice of a stuck-up psychologist who insisted that “Sir Hamlet” was stuck in adolescence.

When we got to class, she instructed us to group into fours and read each others’ papers. We were then to choose the best one from the group and then read it to the class. My group chose my paper and, while I was reading it out loud, the teacher happened to be behind me. As I read, I kept noticing expressions of pain, disbelief, and confusion running over the faces of the others in my group so by the time I was done I knew I was in for something.

She immediately launched into an attack of my paper; first citing the use of “Sir Hamlet” and then the use of “adolescent.” I hadn’t known this at the time, but “Sir” could only be used by someone who is socially above the person they are calling sir. Hence, Sir Hamlet was inappropriate because a psychologist would not be socially above a prince. My response was that the psychologist was haughty and considered himself above Hamlet, which she laughed at and disregarded.

The use of “adolescent” was a much bigger issue. My paper implied that Hamlet was still an adolescent in age, since I had not clarified that his actions and mindset were adolescent. She basically told me that I was wrong, that the play lists Hamlet’s age, and implied that I hadn’t read the play at all. I left class more irate than I’d ever been at school and launched into a tirade once I met my friends for lunch.

It turns out the play did in fact list Hamlet’s age in a monologue near the end of the play, which I only found out after screaming at my best friend who knew her Shakespeare well (that years-long relationship unfortunately ended soon after that episode). I then realized, however, that Hamlet’s age was not mentioned in the four soliloquies that the teacher had expressly instructed us to use exclusively when writing our papers.

I went to talk to her a few days later during lunch and said, “you instructed us to only use the four soliloquies, yes?” And she said, yes, she did. But the fact that Hamlet’s age was never mentioned in the soliloquies and thus we could arguably apply artistic license when extrapolating for the paper did not faze her. She simply interrupted me and said, “you may leave now.”

I later learned from a friend that she was using my paper as an example to other classes of an ignorant student who hadn’t read the play and thinks that Hamlet is an adolescent in age. She threatened that she had a way to check the paper against internet databases for plagiarism. In other words, she didn’t accuse me of plagiarism to my face but instead used my paper as an example of plagiarism to other students.

I told my parents the story and again they offered their support, my dad having actually witnessed me writing the paper itself. So I went to my school guidance counselor the next day and told her what I knew. She said there wasn’t much we could do until the teacher formally accused me of plagiarism. So we waited.

Nothing happened and the day came when she passed back the graded papers to the class. The moment came when she laid the paper face down on my desk and I held my breath as I turned it over. “98” is all it said. A red-inked 98 at the top of my paper. No grammar corrections, no spelling mistakes, no suggestions for further edits. Just a big, red 98.

I was stunned. I couldn’t decide whether to be happy or upset. I mean, hey! A 98! But had I earned it? Was my paper worthy of that grade? I don’t think it was. What kind of weird, twisted, psychological punishment was this??

I was encouraged by friends to just accept it and move on, they even implied that I was ridiculous to keep picking fights with her in the first place. I did move on and graduate and all that, but the psychological impressions exist to this day. I’ve returned to those memories every now and then over the years, and I’ve been tempted to write to the teachers who had damaging effects on my psyche to let them know that it wasn’t just “teenage hormones” that drove me to rebel. And that my opposing thoughts and opinions during that time period deserved the same amount of respect and attention as their ideas and teachings. But would it be worth it?

Would they actually listen to what I say now when they didn’t listen then? Does a handful of years in the “real world” validate my opinions and thoughts in their eyes? I doubt it.

Ageism still plagues me to this day, although I now have a less explosive and irate response to it. I experience it in stores, in bars, in the work place, and elsewhere. It occurs especially in the work place and in particular when I am applying for jobs. For instance, every time I work my part-time job in a gift shop, the volunteers and other workers always assume that I’m a volunteer. They often don’t heed my instructions for various tasks until after they realize that I’m a paid employee.

I’m glad that the above article comes from the perspective of a teacher. They often don’t realize how much of a profound, long-lasting difference their words and actions can have on a student’s life. Because of teachers I now hate the play Hamlet, and am wary of gym teachers and military personnel. But I also love art, history, and Brahms. How did teachers affect your life?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

June 2, 2014 · 9:38 pm

A warning to college profs from a high school teacher

By Valerie Strauss, Published: February 9 at 12:00 pm

“For more than a decade now we have heard that the high-stakes testing obsession in K-12 education that began with the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should because so much emphasis has been placed on passing standardized tests. Here, an award-winning high school teacher who just retired, Kenneth Bernstein, warns college professors what they are up against. Bernstein, who lives near Washington, D.C. serves as a peer reviewer for educational journals and publishers, and he is nationally known as the blogger “teacherken.” His e-mail address is kber@earthlink.net. This appeared inAcademe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.

By Kenneth Bernstein

You are a college professor.

I have just retired as a high school teacher.

I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.

No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the U.S. Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.

Troubling Assessments

My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.

In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.

Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.

Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Indexcreated by Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions. The College Board did recognize that not everything being labeled as AP met the standards of a college-level course, so it required teachers to submit syllabi for approval to ensure a minimal degree of rigor, at least on paper. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.

Let me use as an example my own AP course, U.S. Government and Politics. I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. In that capacity, I read the constructed responses that make up half of the score of a student’s examination. I saw several problems.

First (and I acknowledge that I bear some culpability here), in the AP U.S. Government exam the constructed responses are called “free response questions” and are graded by a rubric that is concerned primarily with content and, to a lesser degree, argument. If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. A student who takes time to construct a clear topic sentence and a proper conclusion gets no credit for those words. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support. Some critical thinkingmay be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.

My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit.

I would like to believe that I prepared them to think more critically and to present cogent arguments, but I could not simultaneously prepare them to do well on that portion of the test and teach them to write in a fashion that would properly serve them at higher levels of education.

Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. I had too many students. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had 129 AP students (as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes). A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing. Do the math. Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. Let’s assume that 160 actually turn it in. Let’s further assume that I am a fast reader, and I can read and correct papers at a rate of one every three minutes. That’s eight hours—for one assignment. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.

From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.

The structure of testing has led to students arriving at our school without what previously would have been considered requisite background knowledge in social studies, but the problem is not limited to this field. Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects. In high-need schools, resources not directly related to testing are eliminated: at the time of the teachers’ strike last fall, 160 Chicago public schools had no libraries. Class sizes exceeded forty students—in elementary school.

A Teacher’s Plea

As a retired public school teacher, I believe I have a responsibility to offer a caution to college professors, or perhaps to make a plea.

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.

If you, as a higher education professional, are concerned about the quality of students arriving at your institution, you have a responsibility to step up and speak out. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.

You should have a further selfish motivation. Those who have imposed the mindless and destructive patterns of misuse of tests to drive policy in K–12 education are already moving to impose it on higher education, at least in the case of the departments and schools of education that prepare teachers: they want to “rate” those departments by the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

If you, as someone who teaches in the liberal arts or engineering or business, think that this development does not concern you, think again. It is not just that schools and colleges of education are major sources of revenue for colleges and universities—they are in fact often cash cows, which is why so many institutions lobby to be able initially to certify teachers and then to offer the courses (and degrees) required for continuing certification. If strictures like these can be imposed on schools and colleges of education, the time will be short before similar kinds of measure are imposed on other schools, including liberal arts, engineering, business, and conceivably even professional schools like medicine and law. If you teach either in a medical school or in programs that offer courses required as part of the pre-med curriculum, do you want the fatality rates of patients treated by the doctors whom you have taught to be used to judge your performance? If you think that won’t happen because you work at a private institution, remember that it is the rare private university that does not receive some form of funding from governments, local to national. Research grants are one example; the scholarships and loans used by students to attend your institution are another.

Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people. Many of us tried. We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.”

Leave a comment

August 8, 2013 · 7:15 pm

High Schooler Protests ‘Slut-Shaming’ Abstinence Assembly Despite Alleged Threats From Her Principal

By Tara Culp-Ressler on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

“A West Virginia high school student is filing an injunction against her principal, who she claims is threatening to punish her for speaking out against a factually inaccurate abstinence assembly at her school. Katelyn Campbell, who is the student body vice president at George Washington High School, alleges her principal threatened to call the college where she’s been accepted to report that she has “bad character.”

George Washington High School recently hosted a conservative speaker, Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence-only approach to teen sexuality. Stenzel has a long history ofusing inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

GW Principal George Aulenbacher, on the other hand, didn’t see anything wrong with hosting Stenzel. “The only way to guarantee safety is abstinence. Sometimes, that can be a touchy topic, but I was not offended by her,” he told the West Virginia Gazette last week.

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident.

Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

Campbell’s complaints about her high school reflect a problematic trend across the country. There are serious consequences when figures like Stenzel repeatedly tell young Americans that contraception isn’t safe. Partly because of the scientific misinformation that often pervades abstinence-only curricula, an estimated 60 percent of young adults are misinformed about birth control’s effectiveness — and some of those teens choose not to use it because they assume it won’t make any difference. Predictably, the states that lack adequate sex ed requirements are also the states that have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Some of Campbell’s fellow students at GW High School are also rallying for her cause. They plan to take up the issue at a local board of education meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday evening.

 

UPDATE

Via Twitter, Wellesley College has confirmed that Campbell doesn’t need to worry about her spot next year:”

Untitled22

2 Comments

April 19, 2013 · 3:10 pm

When Is Rape Okay?

When Is Rape Okay?

2 Comments

March 22, 2013 · 9:04 pm

Steubenville Rape Victim Asks for Donations to Battered Women’s Shelter

by Laura Beck

 

“In the wake of the Steubenville verdict, many are feeling helpless about what to do now. Mobilizing around programs that teach everyone — especially children — the value of personhood, even if that person happens to be a woman, has become a very worthwhile cause — and it’s exciting to witness the powerful conversations happening around the subject. Let’s keep it going!

Another way people want to contribute is financially. Awesomely, loads of folks apparently inquired about donating to the legal fees of the victim. Back in January, Jane Doe’s attorney, Bob Fitzsimmons, who took the case pro bono, said that the family wished for all donations to go to the Madden House in Wheeling, an emergency safe-shelter for women who are rebuilding their lives. Since her legal fees are covered, this seems like a fine way to honor her wishes, and help ladies at the same time.”

Leave a comment

March 22, 2013 · 8:05 pm

Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor

By 

Published: March 16, 2013

“Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.

The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.

Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.

The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so.

Many top low-income students instead attend community colleges or four-year institutions closer to their homes, the study found. The students often are unaware of the amount of financial aid available or simply do not consider a top college because they have never met someone who attended one, according to the study’s authors, other experts and high school guidance counselors.

“A lot of low-income and middle-income students have the inclination to stay local, at known colleges, which is understandable when you think about it,” said George Moran, a guidance counselor at Central Magnet High School in Bridgeport, Conn. “They didn’t have any other examples, any models — who’s ever heard of Bowdoin College?”

Whatever the reasons, the choice frequently has major consequences. The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.

The new study is beginning to receive attention among scholars and college officials because it is more comprehensive than other research on college choices. The study suggests that the problems, and the opportunities, for low-income students are larger than previously thought.

“It’s pretty close to unimpeachable — they’re drawing on a national sample,” said Tom Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College, which has aggressively recruited poor and middle-class students in recent years. That so many high-achieving, lower-income students exist “is a very important realization,” Mr. Parker said, and he suggested that colleges should become more creative in persuading them to apply.

Top low-income students in the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas do often apply to selective colleges, according to the study, which was based on test scores, self-reported data, and census and other data for the high school class of 2008. But such students from smaller metropolitan areas — like Bridgeport; Memphis; Sacramento; Toledo, Ohio; and Tulsa, Okla. — and rural areas typically do not.

These students, Ms. Hoxby said, “lack exposure to people who say there is a difference among colleges.”

Elite colleges may soon face more pressure to recruit poor and middle-class students, if the Supreme Court restricts race-based affirmative action. A ruling in the case, involving the University of Texas, is expected sometime before late June.

Colleges currently give little or no advantage in the admissions process to low-income students, compared with more affluent students of the same race, other research has found. A broad ruling against the University of Texas affirmative action program could cause colleges to take into account various socioeconomic measures, including income, neighborhood and family composition. Such a step would require an increase in these colleges’ financial aid spending but would help them enroll significant numbers of minority students.

Among high-achieving, low-income students, 6 percent were black, 8 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian-American and 69 percent white, the study found.

“If there are changes to how we define diversity,” said Greg W. Roberts, the dean of admission at the University of Virginia, referring to the court case, “then I expect schools will really work hard at identifying low-income students.”

Ms. Hoxby and Mr. Avery, both economists, compared the current approach of colleges to looking under a streetlight for a lost key. The institutions continue to focus their recruiting efforts on a small subset of high schools in cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles that have strong low-income students.

The researchers defined high-achieving students as those very likely to gain admission to a selective college, which translated into roughly the top 4 percent nationwide. Students needed to have at least an A-minus average and a score in the top 10 percent among students who took the SAT or the ACT.

Of these high achievers, 34 percent came from families in the top fourth of earners, 27 percent from the second fourth, 22 percent from the third fourth and 17 percent from the bottom fourth. (The researchers based the income cutoffs on the population of families with a high school senior living at home, with $41,472 being the dividing line for the bottom quartile and $120,776 for the top.)

Winona Leon, a sophomore at the University of Southern California who grew up in West Texas, said she was not surprised by the study’s results. Ms. Leon was the valedictorian of her 17-member senior class in the ranch town of Fort Davis, where Advanced Placement classes and SAT preparation were rare.

“It was really on ourselves to create those resources,” she said.

She first assumed that faraway colleges would be too expensive, given their high list prices and the cost of plane tickets home. But after receiving a mailing from QuestBridge, an outreach program for low-income students, she came to realize that a top college might offer her enough financial aid to make it less expensive than a state university in Texas.

On average, private colleges and top state universities are substantially more expensivethan community colleges, even with financial aid. But some colleges, especially the most selective, offer enough aid to close or eliminate the gap for low-income students.

If they make it to top colleges, high-achieving, low-income students tend to thrive there, the paper found. Based on the most recent data, 89 percent of such students at selective colleges had graduated or were on pace to do so, compared with only 50 percent of top low-income students at nonselective colleges.

The study will be published in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

The authors emphasized that their data did not prove that students not applying to top colleges would apply and excel if colleges recruited them more heavily. Ms. Hoxby andSarah Turner, a University of Virginia professor, are conducting follow-up research in which they perform random trials to evaluate which recruiting techniques work and how the students subsequently do.

For colleges, the potential recruiting techniques include mailed brochures, phone calls, e-mail, social media and outreach from alumni. Another recent study, cited in the Hoxby-Avery paper, suggests that very selective colleges have at least one graduate in the “vast majority of U.S. counties.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 17, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor.”

Leave a comment

March 18, 2013 · 4:23 pm

2 Ohio Teenagers Found Guilty in Rape of Girl

Pool photo by Keith Srakocic

Ma’lik Richmond, right, and Trent Mays, foreground center, were found guilty of rape.

 

 

By 
Published: March 17, 2013

“STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Two high school football stars were found guilty on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last August, in a case that drew wide attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage over the episode. The town’s obsession over its football team, many said, had shielded other teenagers who did little or nothing to protect the girl.

One football player, Trent Mays, 17, who had been a quarterback on the powerhouse Steubenville High School football team, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, while the other, Ma’lik Richmond, 16, who played wide receiver, was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both could end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the state Department of Youth Services. Mr. Mays’ minimum sentence is twice as long as Mr. Richmond’s because he was found guilty of two different charges.

After Judge Thomas Lipps read his decision, both boys broke down and sobbed. Mr. Richmond turned to his lawyer, Walter Madison, and said, “My life is over.”

Both Mr. Mays and Mr. Richmond apologized to the victim and her family. Mr. Richmond walked over to where they were sitting and said, “I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this,” before he broke down, unable to speak any more, and embraced a court officer.

The judge found that both boys had used their fingers to penetrate the girl while she was so drunk in the early morning hours of Aug. 12 that she lacked the cognitive ability to give her consent for sex. A picture that was circulated around classmates the day after the assault showed the victim naked and passed out. Ohio law defines rape as including digital penetration.

In sentencing the boys, Judge Lipps said that rape was among the gravest of crimes and that the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers talk to their friends, conduct themselves when alcohol is present, and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”

On the witness stand on Saturday, the girl testified that during a roughly six-hour period when prosecutors said the rapes occurred that she had no memory of anything aside from a brief vomiting episode. She said she woke up the next morning naked in a basement living room – with no idea where she was or how she got there – surrounded by Mr. Mays, Mr. Richmond and another boy, and unable to find her underwear, shoes, earrings or phone. When the prosecutor handed her one picture of herself from that night that she had not previously seen, she broke down in tears.

The verdict came after four days of testimony that was notable for how Ohio prosecutors and criminal forensics investigators analyzed hundreds of text messages from more than a dozen cellphones and created something like a real-time accounting of the events surrounding the incident and aftermath.

Through the prosecution’s reconstruction and reading aloud of these messages, Judge Lipps heard Mr. Mays in texts from his cellphone state that he had used his fingers to penetrate the girl, who he also referred to in a separate message as “like a dead body.” In another text message, Mr. Mays admitted to the girl that he took the picture that had already circulated among other students of her lying naked in the basement with what he told her was his own semen on her body, from what he stated was a consensual sex act.

Other text messages read before the judge suggested that Mr. Mays grew increasingly worried within the first day or two, urging a friend to curb dissemination of a video related to the incident. He also seemed to try to orchestrate a cover-up, telling a friend in a text, “Just say she came to your house and passed out.”

Finally, the messages showed Mr. Mays pleading with the girl not to press charges because it would damage his football career – even as the girl grew angry that he seemed to care more about football than her welfare.

One classmate also testified that he saw Mr. Mays penetrate the girl while they rode in the backseat of a car.

Overall, there was far more evidence and testimony about Mr. Mays. Mr. Richmond mainly faced the testimony of one witness, Evan Westlake, another Steubenville High School student, that he had used his fingers to penetrate the girl while she lay in the basement. Like two other witnesses, Mr. Westlake had been granted immunity for his testimony, and he had been attacked for his role in the events of that night and for filming a now-infamous YouTube video in which he is heard laughing as another boy describes the girl as “deader than O.J.’s wife” and says, “she is so raped right now.”

The defense team offered three witnesses. Two were girls who had been lifelong friends of the victim, but have fallen out with her, who testified that she had a reputation for lying or that she drank more on that night than the victim said she had. The girl “lies about things,” said one witness, Kelsey Weaver.

An expert witness for the defense, Kim Fromme, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Texas, testified that by her calculations the girl did not drink enough to pass out. But Ms. Fromme testified that the girl did drink enough to suffer a memory lapse, implying that she could have given consent for sex and not remembered it. A prosecution expert witness disputed that testimony, saying there was no way of knowing how much alcohol the girl had ingested to make such precise calculations, or how alcohol physiologically affected her compared to other people of different tolerances.

Testimony also touched the high school’s football coach, Reno Saccoccia, who had earlier been criticized by some in the community for not doing more to discipline other players present that night. In the text messages disclosed by the prosecution, Mr. Mays stated that he felt he had gotten the coach to “take care of it” and that Mr. Saccoccia “was joking about it so I’m not that worried.” Another text message Mr. Mays sent to the girl suggested that he was quite alarmed when “Reno just called my house and said I raped you.” Mr. Saccoccia has not commented on the text messages.

In the end, the most powerful evidence may have been the two hours of testimony on Saturday from the 16-year-old girl herself. One state prosecutors, Marianne Hemmeter, led the girl through what seemed a carefully crafted narrative that combined the girl’s own testimony with the text messages.

Together, they told a story of the girl waking up confused, naked, shamed and worried, and then finding out that day that many of her friends had an idea what had happened to her or had even seen a picture of her naked the previous night. Throughout the next day, the girl began to reconstruct an idea of what may have occurred, using her friends and accounts of the night that were posted on social media, including the infamous YouTube video, which she said she could only bear to watch for a minute.

Then, the girl testified, she came to realize that Mr. Mays – who maintained all along that he took care of her while she was drunk and that they had only had non-penetrative consensual sex – had in reality done far more despite his insistences to the contrary.

“This is the most pointless thing,” Mr. Mays said in one text message to the girl. “I’m going to get in trouble for something I should be getting thanked for taking care of you.”

But after a while, the girl made clear that she wasn’t having any more of it, telling Mr. Mays in another text message exchange: “It’s on YouTube. I’m not stupid. Stop texting me.””

Leave a comment

March 17, 2013 · 4:11 pm