I have been pondering the data showing that Black students transfer from other Portland neighborhood schools into the Jefferson cluster schools (here) and that Black students are under represented in Portland Public Schools' foreign language immersion programs. I do not know why either pattern exists, nor do I even have an idea of how to resolve the questions. I am particularly interested, as regular readers of this blog will understand, to figure out why more Black students are not in immersion programs and, then, to get more in them.
So I take some interest in The Roots article “The ‘Acting White Theory’ Doesn’t Add Up” by Ivory A. Toldson, Ph. D. (here):
Do black students purposefully underachieve because they attribute being smart to "acting white"? For more than a decade, academics, policymakers and cultural critics have publicly chided black children for having an anti-intellectual attitude, based on the "Acting White Theory."So, do Black students avoid foreign language immersion programs based on some notion that such programs would be “acting White.” Probably not, according to Toldson’s article, which documents how the theory does not hold up. He concludes:
From these analyses of relevant research and large national datasets, we can conclude that the Acting White Theory for black education is more fodder for cultural critics than it is a construct that will advance any meaningful solutions for academic achievement gaps. In many ways, white males are the most forthright about being apathetic toward educational values, which is likely attributed to having less of a need for impression management because of having no stereotype threat. For black people, the context of "acting white" could be primarily a function of satire and sarcasm, and have more to do with styles of dress, communication nuances, music preferences and a particular swagger that is independent of intellectual aptitude.
The problem with the Acting White Theory is that it promotes the misconception that black students underachieve because of their corrupted attitudes. Meanwhile, many black students are relegated to under-resourced schools, and they lack motivation because of low expectations from teachers and school leaders, unfair discipline and fewer opportunities for academic enrichment.
Overall, education is most effective when it promotes positive, school-related growth experiences, with particular emphasis on teacher-student relationships, didactic learning and emotional support. Positive parent-child communication -- including parents expressing praise and helping with homework and cooperative parenting arrangements -- also promotes academic success among black students. It is critical that academic support and resources are provided to all students, particularly those from low-income areas. In addition, through civic engagement, volunteerism and sports, academic functioning and peer relations could be improved. Most important, educators must advocate for policies that reduce racial disparities in income and increase equity and inclusion in education.