Reviewed Books & Films

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May 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are U.S. Schools and Education Policy Failing the Poor?

APA In her review of Stop High-Stakes Testing: An Appeal to America's Conscience by Dale D. Johnson et al., Luanna Meyer questions the premise that anyone can achieve "the American dream" through education. Specifically, she argues that the United States’ system of public schools and universities does not equal the playing field among the rich and the poor, and, in fact, public schools are just another place that allows poor children to fail. The book authors and reviewer alike sharply criticize the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), arguing that holding schools accountable via student test scores, without addressing fundamental issues of poverty, disparities in health care access, racism, funding inequities, etc., will only reflect what is already known—that children from middle-class and wealthy families will outperform poor children on standardized tests.

Should, as the book authors suggest, the NCLB be repealed and all forms of public school accountability based on testing be discontinued? What are the benefits, if any, of retaining NCLB? What are alternative approaches to school accountability that do not ignore historical, cultural, and societal inequities? On what basis should schools be held accountable, i.e., on math, science, and reading only or expanded to other subjects such as arts, music, critical thinking, etc.?

Read the Review
ReviewWaking Up From the American Dream: Beyond Metaphors
By Luanna H. Meyer
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(11)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Questions on Every Parent’s Mind

APA In her review of The Education–Drug Use Connection: How Successes and Failures in School Relate to Adolescent Smoking, Drinking, Drug Use, and Delinquency, Liz Sale writes,

As parents, many of us worry about the future of our teenagers. They might be getting good grades in middle school, and, for the most part, they don't get into trouble. But what if they start hanging around the "wrong" kids in high school? The ones who fight, skip school, drink, smoke, and use drugs? Will our kids act out, too? And if they do, how will it affect them as young adults? Can they succeed academically despite their "problem" behaviors in high school?
What is the relationship between academic success and substance use behaviors?

Read the Review
ReviewCigarettes, Booze, Drugs, and the Honor Roll (?)
By Liz Sale
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(11)

Monday, May 04, 2009

How Do We Get Better Support from Family and Community to Improve Academic Performance of Black Male Youth?

APA In his review of Pedro Noguera's The Trouble With Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education, Carlton Parks, Jr. notes,

…[a number of] scholars of color have focused their attention on how to intervene, utilizing the African American extended family, to bring African American males and their families to the table as collaborators with teachers and other school personnel to provide culturally responsive classrooms (e.g., Boyd-Franklin & Bry, 2000; Coles, Coles, Coles, & Coles, 1997; Shade, Kelly, & Oberg, 1997; Watts & Jagers, 1997).
One theme that runs through these scholarly volumes and Noguera's experiences in the schools is the notion of the adoption of African-centered consciousness-raising intervention/prevention programs among African American male youth. When such a model incorporates the African American extended family and the broader school/community, independent of their socioeconomic status, it typically results in elevations in self-esteem and self-concept among African American males that are critical to subsequent changes in academic achievement.

There is plenty of blame to go around (teachers, administrators, family, government, etc.) for the poor academic performance of some Black youth, especially Black boys. My friends and family members who teach in the public school system note that their job as teachers and administrators is more difficult because students are, first, not getting the discipline they need at home, so the children act out in school, and consequently teachers spend a lot of time trying to control disruptive students, instead of teaching, which inhibits learning for the entire class. Second, they note that students are not being positively reinforced for studying and learning at home; parents are not monitoring, not making sure students are doing their homework, and not attending PTA meetings or staying in contact with teachers about their students' progress. This occurs for a variety of reasons (e.g., very young, inexperienced parents, parents working multiple jobs for long hours, etc.).

How can we get extended family and community groups, such as churches, which are so important in the Black community, involved to better support parents and educators to maximize Black males students' academic performance?

Read the Review
ReviewAfrican American Males: An Endangered Species in the 21st Century?
By Carlton W. Parks, Jr.
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(8)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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