Low expectations blamed for lagging minority students

by Mike Wereschagin

A College Board report released Friday said minority students are falling behind in all levels of education. The report blamed a variety of social and institutional factors.
Minority students fall prey to educators’ self-fulfilling prophesies, ethnocentric curricula and fears of “acting white,” according to the report. Consequently, minorities lag behind from kindergarten through college.
The report tracked the academic progress of African-American, American Indian and Latino students.
State boards of education fail to broaden school curricula to address everyday experiences of minority students, the study states. Without that link, school knowledge is too obscure to be applied outside classroom walls for minority students.
The study also suggested teachers and professors at all schooling levels tend to have low expectations of minority students.
“It’s absolutely true,” said Eva Barajas, a 20-year-old Latino working in the University’s American Indian Center.
Barajas moved to Minneapolis last year after attending a university in Lincoln, Neb. She plans to enroll at the University next spring as a sophomore in political science.
“The most liberal … professor out there will form an opinion of you as soon as you walk into the room,” she said. “It holds true over and over again. And the kids know it when it happens.”
Barajas said many students fight back when presented with this form of discrimination.
“They strive to prove their professors or teachers wrong, because nobody wants to be thought of like that,” she said. “But it’s hard to fight all the time, especially when you know you shouldn’t have to. It gets very discouraging.”
The study concluded that the current educational gap will continue to grow unless minority students receive “affirmative development” inside the classroom. This burgeoning teaching method will be an antithesis to the current inadequate method, according to the report.
Barajas said family life sometimes has to take priority over education.
“The family is always there for you and has always been there,” she said. “The dramas that go on with your mother or your sister take precedence over your statistics class. If you get a call telling you something is wrong with your sister, you take a car, bus, plane, train or whatever it takes to get back there.”
But Barajas said many factors outside the classroom can’t be ignored, such as the fact that many students need to work to help their families.
“It builds up, having to deal with these things,” she said. “These are 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids. They’re too young to have to worry about all this.”

Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3226.