Thursday, May 22, 2008

Congratulations to my friend J.C. Farr III

Athletic family adds academic achievement to its roster

By Kevin L. Nichols

Those of us who are Bay Area natives and who follow
local sports associate the last name Farr with
athletic achievement. Members of this family
include former pro football great and entrepreneur
Mel Farr, pro football player Demarco Farr, University
of San Francisco basketball coach Chris Farr
and former football player, entrepreneur and
Black Sports Agents Association President Andre
Farr. While this list of famous athletes is extensive
for one family, the Farr’s have also achieved

Last Saturday, J.C. Farr III received
his master’s degree in education from UC Berkeley. Adversity has plagued
J.C.’s life since his birth, during which he lost his mother, but this
has not stopped him from reaching his goals.

Through the help of his father,
J.C. Farr II, and his aunt’s family, the Felder’s, J.C. III managed
to attend St. Cornelius Elementary School in Richmond, St. Mary’s College
High School in Berkeley and UC Berkeley for his bachelor’s degree in political
science. Upon receiving his teaching credential from Cal State East Bay, he decided
that he wanted to give back to the community that had loved and supported him
over the years.

J.C. joined another of his cousins, former San Francisco Giant
Mike Felder, and his brother Matty Felder in coaching various sports and teaching
courses at Kennedy High School and LaVonya DeJean Middle School in Richmond.

Today J.C. is the vice principal of Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro. He
stays connected to sports, and you can hear his voice announcing high school
football games throughout the Bay Area. However, his biggest impact will come
from educating our youth to be productive citizens in hopes of them going even “Farr-ther” than
he has. Congratulations, J.C.!

Kevin L. Nichols is an author and president/CEO of KLN Publishing in
San Francisco. For more information, visit http://klnpublishingllc.blogspot.com/.

Copyright © 2008 The Globe Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Interesting article regarding the achievement gap

This is worth further exploration, however, please review at your leisure.

Very truly yours,


Published Online: April 14, 2008

Published in Print: April 16, 2008

Black-White Gap Widens Faster for High Achievers

By Debra

New research into what is commonly called the black-white “achievement gap”
suggests that the students who lose the most ground academically in U.S. public
schools may be the brightest African-American children.

As black students
move through elementary and middle school, these studies show, the test-score
gaps that separate them from their better-performing white counterparts grow
fastest among the most able students and the most slowly for those who start out
with below-average academic skills.

“We care about achievement gaps because of their implications for
labor-market and socioeconomic-status issues down the line,” said Lindsay C.
Page, a Harvard University researcher, commenting on the studies. “It’s
disconcerting if the gap is growing particularly high among high-achieving black
and white students.”

Disconcerting, but not surprising, said researchers who have studied
achievement gaps. Studies have long shown, for instance, that African-American
students are underrepresented among the top scorers on standardized tests, such
as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Fewer studies, though, have
traced the growth of those gaps among high and low achievers.

The reasons why achievement gaps are wider at the upper end of the
achievement scale are still unclear. But some experts believe the patterns have
something to do with the fact that African-American children tend to be taught
in predominantly black schools, where test scores are lower on average, teachers
are less experienced, and high-achieving peers are harder to find.

The two new working papers, which were presented at last month’s annual
meeting of the American Educational Research
in New York City, use different test data and research designs
to tackle that question. Yet both arrive at similar conclusions.

Causes Unclear

For his analysis, Sean F. Reardon, an associate professor of sociology and
education at Stanford University, analyzed reading and mathematics scores for
nearly 7,000 elementary students taking part in a federal
Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader known as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. From kindergarten to 5th grade, he found, the achievement gaps grew twice as fast among the students who started out performing above the mean than they did among lower-performing children.

“The long-term implication of this is that, if these gaps continue to grow
throughout their schooling career, even kids who enter kindergarten with high
levels of readiness are going to end up falling below where they started,” said
Mr. Reardon.

In the second study, economists Steven G. Rivkin and Eric A. Hanushek tracked
800,000 Texas children as they moved from 3rd through 8th grades in successive

The researchers grouped the students into four quartiles, based on
their 3rd grade scores in reading, and studied each group’s progress on state
math tests taken in 3rd and 5th grades. The higher the initial achievement
score, the researchers found, the more scores diverged over time between black
and white students. (In contrast to Mr. Reardon’s study, however, the gap among
high achievers at 8th grade was still slightly smaller than the gap at the low
end of the achievement scale, even though the rate of growth in the black-white
gap was greater at the upper end.)

One possible reason for the faster rate of growth in the gap among higher
achievers is that African-American students, by and large, attend schools where
a large proportion of the students are black, according to Mr. Rivkin, an
economics professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, and Mr. Hanushek, who
is a senior fellow at the Hoover

“It appears on average to be worse for a child to be in
a school with a high black enrollment share, but it’s not clear why,” said Mr.
Rivkin. “It could be important given the recent [U.S.] Supreme Court decision on
desegregation,” he added, referring to a ruling in June of last year that
sharply limited schools from using race to assign students to

Mr. Reardon reasoned that, because schools with predominantly
African-American enrollments tend to have lower average test scores,
high-achieving black children may be further from the mean, academically, than
is the case for top-scoring white children.

“If instruction is aimed more
to the middle of the distribution, then black children are less likely to have
cognitively stimulating opportunities—not because anyone is being racist, but
because the thing to do is aim instruction to the average level of the school,”
he said.

Expectations Eyed

In the Texas study, the researchers also found that black children on average
were taught by less experienced teachers. But that seemed to more adversely
affect the low-achieving African-American students in the sample than the high
performers, according to that analysis.

Some other research also suggests
that high-achieving black children in some schools face more peer pressure to
mask their academic abilities and that black children, on average, tend to have
fewer opportunities for intellectual enrichment outside of school, which might
be particularly important for bright students.

“We need to pay more
attention to micro-level dynamics,” said John B. Diamond, an associate professor
of education at Harvard who is not connected with the two new studies. “There
may be some issues around teacher expectations tied into race that have
something to do with these outcomes. You really have to parse out educational
opportunities and see what differences might be there.”

A third
Requires Adobe Acrobat Readerat the same AERA session found that differences between the schools
that black and white students attend began playing an increasingly important
role in recent decades in the growth of racial achievement gaps at the national

That analysis, which was conducted by Ms. Page, a doctoral
student, and two Harvard professors, also determined that the national gap,
which narrowed in the 1970s and 1980s and then widened again in the 1990s,
tracked closely to changes in the percentages of white and black parents with
more than a high school education.

At least one other recent longitudinal
study examined growth in racial achievement gaps at the student level over time,
according to Mr. Reardon.

Tracking North Carolina students in grades 3-8,
that study found the black-white gap in math widened for students who started
out achieving at the 90th percentile or higher and narrowed among students at
the bottom of the distribution. Those researchers attributed the trend, however,
to new state policies that put pressure on schools to reduce the numbers of
students scoring at minimum levels on state tests.

“It’s not a well-known
finding or one that people talk about, even if people have found it before,”
said Ronald G. Ferguson, the director of Harvard’s Achievement Gap Initiative, said about
the gap’s differential impact on high-scoring students. “But it’s not

Coverage of education research is supported in part by a grant from the
Spencer Foundation.

Vol. 27, Issue 33, Pages

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

By Kevin L. Nichols

Years ago, I visited an exhibit at the Oakland Museum that featured portraits of prominent African American women throughout history. Underneath their portraits, they displayed famous quotes by these individuals. One in particular stood out in my mind, however, I cannot recall the author. The quote was, "Service is the rent we pay here on Earth." While reflecting on this, I thought of all mother's, including my own, as Mother's Day approaches, yet one mother in particular was placed indelibly on my brain. That would be Mrs. Tamara Nichols.

Tamara is the epitome of what a mother should be for her children. Not only does she put the needs of her children before her own, but she will stop at nothing to give them what they need in life. Tamara is on the board of directors for a local non-profit, on the school board at my oldest son's school, and very active in other children's related organizations designed to enhance the overall quality of their lives.

In addition to all of this, she has chosen to temporarily give up her career as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home mother. This is a very difficult task in this day and age, yet as a family, we continue to support her. Although the attached article describes how important being a "stay-at-home mother" truly is, I would like to publicly and sincerely, thank my wife for having my children on this Mother's Day. Happy Mother's Day to all mothers!

Very truly yours,

Kevin L. Nichols

If stay-at-home moms got paid, they'd make six figures
Mark Jewell, Associated Press
Friday, May 9, 2008
(05-09) 04:00 PDT Boston - --

If a stay-at-home mom could be compensated in dollars rather than personal satisfaction and unconditional love, she'd rake in a nifty sum of nearly $117,000 a year.
That's according to a pre-Mother's Day study released Thursday by Salary.com, a Waltham, Mass., firm that studies workplace compensation.
The eighth annual survey calculated a mom's market value by studying pay levels for 10 job titles with duties that a typical mom performs, ranging from housekeeper and day care center teacher to van driver, psychologist and chief executive officer.
This year, the annual salary for a stay-at-home mom would be $116,805, while a working mom who also juggles an outside job would get $68,405 for her motherly duties.
One stay-at-home mom said the six-figure salary sounds a little low.
"I think a lot of people think we sit at home and have a lot of fun and don't do a lot of work," said Samantha Russell, a Fremont, N.H., mother who left her job as a pastry chef to raise two boys, ages 2 and 4. "But they should try cleaning their house with little kids running around and messing it up right after them."
The biggest factor in a mom's theoretical salary is the amount of overtime pay she'd receive for working more than 40 hours a week.
The 18,000 moms surveyed about their typical week reported working 94.4 hours - meaning they'd be spending more than half their working hours on overtime.
Working moms reported an average 54.6-hour "mom workweek" besides the hours they spent at paying jobs.
Russell agreed that her job as a stay-at-home mom is more than full time. But she said it brings intangible benefits that she wouldn't enjoy in the workplace.
"The rewards aren't monetary, but it's a reward knowing that they're safe and happy," Russell said of her sons. "It's worth it all."

This article appeared on page A - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle