Monday, June 05, 2006

Raising the Rhetorical Bar: More on Diversity and Global Citizenship

Open discussion is best served by responsible argument and rhetoric, particularly when the topic is a sensitive one. So as a follow-up to Saturday’s posting on global citizenship, this posting addresses each of the italicized comments made by an anonymous reader.

“Quotas are the wrong solution. All of the baggage (key assumptions) you uploaded upfront does not take into account the unfortunate student that would be a high achiever at JIS if they were not denied admissions on a pre-defined quota.”

Anonymous and I seem to have very different definitions of excellence in education. He or she apparently defines excellence as the abilities of the best and the brightest students. I, on the other hand, think we should look to school attributes – particularly high-quality teaching and curriculum – as the primary elements of educational excellence. All students can be “high achievers” – defined as growth from their personal starting points – with these elements in place. And many more students can be “high achievers” – defined as standardized test scores – when schools focus their efforts on that goal with concerted team work and discipline and combine a traditional standards-based approach with innovative educational approaches.

In her “Cherry picking” posting of 27 May, Cheryl discussed a fascinating and inspiring case in point at two Illinois schools. According to the Director of Education Research and Evaluation at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the two schools achieved the following gains:
  • The average ACT score rose from the 60th percentile nationally in 2000 to the 75th percentile in 2005 even as the percentage of students taking the ACT increased from 80 percent to 100 percent after the state passed a law requiring all 11th graders to take the exam. This shift might have been expected to drive average scores down because more low-performing and special education students were taking the test.
  • From 2003 to 2005, measured student growth in performance on ACT-benchmarked assessments exceeded predicted growth by approximately 71 percent. Value-added growth gains were most dramatic for students most at risk, including low-income and special education students.
  • For every 100 students who enter 9th grade requiring remediation, 50 to 75 are enrolled in college prep or honors courses by the beginning of 11th grade.

JIS often cites the number of students who make perfect scores on IB exams and the highest possible score on AP exams as a measure of its excellence. However, many educators acknowledge that they can’t claim responsibility for the best and brightest few, who would achieve the same results even in average schools. I believe the far more reliable measure of educational excellence is this: What gains is a school able to achieve and document for the majority of students?

"The grandfather clause will not help. On the one hand you are recommending that JIS adopt a nimble and adaptable admissions policy, yet you recommending [sic] tying the hands of the decision makers with a policy that does not allow rapid change. The grandfather clause will not allow change, but will hamper it for many years in the future."

There is a 30 percent turnover in the student population every 6 months. At that rate, approximately 2,300 students (i.e., a number almost equivalent to the current student population) leave JIS and are replaced every year-and-a-half. Furthermore, the average student stay at JIS is 4 years. Suppose a ceiling of 15 percent per nationality was adopted. At present, just 2 countries exceed that quota schoolwide: the USA and Indonesia by 6 and 2 percent respectively. By the way, after South Korea at 14 percent, the 4th largest national group is Australia, which accounts for a mere 7 percent of the student body. Unfortunately, I don’t have disaggregated data in full so the percentage of American and Indonesian students may well be higher on individual campuses. At the high school, for example, 3 countries exceed the hypothetical quota: Indonesia at 23 percent, the USA at 18.6 percent, and South Korea at 18.6 percent.

Given these facts and assuming a quota of 15 percent, it is logically and mathematically impossible that a grandfather clause would “hamper” JIS for “many years in the future.” On the contrary, with the high turnover rate and relatively low average stay per student, it would take only a few years to trim back the percentage of students of these 2 or 3 nationalities. Meanwhile, JIS would be free to accept many high-achieving students from the 58 other countries represented in the student body – and still other countries for that matter.

When you add to these facts and arguments my proposal that admissions policy allow modification or elimination of quotas under emergency conditions, it is simply impossible that quotas or grandfather clauses would put JIS in a policy straitjacket.

"Furthermore, the following statement of ‘Once the size of any national group crosses a certain threshold, insularity results. In turn, appreciation of diversity and the capacity to learn from it suffer’ is just a weak attempt to justify an overtly racist position. This position does not measure the academic record of the majority population. It just measures their race and makes flawed assumptions on those conditions."

Irresponsible rhetoric tends to shut down dialogue about sensitive topics. I am proposing a single quota for all national groups, including the one I belong to (the USA). Furthermore, I have stressed that no national group is exempt from the tendency to insularity. I also suggested that Indonesians may be at particular risk of insularity by virtue of this accident of geography: JIS is located in Indonesia. So the charge of racism is unfounded.

There is one important correction and clarification in my thinking since my earlier posting. Given JIS’ relationship and obligations to its 3 surviving founding Embassies (the USA, Great Britain, and Australia), I was not sure whether the school could set quotas for students of those nationalities. However, I have since realized that the “Category 1” designation applies to families holding diplomatic passports and companies or organizations holding Certificates of Guarantee. Since the number of American students whose parents work for the US Embassy or for companies and organizations holding Certificates of Guarantee is very small, JIS can and should impose the same 15 percent ceiling on these three national groups. Above all, I am an advocate of equity.

"I agree that educational policies can change to teach true globalization. However, issuing quotas is not the way to teach people to work together."

We agree on the need for a more rigorous approach to teaching global citizenship, Anonymous. Our difference is this: I think a quota system is a necessary but not sufficient means for enabling us to come together as a community and learn from diversity. May the dialogue continue!

21 Comments:

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe that a quota system would help. It does not matter if we have quota for all groups or for one group. The quota does not measure the quality of a student body, the educational performance of students, or the quality of an educational ecosystem. A quota measures race.

Thus, I believe the support of a policy would have issues of racism. How can you explain to a parent that their student is not accepted by JIS because we are over the limit for green kids? How can you justify that as a criterion?

I believe in discussion. I also like responsible and formal dialog. However, your implication that my positions are rhetorical does not prove your points or further your agenda.

For example, I am sure that your assumptions of my educational excellence definitions are wrong. I never stated my beliefs. So I am not sure about how you came to your conclusions. I guess you are using an inferred reference, without attacking a position.

You attempted to infer that my beliefs measured educational excellence by quantifying and reporting about the abilities of the best and brightest students. Then you attempted to legitimize your position by implying that I never considered curriculum and innovative educational approaches. Thus, your position was supposed to be superior. However, your attempt at legitimacy is as weak as you argument. You have no legs to stand on.

No one is against a strong curriculum, with standards based innovative approaches. Furthermore, I am in favor of publishing the measurable gains for majority of students. I just stated that your arguments for quotas were weak.

I am a member of the dominant group also. I am American and a Caucasian. I have nothing to loose by expressing my opinions on a proposed change of admissions at JIS. However, using a tool that can not measure any quantifiable data is not the solution. The quota will divide Jakarta residents into two populations: the ones that were accepted based on a quota and those that were not accepted based on their race.

 
At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but does the current JIS admissions system "measure the quality of a student body, or the quality of an educational ecosystem"? (Cool phrase, "educational ecosystem," BTW.)

I thought that the current system just looked at the Category scheme. But when times were flush in the 90s, did JIS consider student academic performance when it decided who to admit from the waiting list?

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger designer fragrences said...

Great blog! More info about cheap perfume - http://cheap-perfume.thelineone.com/cheap-lyric-perfume-smell-wine.html

 
At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Giti said...

I come from a country where the concept of " quota" was originally conceived to promote equal opportunity for sections of society repressed over generations Over the years this has been distorted to suit short term political ends and has only resulted in a more divisive and fragmented society. In the process merit and excellence have been shortchanged to a certain degree. Even if I were to remove that baggage from my mind, I would still tend to agree with Annonymous. You see, a fair quota system at JIS can only work if the country distribution of applicants is stable across time. And then only if the calibre of kids within each country category is similar. But no one can ensure that, can they? The only transparent criteria for admission to JIS can be kids who match up to admission standards derived from a best practice curriculum and great teaching, not the country, not race, not anything.

 
At 11:52 PM, Blogger Catherine Quoyeser said...

Thanks for your comment, Giti. I will address it specifically tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have just finished a point-by-point response to "Anonymous #1." Maybe the comment below will happen to address some of your points.

------------------------

So glad you elected to stay in the conversation, Anonymous #1.

Let’s start with the word ‘rhetoric.’ One common meaning is all showy style, no substance. Another is “the art of persuasion through language.” I had the second meaning in mind. By “raising the rhetorical bar,” I meant maintaining a respectful tone and focusing on facts, issues, and opinions – not on the people who discuss them.

Let’s move on to the word ‘race.’ If you enter it as a search term in Wikipedia or WordIQ, you’ll see how contested the meaning of the word is, and how much its definitions have changed over time. To take one current example that you and I can easily relate to, the U.S. Census identifies 5 races in America: 1) white, 2) African American, 3) Hispanic or Latino, 4) Asian-American, and 5) Native American.

This example seems especially relevant to our discussion, because it demonstrates that race has nothing to do with the quotas I am proposing. If JIS set a ceiling of 15 percent on Americans in the student body, that 15 percent could conceivably include all 5 of the races mentioned. By the way, all or most of these same races are represented in the populations of Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. So there is nothing ‘racial’ or ‘racist’ about the quota system I have in mind. It would impose ceilings on nationalities, irrespective of race.

Now let’s move on to the word ‘quota.’ Here I have to admit to some imprecision. My Webster’s says “the number or proportion that is allowed or admitted.” For obvious mathematical reasons, not all of the 60 nationalities represented at JIS can be allowed to reach 15 percent. ‘Ceiling’ is the better word. I am proposing that no nationality be allowed to exceed 15 percent of the total student body.

Furthermore, I am proposing that such a ceiling be overlaid on existing criteria and categories of admission, including the following:

“To be eligible for admission to JIS, a student must…demonstrate acceptable skills at the appropriate academic level for admission. These skills will be determined by a review of three years of previous school records (where the student is old enough to possess them), and adequate performance on a JIS placement evaluation.”

To be absolutely clear, all existing admissions criteria and categories would remain the same. The only change would be that no nationality could exceed 15 percent of the student population. So it appears that you have misunderstood my proposal, which is to consider an applicant’s academic record, category, and -- if the ceiling of 15 percent is reached -- nationality.

To use one of your words, I believe JIS can’t maintain a healthy “ecosystem” when any national group grows too large. If one or more nationalities dominate the student body, a global, cosmopolitan, or open culture can become divided, insular, and closed. The Ownership Perception Audit commissioned by the Council suggests that our school culture or ecosystem is endangered.

Now, if you value the academic abilities that students possess before they enter the school more than their potential to a) grow academically at JIS and b)contribute to the promotion of global citizenship and other life skills, then I can readily understand why it may not be important to you to protect demographic balance and diversity at the school. But is that in fact your position, Anonymous #1?

I’m delighted to learn that I have misunderstood your definition of educational excellence. Wouldn’t it be great if, as you say, JIS adopted clear standards and then tracked and published the performance of all students against them?

 
At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understood the meaning of the word rhetoric. But thank you for using an online reference as an aid.

Ok, so we change the frame of reference for your proposed quota system from race as you define it to a nationality based system. The nationality based, non race based quota system has the same critical flaws of the race based system. It still depends on where as student is from as a criterion for admissions. In effect, and by your own admission, your proposed system would still prevent students from entering JIS, because of their country of origin.

I can not imagine a hiring policy in a global company that would adopt and publish a Human Resource plan limiting the number of women in a firm. Moreover, I could not imagine a policy that would limit the number of Americans (or any other nationality) ability to join a firm. Yet, the proposed ceiling that you describe would limit the numbers of any population to join the JIS “firm”.

You are placing a glass ceiling above the heads of a population that you should be protecting. In my mind the student will come first. The students’ needs are higher ranking then any council survey. Thus, no matter how you decide to play with words, a ceiling is approximately equal to a quota system and should not be allowed in the JIS criteria for admissions.

I was laughing when you still try to legitimize your position by asking me the following (rhetorical) question:

“Now, if you value the academic abilities that students possess before they enter the school more than their potential to a) grow academically at JIS and b)contribute to the promotion of global citizenship and other life skills, then I can readily understand why it may not be important to you to protect demographic balance and diversity at the school. But is that in fact your position, Anonymous #1?”

Where did you infer any of this from?

What you are asking in a round about method is to justify the following:
Students are from a given set of a population (nationality, not race) and can enter JIS based on academic scores. But since their Nationality may become dominant statistically, then they many not be able to contribute to global skills, and the promotion of global citizenship blah, blah, blah.

I cannot agree with this position!

Why? Because, you are trying to imply that a certain nationality may not have anything to offer to the other nationalities in the JIS ecosystem.

What you are asking me to do is validate the ability of one nationality as more important then a second nationality. Then once the first nationality is accepted, they will bring down the ability of the other students perform in a global citizenship setting.


I cannot accept this position as it has no foundation. It assumes that a person’s nationality determines what they can offer other JIS students. Yet, it does nothing to measure the student’s life experiences and other values.

A ceiling is still a white washed way of having a quota in place. The white washing may appear to clean the laundry, but it does not remove the stench of invalidating a students’ ability to contribute to a global view point based on a country of origin.

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Catherine Quoyeser said...

I guess we have to agree to disagree, Anonymous #1. Try as I might, I can't quite grasp your position. Maybe others in the blogosphere will step forward with different perspectives on your comments.

Above all, keep blogging! Cheryl and I are happy to see real give-and-take within the community. That has always been our primary goal.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Catherine Quoyeser said...

Sorry I have been slow to respond specifically to your comment, Giti.

Americans carry the same baggage or history as Indians where affirmative action (AA) is concerned. In a comment on my first posting, Anonymous 2 provided a link to the US Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on the subject. The Court upheld the AA policy at the U of Michigan’s law school, but struck down its AA policy for undergraduate admissions on the grounds that it was not “narrowly tailored” to harm as few members of the majority as possible.

I agree with you, Giti, if you are saying that AA is not truly relevant to the discussion at hand. Historically, AA policies have sought to ensure that a certain number or percentage of minorities is represented in a given population. I am not suggesting that the school try to admit a certain number or percentage of students of a particular race or nationality to reach a “quota.” As I noted in my comment to Anonymous 1, my use of that word was imprecise. Instead, I am suggesting that the school make a minimal (or “narrowly tailored,” you might say) effort to maintain demographic balance by establishing a ceiling or upper limit on the enrollment of any national group. Apart from the 3 current categories, which give priority to students for whom there is no national school available in Jakarta, nationality would not figure in admission decisions unless and until the ceiling was reached.

Now here’s where I need some clarification. You write:

“You see, a fair quota system at JIS can only work if the country distribution of applicants is stable across time. And then only if the caliber of kids within each country category is similar. But no one can ensure that, can they? The only transparent criteria for admission to JIS can be kids who match up to admission standards derived from a best practice curriculum and great teaching, not the country, not race, not anything.”

I’d be grateful if you would elaborate on the first sentence, Giti.

About the final sentence, are you saying that you oppose the existing three categories of admission? (This is a real question, by the way, not a rhetorical one.) As I mention, the categories give priority to students for whom there is no national school available in Jakarta. Furthermore, as I understand it, the academic qualifications required for admission, which I quoted in my response to Anonymous 1, are a floor not a ceiling.

To put it more concretely, faced with the choice between a gifted student for whom there is a national school in Jakarta and a below average student for whom there is no national school, my reading of current admissions policy is that JIS would give priority to the second student as long as he or she met minimal academic standards. Happily, the school doesn’t have to make such choices at present because the expat community is much smaller than it was before the financial crisis. But there was a waiting list until 1997.

Here’s another attempt to clarify the differences in our positions. I am suggesting that a ceiling be overlaid on current admissions policy. Maybe you also think current admissions policy needs to be changed but by DROPPING the 3 categories rather than ADDING a ceiling? In other words, it seems we both place a high value on excellence in curriculum and instruction. But you may value the cognitive abilities or IQ of students much more than our international school culture and what Daniel Goleman calls 'EQ'. Emotional intelligence is the basis on which students develop global citizenship and the other 6 Essential Qualities for JIS Learners. In that case, we would have a conflict of values.

One of my textbooks on conflict resolution offers the following wisdom about such conflicts:

“Values are not changed through argument, logic, or persuasion. In managing conflicts of values the realistic goal must not be to convince another to accept your view, but to hear, understand, and consider the other’s view, respect him or her as a person, and accept the reality of different values.”

For the greater wisdom of all, please let me know if I have misunderstood your position, Giti. Thanks very much for participating in the discussion.

 
At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,
You swung full circle:

You stated" you think a quota system is a necessary" to me.

Then you switched to a Nationality based position.

Finally your position has changed to an overlaid ceiling on the admissions policy in your response to Gita’s post.

What is the next step??

 
At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,
You swung full circle:

You stated" you think a quota system is a necessary" to me.

Then you switched to a Nationality based position.

Finally your position has changed to an overlaid ceiling on the admissions policy in your response to Gita’s post.

What is the next step??

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Catherine Quoyeser said...

My position hasn't changed. The word I use to describe it has. From the outset, I have recommended that an admissions ceiling or upper limit be established across all nationalities. I still support the proposal.

I haven't switched to a nationality-based position. One commenter (perhaps you?)misunderstood my proposal to be based on race. I hope that misunderstanding has been forever laid to rest.

And finally, I have always assumed that the ceiling would be on top of current admissions policy. Through her comments, Giti helped me to see that I needed to state that assumption explicitly.

I think a careful and reasoned review of my postings and comments will bear out these points.

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Hello Everyone!

This is such an interesting and challenging discussion! My views on this topic are still "a work in progress," but I'm learning so much from reading the different points of view. My brain hurts.

So thank you to the commenters -- your vigorous-yet-civilized discussion is a model for how blogs can advance understanding and debate.

And you also demonstrate what a complex issue diversity is at JIS. It will be interesting to see how the school council addresses this important subject in the next school year, because it's fundamental to the "whom does JIS serve" question -- one of the three areas for which council must develop policy and monitor executive compliance.

 
At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These discussions are very interesting. The Owners Perception Audit made it pretty clear that those people interviewed in the focus group were primarily concerned with admitted students' academic abilities. This should be the bottom, and only, line.

Any nationality based ceilings will limit the school's ability to enrol students, even when there are seats available. At this point, the JIS administration has not yet set a ceiling for the number of students, and freely admits anyone who is academically qualified to attend JIS.

The only ceiling that does exist is one that limits at 20% of the entire student population the number of Indonesian nationals, but this is to follow a legal limit and did not originate as a JIS-inspired policy.

I seriously doubt any other nationality-based ceiling would be acceptable to the JIS community.

 
At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

You are correct about the bottom line.

Ability and potential to enhance the community are also measured.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

all of the statistics you quote are not accurate.

 
At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger cylon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:34 PM, Blogger Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Hi, it's Cheryl. Just wanted to let you know that I've removed 5 comments posted over the summer that were spam -- and lead to potentially computer-damaging links.

To help prevent spam comments (several posting were "hit" over the school break), I've added a "word verification" feature that stops automated advertising posing as real comments.

This change doesn't affect your ability to post anonymously, and it's really easy....just type in the letter string that you see above the "login and publish" button. Thanks for your support!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home