The Obama Effect?

by Robert Pondiscio
January 23rd, 2009

The New York Times carries a stunning piece of news this morning: a new study shows that “a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.”  The researchers dub it the “Obama Effect.”

Stunning if it’s true, that is. And replicable. And demonstrable in young children, not just the adults in the study. 

“It’s a very small sample, but certainly a provocative study,” Harvard professor Ronald F. Ferguson tells the Times. “There is a certainly a theoretical foundation and some empirical support for the proposition that Obama’s election could increase the sense of competence among African-Americans, and it could reduce the anxiety associated with taking difficult test questions.”

At D-Ed Reckoning, Ken DeRosa is skeptical, calling it “the educational equivalent of cold fusion.”

Evolution “Strengths and Weaknesses” Voted Down in Texas

by Robert Pondiscio
January 23rd, 2009

The Texas Board of Education voted Thursday to drop a 20-year old state requirement that high school science teachers cover “strengths and weaknesses” in the theory of evolution. The vote is being characterized as a major defeat for social conservatives and sharply divided the Board.

“Under the science curriculum standards recommended by a panel of science educators and tentatively adopted by the board, biology teachers and biology textbooks would no longer have to cover the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of Charles Darwin’s theory that man evolved from lower forms of life,” the Dallas Morning News reports.

A panel of science teachers had recommended that the “strengths and weaknesses” language be dropped.  Critics had argued that the word weaknesses “has become a code word in the culture wars to attack evolution and promote creationism.”  The Texas science standards have ripple effects from coast-to-cost, influencing how textbook publishers publishers handle the topic, since the Lone Star state is the largest statewide textbook adoption state.