Research Round-up

Minority Med School Enrollment Programs Effective

Programs created to increase the medical school enrollment of minority and disadvantaged students appear to be effective, concludes a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Postbaccalaureate premedical programs that target minority and disadvantaged students, most of whom have previously applied unsuccessfully for admission to medical school, were found to be highly effective, the study found. Currently, more than 75 institutions offer such programs.

Dr. Kevin Grumbach and Eric Chen of the University of California, San Francisco, studied five UC postbaccalaureate premedical programs to see how effective they were in increasing admission rates. The study included 265 participants in the programs from 1999 to 2002 and a control group of 396 college graduates who applied to the programs but did not participate. Sixty-six percent of the participants were under-represented minorities.

According to Grumbach and Chen, postbaccalaureate programs deliver positive results because they require only a single year of intervention and target students who are committed to a career in medicine. The programs also have a short timeline for achieving their payoff.

“The continued support and expansion of postbaccalaureate premedical programs is an important strategy for increasing the diversity of the physician work force … related programs may threaten the continued existence of many postbaccalaureate programs that have traditionally received support from these federal programs,” reads the study.

The findings are important because many ethnic groups remain under-represented in the medical profession, although a diverse physician work force is important for increasing access to health care for underserved populations. In 2000, Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians comprised more than 25 percent of the U.S. population but only 7 percent of the nation’s physicians.

Diversity Training Programs Have Failed to Eliminate Bias

A new study shows that diversity training programs have failed to eliminate bias, despite the fact that many corporations have spent millions of dollars on them since the 1990s.

In a paper to be published in the American Sociological Review, Dr. Frank Dobbin, a Harvard University professor of sociology, Dr. Alexandra Kalev of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Erin Kelly of the University of Minnesota concluded that equal opportunity staff positions or diversity task forces have proven more effective.

“The only truly effective way to increase the presence of minorities and women in managerial positions is through programs that create organizational responsibility,” Dobbin says. “If no one is specifically charged with the task of increasing diversity, then the buck inevitably gets passed ad infinitum. To increase diversity, executives must treat it like any other business goal.”

Dobbin and his colleagues examined reports submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by private sector establishments and surveyed a sample of these establishments on the history of their diversity programs.

The data showed that these programs operate with different degrees of efficiency, based on the demographic groups, but organizational responsibility programs proved the most effective. Diversity task forces yielded the greatest results, increasing the proportion of White women in management positions by 14 percent, Black women by 30 percent, and Black men by 10 percent.

Social networking improved the representation of White women, but lowered that of Black men. Mentoring programs showed a strong positive effect for Black women. Across the board, diversity programs benefited White women the most, followed by Black women, with Black men benefiting the least.

“Although the likelihood of minorities holding management positions has increased, the raw percentages of minorities in management remain quite low,” Dobbin says.

Study Says Teacher Training Is Chaotic

Aspiring teachers emerge from college woefully unprepared for their jobs, according to a study that depicts most teacher education programs as deeply flawed. The review comes from Dr. Arthur Levine, former president of the Teachers College at Columbia University.

His report, released Monday, comes as public schools are under federal orders to have a qualified teacher for every class. The paper casts doubts on the most basic aspects of how teachers are taught.

The coursework in teacher education programs is in disarray nationwide, the report says. Unlike other professions, such as law or medicine, there is no common length of study or set of required skills. There are also a host of other problems: low admissions standards, disengaged college faculty, insufficient classroom practice and poor oversight, according to Levine’s study.

“Teacher education right now is the Dodge City of education: unruly and chaotic,” says Levine, who now heads the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. “There’s a chasm between what goes on in the university and what goes on in the classroom.”

He calls for turning education schools into professional schools, rooted in practical experience.

The four-year study is based on surveys of deans, faculty, alumni and school principals, along with 28 case studies of various kinds of education schools.In those surveys, school principals gave teacher education programs low grades. Many teachers who graduated from the programs said they were often unprepared for their jobs.

“The findings are sobering, and we take them seriously,” says Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents 800 schools. She says Levine’s motives are true and his “tough love” findings have credibility.

But she takes issue with some of his ideas, such as shifting more teacher training to the top doctoral universities, where Levine said the programs are strongest. Bolstering programs at public colleges and universities makes more sense, Robinson contends. Levine says the accreditation process by which schools are judged for quality must be revamped to put more focus on how students perform.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education says it has already been working on such measures.Yet as long as accreditation is optional for teacher colleges, some weak schools and selective schools will keep opting out, says Arthur Wise, president of the council.

The country has more than 1,200 schools, colleges and departments of education, covering a spectrum of nonprofit and for-profit programs, undergraduate and graduate.

Levine says his report was meant to be optimistic.”I’ve spent most of my career at education schools,” he says. “I really believe in them.”

Diverse staff and wire reports

 

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