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The False Meritocracy of the Texas Top 10% Plan for Black Students Receiving Special Education Services

Sat, April 14, 2:15 to 3:45pm, The Parker, Third Floor, Mirus Room

Abstract

We seek to understand the consequences of a state-wide ban on affirmative action in education and the adoption of a race neutral college admission plan to address racial inequities across Texas high schools. We critically examined the Texas Top 10% Plan (TTPP), which was designed to stimulate students from underrepresented groups to apply and enroll in Texas’ public postsecondary institutions. The TTPP accomplished this by making the SAT/ACT low-stakes exams, requiring students to compete only with students within their high school, and by making class rank the exclusive measure of merit for top decile students. Consequently, if a student did not apply or enroll in a Texas public university, it would be considered a matter of personal choice rather than pervasive systemic inequities that exists between high schools segregated by test scores, wealth, and race. Multi-level logistic models for de-identified student level data (2004-2014) were used to investigate whether the TTPP has a disparate impact on the odds of earning a college preparatory high school diploma for Black children who receive special education services. A critical race theory (CRT) lens situated our statistical analysis and interpretations within the historical and political climate of Texas that led to the enactment of the TTPP (Taylor, 2016). Further, we uncovered the interest convergence of this policy and the dominant ideologies that undergird it (i.e., meritocracy, color-blindness, and neutrality) (Bell, 2004). Initial findings indicate that students receiving special education services are the least likely to earn a college preparatory diploma in Texas, and within this subpopulation the odds for Black students are the worst. Whose interest does the TTPP benefit if it does not serve its intended purpose of racial justice? We illuminate the need to critically analyze the TTPP and its effects on the educational trajectories of students of color.

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