In his Townhall article Leaving Black Kids Behind Rich Lowry argues that public education perpetuates and exacerbates the country's racial divide. Lowry cites the following facts from Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom's new book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, which he calls " a damning account of how the public schools fail black students:"
The typical black high-school graduate has, in effect, only an eighth-grade education.
The typical black student scores below 80 percent of white students on tests. A majority of black students score in the lowest category -- Below Basic -- in five of the seven subjects on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Seventy-seven percent of white students read at a higher level than the average black student. Only 23 percent of black students, on the other hand, read at a level equal to or better than the average white student.
During the 1990s, average black math scores fell dramatically. Despite two decades of spending and "reforms," black students' achievement in math is at its 1978 level.
The average black student knows less about science than 90 percent of white students.
Black students at elite colleges actually get lower grades than their SAT scores had projected.
I don't necessarily agree with Lowry's assertion that the problem is the alliance between the Liberals and the teacher unions. I do agree that with the solution that Lowry tell us is supported by the Thernstrom's book; schools that emphasize standards, testing, accountability and high expectations. My support of this theory is based on our family's experience with an elementary magnet school. The kids that attended this magnet school performed significantly above the average in middle and high school. I think the reason for this success is high expectations of student performance and the required parental involvement.William Raspberry bravely gives a plug to Abigail and Stephen Thernstorm's illuminating new book, No Excuses. Speaking frankly and helpfully about the academic achievement gap between black and white students is a lot harder than it ought to be.
It is particularly hard if it is true -- as I believe -- that the gap has less and less to do with racism and more and more to do with the habits and attitudes we inculcate among our children.
I can almost feel the resistance from black Americans to the notion that there is something cultural about the underachievement of black students. Almost as palpable is the easy conclusion on the part of many whites (and I'm not talking about racists) that if black people would just buckle down as other disadvantaged groups have done, many of their problems would evaporate.
And yet -- how hard this is! -- the buckle-down crowd may be closer to the mark. That is not to say that the academic gap (as much as four years by the time of high school graduation) is merely the aggregate result of individual black laziness. It isn't.
But as Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom make clear in their new book, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning," a significant source of the gap is in the attitudes toward academic achievement that are prevalent in black America, even among the economically successful, college-trained middle class.