A new study has found that the achievement gap is larger (pdf) than we thought. According to the NY Times:
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.Yep.
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys. (emphasis mine)No, nothing's wrong with my editor. I just wanna make sure you didn't miss the fact that white boys seem to be dumb as hell, too. It's not like public education as currently constructed is just failing black children. It's failing everybody. And of course, black kids get a double dose of dumb.
How do we fix the problem?
“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”Yeah, cause, you know, black folks don't know how to raise their kids. But before we start blaming the victim, let's look at some other factors. Now, NYT points out that:
Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”
- Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.
- Black mothers have a higher infant mortality rate and black children are twice as likely as whites to live in a home where no parent has a job.
- Poor children of color are most likely (ppt) to attend schools and live in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage where the conditions that give rise to the Childhood Opportunity Gap (pdf) are common.
- Loss of businesses: grocery stores, banks, etc
- Loss of political power: environmental discrimination (waste processing facilities and chemical plants)
- Lower property values: deteriorating buildings and and unsavory facilities (jails)
- Loss of medical facilities and clinics
- Loss of revenue for public schools
Now, the following is off-topic but I do wanna make a point: this is why black folks by and large don't trust people who want to leave everything to the state and local governments. White folks haven't exorcised themselves of racism, and leaving issues to state and local government lands us in raggedy-ass schools.
But I digress. Care to learn the impact concentrated poverty has on school achievement (ppt)?
- Loss of successful role models: Adults that a child sees are unemployed or working low-paying jobs
- Loss of access to networks to get jobs
- Loss of resources to support high-quality schools
- Schools with many poor children need even more services (language training, special education, social work and counseling) but generally are more poorly funded than schools serving middle-class students
So before we start criticizing the parenting skills of black parents, let's take a look at the whole picture. It's not just about poverty, and I haven't even addressed racism. Teachers' racism. The racism in the curriculum of soft subjects like history and literature. Racism in school discipline. Etc. Etc. And so on. Or, even the racism of so readily jumping to conclusions about black parenting before looking at the impact of concentrated poverty. Like I just said in an previous post, when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. But if "horses" means some like black people don't know how to raise their kids, then maybe you should go for "zebras."