In American Schools, Racial Learning Gap Persists

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This story on education in Wednesday's New York Times ought to scare the pants off all the nincompoops who believe we've arrived in post-racial America:

The latest scores were especially disappointing because score gaps between white and minority students did not diminish at all since the last time the math test was administered, in 2007. On average, the nation’s fourth graders scored 240 on a 500-point scale, just as they did in 2007. White fourth graders, on average, scored 248, Hispanics scored 227 and blacks scored 222.

Eighth graders, on average, scored 283 on the same scale, up from 281 in 2007. White eighth graders, on average, scored 293, while Hispanics scored 266 and black eighth graders scored 261.

The gap of 32 points separating average black and white eighth graders represents about three years’ worth of math learning."


What this means is even after an extended period in which educators strove to close the racial academic achievement gap, black youngsters are still lagging way behind their white and Hispanic counterparts. It's so doggone frustrating. I see a similar gap in English composition skills between the black and white college students I've encountered over the past few years.

I don't have an explanation for this seemingly unbridgeable divide. It's not native intellect—some of the white kids I've taught were dumb as posts—but knew how to punctuate a sentence better than some of my much smarter black students. It's not lack of effort. Some of it is lousy, underfunded schools with a plethora of second-rate teachers—but the gap often persists even in good schools where black and white kids are sitting in the same classroom.

So what the heck is the explanation of why we aren't catching up?


is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.