Posted on January 27, 2005

Black Kids Could Reach Higher Goals

Joe R. Hicks, Los Angeles Daily News, Jan. 23

Looking at the most recent results of national SAT testing yields few surprises or reasons for hope. Over the last two years, the numbers are the same.

But more alarming, the achievement gap between non-Latino white and Asian students and their black and Latino counterparts shows little improvement, only narrowing slightly across the nation. There is still a 202-point gap between non-Latino white and black students, and there is still a 133-point difference between non-Latino whites and Latinos. California SAT scores lag behind those in the rest of the nation, and trailing California’s results are those of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Some students are on the fast track to a four-year university, while others struggle just to read and compute after finishing the 12th grade.

Just how bad is the racial learning gap in L.A.’s public schools?

Only slightly more than 22 percent of black LAUSD students scored proficient or better in the English portion of the SAT, as did 19.7 percent of Latinos, while 60 percent of Asian students tested proficient or better, as did 57 percent of non-Latino white students. Only 21.4 percent of black students tested proficient or better in math, with Latinos doing only slightly better. More than 72 percent of Asian students and nearly 59 percent of non-Latino white students scored at or above proficient in the SAT’s math section.

School bureaucrats implore us to be patient; they say things are improving. However, with the pace of the improvements seemingly matching that of a desert tortoise, all too many students are doomed to a bleak future.

It has not been helpful that LAUSD officials, as well as members of the school board, have allowed the district to become a sounding board for all sorts of suspect theories related to children “of color.” Just one of those theories that have gained traction is that “black learners” react in different and unique ways to teaching — different, that is, from the way other students react. This argument makes the claim that black students think in ways that are distinct from ways white students, in particular, think.

But isn’t this a twist on the pseudo-science of old, which claimed that efforts to educate blacks would be fruitless because their capacity to learn was different from that of whites? Why is this argument acceptable today simply because it is being advanced by minority “multiculturalists”? The view that blacks and whites somehow interpret learning differently is — in part — a holdover from the silly debates surrounding “ebonics” that raged throughout the 1990s and that continue to handicap discussions of urban education to this very day.