Double Standards Won’t Close the Racial Learning Gap

Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal, March 20, 20189

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{snip} But it’s an open secret that highly selective schools like Penn lower their standards significantly for black applicants to achieve a predetermined amount of racial diversity on campus. Harvard is currently being sued over this practice, and the plaintiffs have complained that getting demographic data on admissions from the school is like pulling teeth.

Moreover, the evidence is overwhelming that students (of any color) who do not meet the normal standards applied to other students at a school tend to have lower grades and graduation rates. That’s not because they are less intelligent or less capable, but because they have not been prepared for the pace and rigor of an Ivy League institution. Affirmative-action policies in higher education regularly set up bright students—students who otherwise would be excelling at less-selective schools—to fail at elite colleges, and the proponents of these policies become indignant when you point out the obvious.

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The question is whether to help more black students meet high standards or simply to water down requirements for all students. Racial-preference policies are clearly a vote for the latter approach. Even at the K-12 level, there is persistent pressure from the progressive left to stop standardized testing and make gifted-learning programs more accessible—all in the name of “diversity.” {snip}

At one of New York’s most famous elite public schools, Stuyvesant High, this September’s freshman class of 902 students will include only 10 blacks and 11 Hispanics, according to the New York Post. Blacks and Hispanics comprise 70% of all public-school students in the city, but they are less than 4% of those offered admission to the specialized schools. {snip}

But these schools—the most competitive of which are Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science—aren’t overflowing with wealthy white kids. The New York Times reported last year that Asians are around 75% of the student body at Stuyvesant and more than 60% at Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. What’s more, most of these overachieving Asian students hail from working-class immigrant neighborhoods in New York’s outer boroughs, and between 40% and 60% qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The founder of a test-prep company that serves these communities told the paper that many Asian families, despite limited means, simply prioritized education. “It’s more like a culture thing, you know?” he said. “They would rather not get expensive sneakers, but they will try to put their kids in a very expensive prep school.”

{snip} Ignoring the racial achievement gap, or trying to paper over it with racial double standards, isn’t helping blacks. It’s more like giving up on them.

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