Bad News First
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.Gee...that doesn't sound familiar at all. It doesn't at all sound like something we've said/heard quite a few times since the day before forever.
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.
The data was distilled from highly respected national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009. The report, “A Call for Change,” is to be released Tuesday by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools.
...“What this clearly shows is that black males who are not eligible for free and reduced-price lunch are doing no better than white males who are poor,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the council.
...In high school, African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys, and their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower. In college, black men represented just 5 percent of students in 2008.
The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.
The search for explanations has recently looked at causes besides poverty, and this report may further spur those efforts.
“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.”
The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.You don't say?????
What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.
The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” Mr. Casserly said.
Others have a different response. The key to narrowing the achievement gap, said Dr. Ferguson, is “really good teaching.”
One large urban school district that has made progress is Baltimore’s, where the dropout rate for African-American boys declined to 4.9 percent during the last academic year, down from 11.9 percent three years earlier. Graduation rates for black boys were also up: 57 percent in 2009-10, compared with 51 percent three years earlier.
Andres A. Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, said the improvement had little to do with changes at the margins, like lengthening the school day or adding mentors. Rather, Mr. Alonso cited aggressively closing failing schools, knocking on the doors of dropouts’ homes to lure them back and creating real-time alerts — “almost like an electrical charge” — when a student misses several days of school.
“Hispanic kids and African-American kids this year had a lower dropout rate than white kids,” Mr. Alonso said.