Is there a persistent racial academic achievement gap? Has No Child Left Behind (NCLB) left anyone behind? The goal of NCLB is to close the academic achievement gap, especially for disadvantaged kids. NCLB is “based on stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents,” says the Education Department. NCLB did improve scores across the board—but it didn’t close the racial gap, the gap in skills and knowledge across racial groups. That’s the conclusion of Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade in a recent interview on WBUR. (Here’s a link to the WBUR “Here and Now” page with audio of that interview.)
To reach this conclusion, Espenshade and his co-author analyzed the statistics about who gets into college. They report their results in No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal. The interesting twist is that they figured out a way to measure the gap and communicate it in an unusually clear way. They looked at what they call the “boost” in the college selection process and converted the statistics about it into SAT-point equivalents. These are the “bonus” points added to an applicant’s score based on race.
Here’s what they found, according to the interview: Blacks get a boost of 310 SAT-point equivalents. Latinos get a boost of 130 points. Asians, however, get penalized, compared to whites—they have to score 140 points higher. I was surprised about the penalty—or anti-boost—for Asians.
What do you think of these statistics? The problem is so severe that Epinshade calls it the “most pressing domestic issue facing the United States at the beginning of the 21st century.” The remedy, he says, is no less than a Manhattan Project to eliminate the racial gap in academic achievement. And all this comes at a time when as many as 300,000 teachers around the country may be losing their jobs this spring.
Where are all the protests?
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