A Nov. 9 article in the New York Times reports a huge proficiency disparity between black and white students. The data, produced in a report titled “A Call for Change” by the Council of the Great City Schools, was compiled from national math and reading tests known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grade. The report states:
• 12% of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, while 38% of white boys are.
• 12% of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44% of white boys.
• In high school, black boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys.
• On average, black boys’ SAT scores are 104 points lower than white boys’ scores.
• In 2008, black men represented only 5% of college students.
According to the report, poverty alone does not explain these differences, because, for example, poor white boys do just as well as black boys who do not live in poverty. The report suggests convening a White House conference, advocating for Congress to appropriate more money for schools and creating networks of black mentors.
While these measures may be helpful, these statistics reveal a deep disparity in our society that goes beyond government funding and mentors. This data points to not only inadequacy in America’s education system, but to racial inequality that clearly has not been overcome. It is particularly upsetting to see this injustice affecting youth as early as elementary school, for progress should be evident in each generation. If children are held back by racial inequality so early in life, it will be infinitely more difficult for them to move beyond the disparity and overcome such boundaries as they age.
These statistics should not be ignored. They should come as a warning to Americans that great progress is critically needed, and it is time for government officials, academic researchers, teachers, and really, any American citizen, to work towards change.