A federal study released last week on the achievement gap between black and white students in the nation’s major urban school systems paints a dismal picture. According to the statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the nation’s report card, in most major urban areas there has been little or no progress in closing the gap.
Study results confirmed that in New York City little progress had been made in reducing the gap in test scores between white students and black and Hispanic students. According to the study, “the city’s white students scored better than black and Hispanic students by margins ranging from 22 points to 31 points. Any reduction in the gap between 2003 and 2011 was not statistically significant.”
Schools in the nation’s Capitol faired worst of all. D.C. public schools have the largest achievement gap between black and white students among the major urban school systems in the nation and the national average. The same gap is seen between white and Hispanic students.
But what other outcome can be expected when there has been and continues to be a disparity in the level of investment of resources, from educational facilities, quality of teachers, books and other learning tools. Data abound about the level of investment per pupil in urban schools compared to suburban schools.
One has only to look at the level of access to technology as an essential tool in schools that boast of delivering a high-quality education to see the institutionalized disparities in the educational system in the United States. The “haves” have access to the technology. The “have nots” do not. More often than not, the disparities are existent along racial and socio-economic lines.
In speaking with a colleague the other day, she was expressing her conflicting feelings about her children, in grade school, already having access to the IPad as a learning tool. Most minorities and students in depressed urban areas do not have access to desktop computers, let alone, laptops and mobile devices such as the IPad, IPhone, or Ipod.
Suspend the technological or digital divide for a moment. The pernicious and institutional racism is evident in how resources are allocated, how students are assigned to learning tracks and teachers, and how we continually push a curriculum with a scarcity, or even worse, the complete absence of minority authors, inventors, scientists, and other contributors to American history.
Institutionalized racism is so prevalent and entrenched — even invisible — in this country that it seems normal to many. Practices in the educational system are merely a microcosm of it in action.
Nothing reminds us of this as poignantly as the ongoing debate around affirmative action. Affirmative action was designed to rid this society of its entrenched discriminatory practices in education, from grade schools to institutions of higher learning, along with other social and economic disparities. Yet, education seems to be the area where affirmative action is most challenged.
It seems perfectly okay to give preferential treatment to students whose parents are alumni of a school, or have some other social, political, or economic standing, even if the students applying have a marginal “C” average. This is common practice at most elite institutions of higher learning.
It would be interesting to find out how many African-Americans with “C” averages have been admitted to Yale University and Harvard Business School, or to graduate school or law school at the University of Michigan, for that matter.
Isn’t admitting students because of name, money, and position of influence another form of affirmative action? If race is to be dropped from the admittance equation, shouldn’t name, money, and position be dropped as well?
There are those who would argue that educational achievement at any level is based primarily on parents, home life, and economic status. While these factors definitely play an important role, their effects are severely compromised when confronted by an unlevel playing field, which institutionalized racism injects into the equation.
Institutionalized racism — biased attitudes, practices, and expectations in the classroom, whether in grade school or college — continues to cripple many of our children and youth disproportionately.
The infusion of millions of dollars into buildings, busing at the grade school level, and the use of point systems at the college level have done little to address the destructive attitudes and practices that continue inside and outside the classroom.
If the current conversation about America falling behind on the global stage when it comes to the educational achievement and competitiveness of our children, or the challenge we face nationally in closing the achievement gap between whites and blacks, does nothing else, it highlights the tremendous work that still needs to be done. We must make it a priority to eliminate institutionalized racism in our educational system. That is the only way to ensure that all children will receive the quality of education they need to have productive lives and become productive citizens to secure and advance us as a nation, and for us to remain competitive globally.
What do you think?