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A Gap That Won't Go Away on Its Own
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Academic achievement gaps
Author: Raspberry, William
Date: Oct 6, 2003
Start Page: A.23
Section: EDITORIAL

Two very different books make that point with compelling clarity. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom ("No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning") begin by describing the breadth of the gap. "By twelfth grade, on average, black students are four years behind those who are white or Asian. Hispanics don't do much better." Now, that's a huge gap. It doesn't mean that all black and Hispanic youngsters are failing, but it assuredly does mean that we are handing out a lot of high school diplomas to children capable of performing only at an eighth-grade level in reading, math, history and geography.

Shaker's black children, he found out right away, outstrip black children everywhere else in the state -- and in much of the nation. Indeed, many of their families moved to Shaker Heights specifically for its schools. They wanted their children to have an excellent education. But the gap between them and their white schoolmates is significant -- and dismaying. White kids predominate in advanced placement and honors courses. Black children, who gravitate to the easier "general education" and "college prep" courses, nonetheless racked up 80 percent of the D's and F's.

Like the Thernstroms, [John Ogbu] and his researchers ran through the usual suspects: low teacher expectations, prejudiced personnel, the distractions of race. Like the Thernstroms, he thought many of them had some effect on achievement.

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