Thursday, November 14, 2013

Trenton TImes Article Suggests A Correlation Between Race and Achievement; I Thought We've Moved Beyond That!

In todays Trenton Times an article indicated that NJ students transitioned to the new HSPA and ASK tests reasonably well, with no significant drop in test scores. This was taken as a good sign, obviously, as New Jersey further integrates the national Common Core standards into the state curriculum and tests.

However, one area of concern is still not being resolved, that being the performance gap between white students and students that are either Hispanic or African-American. I've written extensively in this blog concerning strategies I believe will close that gap, but my issue today is slightly different.

I take exception to the continued use of race as a variable being used to identify issues in student performance; this categorization strongly implies that there are differences among students that can be tied to race. Frankly, I thought we have moved beyond this, unless the suggestion is that race is actually meant to refer to culture. Either way, this grouping by race completely misses the point.

The achievement gap between whites, blacks, and Hispanics is actually an income and poverty issue, not a race issue. There is abundant evidence that income levels among blacks and Hispanics is significantly lower than for whites, and this gap is compounded by the fact that, unlike with poor whites, poverty among blacks and Hispanics is heavily concentrated.

The reality is that, by and large, rich kids do well on these tests, poor kids do not. It is really that simple, but for some reason our reporters and/or our political leaders refuse to focus on income rather than race. Until we aggressively address the income issue by supplementing the income of the poor by providing greater access to educational resources, find ways to encourage urban neighborhoods to achieve more economic diversity, disperse the minority poor to alleviate the "concentration" issue, and target government resources and policies towards these poorer communities and schools to provide some countervailing improvements in other areas, we will continue to fail in our responsibilities to these children.

It would be a great start if we could lay to rest the suggestion that race has some bearing on academic performance, and lay the blame where it squarely belongs, on income. The free market understandably produces winners and losers, and income inequity in our economy is a necessary condition. However, education is different, and these inequities can never be tolerated. Understanding the causes for this inequity seems like a great place to start.

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