A racial achievement chasm in D.C. public schools

Colbert King reports on the enormous racial achievement gap in the District of Columbia public schools. White students, who make up 12 percent of the school system, scored proficiency rates of 79 percent in English and 70 percent in math. Black students, who constitute 67 percent of the school population, had a 17 percent proficiency rate in both English and math. (Hispanics, who comprise 17 percent of the school population and recorded proficiency rates of 21 percent in English and 22 percent in math.)

The tests used are known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams, or PARCC. They were administered to students in the third through eighth grade.

Testing of high school students for geometry and reading showed similar disparities. 52 percent of white students scored proficient or better in geometry, while 82 percent were college-ready in English. By contrast, only 4 percent of Black students rated proficient in geometry and only 20 percent were college-ready in English. (For Hispanics, the percentages were 8 and 25).

Who does one blame for these disparities if one is a liberal? You can’t blame the police. It would strain credulity to blame the teachers, and silly to blame the PARCC tests, which were developed by a consortium of 11 states and the District.

King, a liberal and an African-American, has this to say:

It helps when students go to school from homes where parental supervision is strong, where respect for teachers and other students is taught, and where getting a good education is valued. It helps, too, if students are exposed at home to correctly spoken English, and where homework must be done and checked for errors.

And it helps when students don’t enter the classroom burdened by adult-level problems, like the fear and grief associated with acts of violence. Test scores improve when students go to school feeling secure — both economically and socially — and ready to learn from teachers with high expectations.

What doesn’t help are the attempts to deflect attention away from these roots causes that have become the stock-in-trade of the left.

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