The Black/White School Achievement Gap in Wisconsin
The average reading ability for fourth- and eighth-grade black students in Wisconsin is the lowest of any state, and the reading achievement gap between black students and white students in Wisconsin continues to be the worst in the nation.It may very well be that, but is the traditional kind of civil rights thinking adequate to deal with it?
Those are among the facts found in a mass of testing results released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education, the latest results from a long-standing federal program called the National Assessment of Education Progress. It is the closest thing to a nationwide standardized testing program for reading and math ability.
The gap between blacks and whites was worse in Wisconsin than, say, Louisiana? Yes.
The average score for black fourth-graders in reading was lower than, say, Washington, D.C., or Alabama? Yes.
“I find it very distressing to look at this,” said Elizabeth Burmaster, Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction. “There isn’t anything more important (in education). This is the civil rights issue of our country.”
One refreshing and honest perspective came from a black leader.
Wendell Harris, chairman of the education committee of the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP, said, “I know we’ve got to do better in school, there’s no question about that.”Wow!
But, he said, “really, from my standpoint, (it’s) families. . . . We can’t keep making excuses for parents.”
Harris said many parents live amid difficult circumstances, but “we have to do our best to try to get our children educated whatever our own circumstances are.”
He added, “We have to become more willing to hold everyone accountable and not just the teachers.”
We can’t imagine Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson saying that.
But we’ll make progress on the issue only to the extent that people are willing to tell the truth.