USA TODAY, May 9, 2014
Education goals are getting resegregated
States set lower standards for blacks.
Only 7% of black high school seniors are proficient in math, compared with 33% of white students, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress scores released Wednesday. The reading gap is larger.
The math achievement gap between black and white students hasn’t narrowed in nearly 10 years. As a result, in a radical departure from the No Child Left Behind Act, more than half the states have given up on race-blind standards, setting different goals for different groups of students.
Over the past several years, the Obama administration has pushed states to craft detailed short-term plans to cut the achievement gap between low-performing minorities and whites in half by 2018, abandoning the Bush administration’s goal of eliminating it. As a result, of the first 34 state plans approved by the Obama administration, 26 set different goals for different races and ethnicities of students.
The District of Columbia’s plan calls a 94% proficiency in math for white students a success while only expecting the same from 71% of black students. At Wilson Senior High, the goal is for 67% of black students and 95% of white students to pass standardized math tests by 2017.
Tennessee’s plan is to raise the passing rate for English 2 courses for white students to 81% by 2017, while the passing rate for black students is only 64%.
The feds sanctioned Minnesota’s plan to achieve 82% proficiency in 11th grade math for whites and 62% for blacks.
Alabama’s goals for the 2013-14 school year are for 92% of white third-graders and 79% of black third-graders to pass math. Tim Robinson, the father of two black schoolchildren, complained to The Tuscaloosa News, “I think having a low bar means they can just pass them on. I think it’s dumbing our race down and preparing our boys for prison.”
Dumbing down or not, the Obama racial double standards seem in one sense more honest than the Bush administration’s laughably failed goal that all groups of students be proficient by this year. But there is no more reason to expect schools to cut the achievement gap in half by 2017 than to believe that 2001’s NCLB law could close the gap by 2014.
Both Bush and Obama have set goals they know they can’t meet. In another sense, though, the Obama administration’s new racial double standards are a step backward. In its landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court stressed that segregation could “generate a feeling of (black) inferiority … that may affect (children’s) hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.”
The worst abuses of segregated schooling, struck down 50 years ago, were born of racism. It makes little difference to the victims that today’s segregated standards are being set with the best of intentions.
James Bovard, author of Attention Deficit Democracy, is finishing a book on abuses of power under President Obama. On Twitter – @jimbovard