Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected
More horrifying data on the achievement gap – but some promising improvements in Baltimore:
An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.
But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.
Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.
Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.
…Other have a different response. The key to narrowing the achievement gap, said Dr. Ferguson, is "really good teaching."
One large urban school district that has made progress is Baltimore's, where the dropout rate for African-American boys declined to 4.9 percent during the last academic year, down from 11.9 percent three years earlier. Graduation rates for black boys were also up: 57 percent in 2009-10, compared with 51 percent three years earlier.
Andres A. Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, said the improvement had little to do with changes at the margins, like lengthening the school day or adding mentors. Rather, Mr. Alonso cited aggressively closing failing schools, knocking on the doors of dropouts' homes to lure them back and creating real-time alerts — "almost like an electrical charge" — when a student misses several days of school.
"Hispanic kids and African-American kids this year had a lower dropout rate than white kids," Mr. Alonso said.
November 9, 2010