Race Matters

By Elizabeth Rich — August 17, 2007 1 min read
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California’s standardized test scores are in and the news isn’t good. The scores reveal that the performance gap between ethnic groups is more than just a question of wealth vs. poverty. On state math tests, white students who qualified for subsidized lunch scored two and eight percent higher, respectively, than their Latino and black peers who did not qualify for subsidized lunch. Scores on the standardized English tests were about equal for low-income white students and their non-poor Latino and black peers. “These are not just economic achievement gaps,” said state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell. “They are racial achievement gaps, and we cannot excuse them.”

In response to the test results, Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust West, criticized state policymakers who she said have done little to put well-trained teachers in the schools that most need them. Others variously attributed the gap to low expectations for minority students, biased test language, and teaching strategies that don’t accommodate alternative learning styles. According to Sharroky Hollie, a professor of teacher education at California State University, the key question is, “How can the instruction be reshaped to validate and affirm [different] cultural behaviors as a segue to standards-based learning?”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.