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Closing The Gap: Why do blacks consistently score lower than whites on vocabulary, reading, and math tests as well as tests that claim to measure scholastic aptitude and intelligence? Conservatives place the blame on poverty, the scarcity of two-parent black families, and genes. Liberals, too, cite poverty as a factor, but they also point to racial segregation and inadequate funding for inner-city, predominantly black schools. But such explanations are inadequate, argue Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips in the September/October issue of the American Prospect. "At present," they write, "theorizing about the causes of the black-white gap is largely a waste of time because there is no way to resolve theoretical disagreements without data that both sides accept as valid." Researchers, they argue, need to conduct large-scale experiments in order to develop new theories that explain the gap. For example, "Instead of looking mainly for resource differences between predominantly black and predominantly white schools, successful theories will concentrate on differences in the way black and white schools spend the resources available to them." Unlike many researchers, who see the black-white test score gap as inevitable, Jencks and Phillips are hopeful. Eliminating it will require "enormous effort by both blacks and whites and would probably take more than one generation, [but] we believe it can be done."

--David Hill

Vol. 10, Issue 3, Page 14

Published in Print: November 1, 1998, as Clippings
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