Closing the Racial Achievement Gap

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Review by Aricka T. Flowers

Closing the Racial Academic Achievement Gap by Matthew Lynch

Since President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, education analysts have spent a lot of time trying to find ways to close the nation’s racial academic achievement gap. Because NCLB calls for states to report student performance in subcategories including race, gender, and subject matter, the law has spotlighted the differences between black, white, and Latino students.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test results, in 2005, 41 percent of white children in fourth grade were at or above proficiency in reading. But only 13 percent of black and 16 percent of Latino fourth-graders were at or above proficiency in reading that year.

The NAEP, conducted by the Center for Education Statistics, is a nationwide assessment taken by students to measure reading, writing, math, and other academic skills. The assessment gives information on state as well as national student achievement and measures how the data have changed over time.

Explaining Why

Focusing primarily on the achievement gap between black and white students, Matthew Lynch’s book tries to explain why the gap exists and offers suggestions on how to close it.

“The education system must realize that the Black child is constantly bombarded with racial stereotypes and unfair assumptions that manifest themselves in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies,” Lynch writes.

“African-American children don’t need to be treated differently than their White counterparts; however, it is important for the educational system to recognize the cultural differences that exist between them in order for African-American students to thrive academically,” Lynch continues.

Adjusting Expectations

Low socioeconomic status, failing schools, cultural gaps, crime and drug abuse, a lack of African-American teachers, low expectations, and self-sabotage are some of the factors Lynch cites as major contributors to the academic achievement gap between black and white students.

According to the book, black students must realize schoolwork should be their first priority—succeeding academically does not mean they are racial “sell-outs.”

But Lynch also notes educators must learn to understand the African-American culture. For example, some behavior believed to be aggressive may simply be teens roughhousing in their own way. Lynch also cites the importance of teachers having higher expectations for their black students and acting as mentors for those who may be exposed to crime, drugs, and other dangers in their neighborhoods.

Overall, Lynch offers common-sense ideas for dissipating the nation’s racial academic achievement gap. His approach is a communal one that requires equal efforts from blacks and whites, parents, students, and educators.

Aricka T. Flowers (atflowers@hotmail.com) writes from Chicago.

For more information … 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/