Racial Gap in NYC Schools' Achievement Still Wide

by Lorna Salzman

In a blow to Mayor Bloomberg, a resetting of testing threshold shows no closing of the racial achievement gap.

Despite recent claims by NYC's Mayor Bloomberg and educational experts of progress in closing the educational achievement gap between racial groups in the city schools, this gap has not decreased in recent years, leading to fears that those groups lower on the scale will not fulfill their potential.

"Failure to close this gap could lead to continued discrimination in the job market and a two-tier society of elites and failures", said the mayor. "We need to find out why this is happening and take drastic measures to close this gap. We owe it to the failing group as well as to society at large".

Nationwide, the gap is not as great as it is in New York City, where differences between the various racial groups - white, Hispanic, black, Asian - are still marked and not evening out. Initially there was much celebration at what appeared to be a narrowing gap, but re-testing and re-examination of test results revealed the opposite to be true.

In some cases with some groups, poverty and difficulties with learning a new language were at the root of poor academic accomplishment, as they have been for many years. But in other cases where these were not a factor, the persistence of a gap was puzzling and not explained by socio-economic factors.

"We are at a loss to know why the educational achievement gap continues to widen between Asians, who persistently score the highest, and whites, who have the benefit of having English as their native language and have received, for better or worse, preferential treatment for such a long time", said Joel Klein, schools chancellor. But Klein said he still felt "awfully good".

Off the record, some educational experts will venture reasons, not wanting to voice opinions that might appear racist or derogatory. When told of the low level of achievement of whites, these were some of the responses.

Said one, speaking on guarantee of anonymity: "Some knee jerk liberals might attribute the under-average academic achievements of American whites to innate inferiority, but of course this conclusion is morally unacceptable".

Another said: "Nonsense. We know the Chinese and Koreans bribe the teachers to give high grades; didn't you see that film "A Serious Man"?

Said another: "You can't help but think that what Americans see on TV and in Washington DC or hear in their houses of worship or from their peers is having a major impact on their intellectual development".

Another dismissed any notion of Political Correctness, saying bluntly:"We've always known that white Americans were beer-swilling anti-intellectual couch potatoes".

Said another: "Duh".

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.