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Achievement Gap: Worse Than We Thought

Young Student During Recess

The long-documented achievement gap between black and white students turns out to be wider than is generally known. According to a new study focusing on young African American males, 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone can’t explain the disparity in school performance, the New York Times reports. Poor white boys “do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty.”

The report, “A Call for Change,” was issued by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools, according to the Times. The data was culled from the National Assessment for Educational Progress, a series of national math and reading tests that students take in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009.

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.” Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Ferguson said.

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