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The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Solving The Black-White Education Disparity

Mortimer Zuckerman says what needs to be said: When it comes to educating EVERYONE in our society, the left is chasing mirages and promoting nothing of value. Only when society discards these sacred cows can the real important work of educational reform begin:

Mortimer B. Zuckerman: A hard look at what works

One might be pardoned for thinking that such (racial) disparities would have been reduced by all the efforts and money expended over the past 15 years. But the gulf is widening. Why? That's the most important question confronting our society today. (boldface is mine - JR)....Let's look at some of the basics.

"It's a question of poverty." Not so. Within identical income brackets, black students have much lower scores. More stunning is the fact that black students with parents who make $80,000 to $100,000 have lower SAT scores, 934 on average, than white students from families in the $20,000-to-$30,000 income range, who average 992.

"It is the lack of integration." There is no evidence that desegregation has substantially improved achievement. Even in integrated, upper-middle-class suburbs, such as Shaker Heights, near Cleveland, black students do much worse than whites, and few blacks pass proficiency tests with honors.

"It is because of inadequate spending." No, again. On an inflation-adjusted per-capita basis, education spending has doubled in the past 30 years with, at best, meager results. Cambridge, Mass., spends $17,000 per student--twice that of Boston--and the student-teacher ratio is the second lowest in the country. But black students there not only lag behind whites and Asians but scored lower than blacks in nearby communities that spent less than half as much as Cambridge did. Similar conclusions can be drawn from states like New Jersey and Kansas, both of which dramatically increased spending with little to show for it.

"Classes are too big." On the contrary, class sizes have shrunk since 1992, and there has been virtually no corresponding effect on black performance. California spent a fortune reducing class sizes from kindergarten through third grade, with few benefits. Indeed, the state had to hire thousands of additional teachers, putting poor kids into classes with instructors with less skill and experience.

"It's the teachers." No appreciable effect has come from having more certified teachers or more black teachers.

All too true. And so is Zuckerman's diagnosis of the problem:

Then why not impose rigor in our public schools? Their answer is that public schools are hobbled by inflexibility and the inertia imposed by big city and state public-school bureaucracies and by powerful teachers unions. Egalitarian pay scales based on length of service and the inability to dismiss poor teachers, along with the limits on a principal's freedom of action, make it impossible to incentivize better teachers and hire better principals.

How do you clean the bird shit and bat guano out these moldering school administrations?

One word: VOUCHERS.

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