A further admission of black intellectual backwardness, combined with the next plan to fix it

(See discussion of what the Times left out of its article.)

The headline in today’s New York Times is: “Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected.” But the story does not back up the headline. The proficiency of black students, as shown in the article, is as low as it’s ever been. Why the falsehood? To gin up a sense of urgency so as to establish political support for the next wave of black “amelioration”: training black parents to raise their children differently, and creating a national network of black mentors.

And what will the “conservatives” have to say against this nonsense? Nothing. They’ll go along with it, just as they went along with “No Child Left Behind,” just as they went along with “Race to the Top.”

Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented—a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.

But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys. [LA replies: How is that different from the data that have been available all along? For example, it’s been known for many years that black high school seniors are four years behind white seniors in reading ability. Given that stunning differential, the finding that only 12 percent of black boys are proficient in reading compared to 38 percent of whites is about what we would expect.]

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

The data was distilled from highly respected national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009. The report, “A Call for Change,” is to be released Tuesday by the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban public schools.

Although the outlines of the problem and many specifics have been previously reported, the group hopes that including so much of what it calls “jaw-dropping data” in one place will spark a new sense of national urgency. [LA replies: Great! That’s just what we need. Let’s have a super duper combination of Head Start, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Charter Schools, and a national mobilization of black mentors, plus a more fervent sense of commitment than we’ve ever felt before, and THIS time we’ll solve the problem.]

“What this clearly shows is that black males who are not eligible for free and reduced-price lunch are doing no better than white males who are poor,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the council.

The report shows that black boys on average fall behind from their earliest years. Black mothers have a higher infant mortality rate and black children are twice as likely as whites to live in a home where no parent has a job. In high school, African-American boys drop out at nearly twice the rate of white boys, and their SAT scores are on average 104 points lower. In college, black men represented just 5 percent of students in 2008.

The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.

The search for explanations has recently looked at causes besides poverty, and this report may further spur those efforts.

“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,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.” [LA replies: So what they’re talking about is socially engineering black parents to raise their children differently, creating different modes of relating to and disciplining black children. This will the next great craze into which tens of billions of federal dollars and the energies of a significant part of our society will be sunk.]

The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

What it does not discuss are policy responses identified with a robust school reform movement that emphasizes closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers.

The report did not go down this road because “there’s not a lot of research to indicate that many of those strategies produce better results,” Mr. Casserly said.

Other have a different response. The key to narrowing the achievement gap, said Dr. Ferguson, is “really good teaching.”

One large urban school district that has made progress is Baltimore’s, where the dropout rate for African-American boys declined to 4.9 percent during the last academic year, down from 11.9 percent three years earlier. Graduation rates for black boys were also up: 57 percent in 2009-10, compared with 51 percent three years earlier.

Andres A. Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, said the improvement had little to do with changes at the margins, like lengthening the school day or adding mentors. Rather, Mr. Alonso cited aggressively closing failing schools, knocking on the doors of dropouts’ homes to lure them back and creating real-time alerts—“almost like an electrical charge”—when a student misses several days of school.

“Hispanic kids and African-American kids this year had a lower dropout rate than white kids,” Mr. Alonso said.

[end of Times article]

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

Did you notice what was missing from the NYT story about black students? The discussion of the problems of black boys contained no mention at all of fathers or out-of-wedlock births! Black mothers somehow magically have these black boys without any adult male involvement in the process. The good Dr. Ferguson of Harvard seems blissfully unaware that perhaps the “conversations about early childhood parenting practices” ought to include a conversation about getting married before you become a parent and staying married after you become a parent, which many people not at Harvard consider a particularly critical “early childhood parenting practice.” No amount of Congressional money, White House attention, school reform, or “really good teaching” can compensate for absent fathers. There is some prattle in the article about the need for “black mentors” for black boys—what those boys need is a father, not a mentor, whose role in their lives can only be transient at best. Will the report cited in the article mention the fatherhood issue? Somehow I doubt it.

LA replies:

Yes. Along with IQ differences, the other factor that the Times never brings up in its endless series of articles over the last 20 years about the racial academic gap is illegitimacy.

This is because there are two things sacred to liberals: the belief in human equality, and the belief in human freedom, including the freedom to have sexual relations with whomever one wants and the freedom to have children out of wedlock. As a result, the two greatest factors in black dysfunction—low intelligence and illegitimacy—are never mentioned in any liberal discussion of black educational problems. And “liberal” here includes most “conservatives.” Until 2000, conservatives put illegitimacy at the top of their list of socially damaging phenomena. That ended after they signed on to the presidential candidacy of George W. Bush, who legitimized and celebrated illegitimacy with his slogan that “single moms have the toughest job in America.”

Peter H. writes:

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in … “

I began reading this sentence, about midway through the article and I thought “I can’t believe they’re going to say it!”, but I thought they might since the paragraph just before read “The search for explanations has recently looked at causes besides poverty (my emphasis), and this report may further spur those efforts.”

Of course, the sentence ended ” … what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” and was followed by the same old claptrap offered as solutions.

Silly me.

LA replies:

Indeed. Because, with slight variations, every one of the articles that the Times has periodically published since the early ’90s about the racial academic deficit has included the idea that it’s not just about poverty. But then, without fail, they always end up sticking in some other subtle, cultural factor. “What kids experience before the first day of kindergarten” is a classic in the genre. The very phrase, “what kids experience,” implies forces that are being imposed on them from without, forces that are pushing them into intellectual dysfunction. So change those forces, and watch the “gap” close.

Jim C. writes:

“And what will the ‘conservatives’ have to say against this nonsense? Nothing. They’ll go along with it, just as they went along with No Child Left Behind, just as they went along with Race to the Top.”—Auster

I disagree. The electorate is becoming fed up with the problems of black people, so expect no major initiatives to “ameliorate” their pathologies anytime soon. The era of benign neglect is here again, that’s for certain. And the “Race-Norm the Negro to the Top” program will fail, and most likely lose most of its funding upon the inauguration of a conservative president.

By the way, nice heads-up to Malkin.

Sophia A. writes:

Add my voice to the skeptic’s chorus as to whether we’ll ever see any muscular race realism on the part of the (white) electorate. But anything’s possible.

Having said that, here’s a glimmer of hope. If it’s true that baseball is a reflection of America, take a look at both World Series teams, and especially at the winning Giants. The vast majority of the personnel were American-born whites. True, some of the key personnel were black Latins (Renteria on Giants, Guerrero of the Rangers), but they were older, and in any case, the overwhelming majority of the core young personnel were young, American, and white.

I checked my theory and looked up the SF Giants roster. Only two of their players are American-born blacks, and neither was a franchise everyday player (or a pitcher).

If we can reclaim baseball (and annoy Ken Burns!), maybe we can reclaim America.

Karl D. writes:

Ah, liberals.They may as well ask themselves why they get wet when it is raining outside?

Jonathan Silber writes:

Regarding your recent posting on the story in the New York Times about the poor performance at school by black boys:

Women of low intelligence often have children out of wedlock; women of average or better intelligence rarely do.

Assuming that some liberals have average or better intelligence, one can conclude that in this respect, as in so many others, they do not practice what they preach.

Feel free to post this comment, with my name given as author of it.

Thanks for maintaining your blog; I follow it daily.

Sophia A. writes:

To me, the two most important sentences in the article were these:

“Hispanic kids and African-American kids this year had a lower dropout rate than white kids,” Mr. Alonso said.


The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

So, the dropout rate for white kids is higher than for black and Hispanic kids, but we should spend more money on blacks…. is this not a prime example of BRA?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 09, 2010 10:14 AM | Send

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