In last week’s paper, Julia Masters wrote about the stark racial achievement gap in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, which by other measures is considered the best school district in North Carolina. 

Commenter George P says the problem starts at home: “I know how difficult it can be keeping kids focused and on track as a parent. That is, as I’ve experienced it, the most important element in ensuring academic success. Much of the achievement at school is a result of focus at home. If some kids aren’t measuring up, regardless of race or color, I would look at that dimension. Maybe the answer is as simple as a little after-school help and not all of this racialist mumbo-jumbo—none of which sounds convincing.”

“Yours is an incredibly stupid comment,” counters John H. “It’s not ‘some’ kids. It’s a pattern of black students not doing as well in our system as white students. Pop quiz: If you live in a racist society and make less money than your white peers, but you live in an affluent area and have to work two jobs, do you have a) more time or b) less time to spend with your children? 

“If some parents don’t have time to spend with their children, could there be a systemic reason—like a history of racism in America? Or, as you clearly imply, are black parents just worse at parenting? Because that’s what you just said.”

“Leaving education to the ‘home life’ perpetuates institutional racism and achievement gaps,” adds Eleanor M. “Socioeconomic factors decide whether that student is able to access additional out-of-school help. The idea is that by being aware of these biases, we can restructure certain systems within school that are barriers for students. 

“Whether or not you are ‘convinced,’ the data indisputably points to racism within these schools.”

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2 replies on “Achievement Gaps Start at Home”

  1. It’s unlikely that additional funding or other interventions will result in closing the achievement gap. Data support that assertion. It is useful to consider national trends in average performance for students who take an internationally recognized test, such as the SAT, for example.
    .As indicated in the table, below, the All Student average for SAT Critical Reading hasn’t changed materially in recent decades— true as well for average scores of groups classified by race/ethnicity – except for Asian-Americans, who have closed one reading achievement gap and opened another! They now lead the pack! How did they do it? Quien sabe.
    Table 1. SAT Critical Reading average selected years
    1987 ’97 2001 ’06 ’11 ’15 ’16
    507 505 506 503 497 495 494 All students
    524 526 529 527 528 529 528 White
    479 496 501 510 517 525 529 Asian
    …………………………………… ……. 436 Hispanic
    .457 451 451 454 451 448 Mex-Am
    436 454 457 459 452 448 Puerto R
    464 466 460 458 451 449 Oth Hisp
    471 475 481 487 484 481 447 Amer Ind
    428 434 433 434 428 431 430 Black
    SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education
    Statistics.(2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (NCES 2012-001), Chapter 2. SAT averages
    for college-bound seniors, by race/ethnicity: Selected years,1986-87 through
    2010–11 Data for 2015&2016… Note 2016 data were no provided
    for Hispanic subgroups.

    If SAT averages haven’t changed materially for almost 30 years, despite the effort, time and money expended to improve educational programs for all students, it seems reasonable to assume that we shouldn’t expect any meaningful change in average level of this critically important ability in the foreseeable future. Which leads to the $64 question: what if the achievement gap is here to stay? (This doesn’t seem to apply for Asian-Americans.).

    Another reliable source
    provides evidence indicating that per pupil costs/expenditures have
    increased at a 45 degree angle since the 1970s, average reading,
    writing and arithmetic scores have been stable; and it appears that the
    achievement gap obtains at all income levels
    For additional detail, see

  2. The breakdown of the family is a huge reason for kids failing. It’s not rocket science. People want to make excuses for parents not getting it done. It DOES start in the home. Bad parenting and not instilling the value of education is a huge factor here. Amazing people can and do literally get off the boat/plane from a foreign country with nothing, work multiple jobs, but instill the value of education in their kids from day one. It’s not difficult nor is it some massive time consuming effort. It is culture and raising kids with the right values. The lady who cuts my hair at a Supercuts is from china. She might make $35k per year…Her daughter is at Duke. Quit making excuses for failure of parenting. Look at the Indian community here in central NC. They work a lot and work multiple jobs, yet their kids know the value of education and focus on school. It is culture and parenting. That simple. My parents were poor. They both worked blue collar jobs. The one thing they instilled in me and my sister was we had to go to college (cause they could not afford to). And we did. Don’t blast the message of reality with cries of racism. It’s a cop out and it’s the tyranny of low expectations.

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