Throughout history, there has been an ongoing fight for equality in the nation, whether between different races, sexes or religions, seemingly fixed by government provisions provided to help even the playing field. Unfortunately, these policies have not abridged the achievement gap between the majority and minority, specifically in reference to the racial gap. For example, the educational accomplishments of African-Americans and Hispanics have been less than stellar in comparison to Caucasians and Asians in recently analyzed test scores.
According to the New York Times, the mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, along with New York’s chancellor of public schools Joel I. Klein, claims that everything possible to close the achievement gap between races has been done over the past six years. Bloomberg went so far as to say that, “In some cases, we’ve reduced it [the achievement gap] by half.”
But, results of recent tests done in New York City revealed that the gap between minority students was significant. 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met standards in math, whereas 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students met the math standards. Also, results for English standards show Asian and White students scoring about twice as high as Hispanic and Black students.
In neighborhoods and communities mainly composed of a single minority, there seems to be an unbalanced cycle of failed conditions keeping the community from succeeding.
In this cycle, the school systems have less than enough money for current textbooks, qualified teachers and a productive learning environment, resulting in insufficiently educated students. As these improperly educated students grow and attempt to get jobs, they lack the experience and qualifications to get jobs that could fund an average American lifestyle, leaving them unable to leave or support their community in any way. Consequently, money is not provided to organizations and institutions in the community that would help it thrive, thus concluding the cycle.
If policies were made to alter the conditions surrounding poverty-ridden communities, then not only would the quality of education in these neighborhoods increase, but also, in theory, the entire quality of life in these areas would improve. One possible solution would be to cut funding from areas that are supported more financially and putting it into communities in which adequate funds are not available. By doing this, these low income areas could possibly get the leg up that is needed to succeed long-term, in turn helping the community as a whole.
One similar example is a court case in New Jersey, reported by The Grio, which led to equal funding between suburban and urban school districts. After this happened, funding for kindergarten and pre-k programs improved. The quality of teaching improved as well, and higher-quality health programs were made more available to children. The improved conditions resulted not only from providing districts with equal funds, but also by using the money to effectively increase the quality of learning.
In no way is the current status of minorities completely without blame when it comes to education, as we are all responsible for our own lives. Nevertheless, it is unfair to hold everyone to the same standard of education when some groups live in a more advantageous situation than others. The achievement gap between students of different race may have decreased overall in comparison to the ‘60s and ‘70s, but we live in an age where benefits based on race or living circumstances shouldn’t be an issue. Minorities definitely have what it takes to reach the same success. But the playing field has to be even first.
Published Aug. 26, 2010 in “The Signal” http://www.gsusignal.com/opinions/still-a-racial-gap-in-education-1.2309886