Harvard Professor Stephan Thernstrom's essay, "Minorities in College — Good News, But …," in Minding the Campus (11/4/10) commented on the results of the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress test: The scores "mean that black students aged 17 do not read with any greater facility than whites who are four years younger and still in junior high. ... Exactly the same glaring gaps appear in NAEP's tests of basic mathematics skills."
Thernstrom asks, "If we put a randomly-selected group of 100 eighth-graders and another of 100 twelfth-graders in a typical college, would we expect the first group to perform as well as the second?" In other words, is it reasonable to expect a college freshman of any race with the equivalent of an eighth-grade education to compete successfully with those having a twelfth-grade education?
SAT scores confirm the poor education received by blacks. In 2009, average SAT reading test scores were: whites (528), Asians (516) and blacks (429). In math it was whites (536), Asians (587) and blacks (426). Twelve years of fraudulent primary and secondary education received by most blacks are not erased by four or five years of college.
This is evidenced by examination scores taken for admission to graduate schools. In 2007, Graduate Record Examination verbal scores were: whites (493), Asians (485) and blacks (395). The math portion scores were: whites (562), Asians (617) and blacks (419). Scores on the LSAT in 2006, for admission to law school, were: whites (152), Asians (152) and blacks (142). In 2010, MCAT scores for admission to medical schools were: whites (26), Asians (26) and blacks (21).
What's the response of the black community to efforts to do something about fraudulent primary and secondary education? Voters in Washington, D.C., provide a partial answer. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed and backed Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. She fired large numbers of ineffective teachers, most of whom were black, and fought the teachers' union. During her tenure, there were small gains made in student test scores.
How did all of this go over? Washington's teachers' union, and D.C.'s public-employee unions, spent massive amounts of money campaigning against Fenty. Voters unseated him in the November elections and with him went Chancellor Rhee. Fenty had other "faults"; he didn't play the racial patronage game that has become a part of D.C.'s political landscape. The clear message given: any politician who's willing to play hardball in an effort to improve black education will be run out of town.
The education establishment's solution is always more money; however, according to a Washington Post article (4/6/2008), "The Real Cost Of Public Schools," by Andrew J. Coulson, if we include its total operating budget, teacher retirement, capital budget and federal funding, the D.C. public schools spend $24,600 per student.
Washington's fraudulent black education is not unique; it's duplicated in one degree or another in most of our major cities. However, there is a glimmer of hope in the increasing demand for charter schools and educational vouchers. This movement is being fought tooth and nail by an education establishment that fears the competition and subsequent threats to their employment. The charter school and the educational vouchers movement will help prevent parents and children who care about education from being held hostage in an environment hostile to the learning process. And there's plenty of evidence that children do better and parents are more pleased when they have a measure of school choice.
The fact that black youngsters trail their white counterparts becomes even more grim when we recognize that on average all our 15-year-olds rank 25th among 34 industrialized nations in math and 14th in reading.
Walter Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.