Saturday, March 4, 2017

Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools

Following up from yesterday, "Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, No Excuses." (The book's at Amazon here.)

Be sure to read James Traub's excellent review of the Thernstroms, at the Los Angeles Times, "The academic gap in starkest black and white":
The single most devastating statistic in American life is this: The average black high school senior reads at the level of the average white eighth-grader. This, more than anything else, explains why race remains such an overwhelmingly salient fact in American life. It explains why affirmative action is, or at least appears to be, necessary. It explains to a very large degree why blacks continue to lag so far behind whites in income and socioeconomic status.

And, as Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom demonstrate with remorseless lucidity in "No Excuses," their latest exploration of the causes and consequences of persistent black failure, the gap cannot be explained away by racism, testing bias, inequitable resources or even by poverty itself. The gap is not only an incontrovertible fact but a fact rooted in black experience and behavior. The Thernstroms do not believe that school is the cause of black failure, but they insist that, given the right innovations, school can be the solution to black failure. Readers may find it hard to believe that a problem so deeply rooted can be cured with such a straightforward and inexpensive application of reform.

The Thernstroms have been accused in the past of relishing, rather than ruing, the bad news they deliver on, say, affirmative action or welfare. In their previous book, "America in Black and White," they seemed to take great pleasure in putting liberal noses out of joint. But they deserve at least equal credit for venturing fearlessly where more cautious scholars fear to tread and taking the considerable flak that comes with it. "No Excuses" is also not likely to be welcomed in the hallways of our great foundations or in graduate schools of education.

The essential piece of bad news the Thernstroms deliver here is that none of the conventional explanations for the academic gap hold much water, and thus neither do the conventional solutions. They challenge the view, most fervently advanced by Jonathan Kozol in "Savage Inequalities," that schools with large minority populations are systematically denied resources. This is one of those common-sense perceptions that turns out on close examination, they say, to be false...
Keep reading.

And see also Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, And Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.

More later!