Only half the story

Two reports just published by the Education Trust reveal how some secondary educational institutions in the United States are closing the achievement gap between students of differing racial/ethnic backgrounds (read: between whites and minorities), while also exposing some of those institutions with the greatest persistent gaps. Sadly, the Chicago branch of my alma mater falls into the latter category …

That aside, this is great news for our system of higher education! With some effort, disparities that Mother Culture often says are intractable can be overcome. However, merely focusing on racial/ethnic differences in graduation rates fails to take into account another aspect, which I think cannot be separated from the race issue (and vice versa), and that is socioeconomic status.

When research focuses exclusively on race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status, it neglects the complex interplay between these data sets (e.g., students from poorer backgrounds tend to achieve less, a greater proportion of African-Americans come from poorer backgrounds, etc …). Poverty affects people regardless of their genetic make-up. And other research indicates that “our highest achieving poor kids seem to be earning degrees at rates below our lowest achieving rich kids.” So while it is certainly commendable that the institutions highlighted in these reports have shown (sometimes very impressive) successes in closing the achievement gaps between racial/ethnic groups, they tell only half the story.

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