Dr. Glenn C. Loury is losing sleep over the achievement gap between Blacks and Whites in public schools. But it's not merely low test scores in the nation's elementary and middle schools that disturbs him. Loury is alarmed that America's political leaders, are leaving the job of fixing the nation's racial disparities to educators alone.
"I feel like a move is being made" said Loury, "to change the definition of the problem to something that is not amenable to political treatment."
Loury, a Brown University economics professor, made those remarks last month in an address to education experts at the Second Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University.
Harvard launched the Achievement Gap Initiative last year to study the differences among racial groups, which are greatest between Blacks and Whites, according to many of the statistics presented at the conference.
The causes of the gap--as reflected by standardized test scores and high school and college dropout rates--"are a legacy of a history" said Loury, in an apparent reference to slavery, segregation and the redlining of school districts. "The achievement gap is a deeply rooted reflection of a thousand different forces, [including] the deeply entrenched segregation of our lives" he said.
Strictly educational fixes to the BlackWhite gap have borne only limited results. School desegregation, changing early parenting behaviors, increasing classroom learning times and master's degree requirements for K-12 teachers were among the possible tactics discussed at the conference.
Some education experts at the conference said the No Child Left Behind Act is partly responsible for putting educators "in a pickle" as University of California, Berkeley education professor W. Norton Grubb put it. "Yes, schools need to be reformed," he said, "but we also need urban development and health and welfare policies."
Political leaders and social scientists also need to attack cultural influences on Black kids, said Dr. Ronald E Ferguson, senior research associate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Wiener Center for Social Policy Research and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative.
Ferguson even suggested that rap music may be behind a recent broadening of the gap.
Black and Hispanic teenagers made dramatic gains in academic achievement throughout the 1970s and 1980s, according to statistics cited by Ferguson. …