Closing the Achievement Gap: Race Still Matters

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

istockphoto.comistockphoto.comMore bad news for folks, who think that Obama’s election landed us in a post-racial America. A new report (PDF) looking at math and reading proficiency among young black males in urban public schools concludes they’re doing even worse than is generally known, and poverty alone doesn’t explain it.

Race still matters. Case in point: African American boys who are not poor get the same test scores as white boys who live in poverty.

Most K-12 data is usually broken up by race or ethnicity, but not gender. What this sharpened interpretation reveals is that young black males face more obstacles to graduating from high school than any other subgroup, from living in a household without a male guardian, to more frequent encounters with overzealous cops, to higher dropout rates and more suspensions.

The intention of this report is a call for more targeted solutions that take race into consideration, such as recruiting more black male counselors or creating more culturally relevant lesson plans. The report’s authors call for increased national efforts, like a White House conference on black males, creating a special task force, and providing more resources to public schools for after-school programs specifically for black males.

What we are likely to actually see are roughly the same (or less, with Dems losing the House) education reform efforts using “market-friendly” mechanisms to eradicate poverty, like opening more charters, turning around or closing schools, and increased pay for teachers whose students get the highest test scores. What we definitely won’t see are new federal programs that anyone could brand as affirmative action. Not at a time when a mainstream publication like Forbes runs a cover feature on Obama describing him already “so outside our comprehension” that he can only be fathomed “if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”



Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend