Race and Class Still Divides Education

Dec 20, 2013 by

npr_news_iconCities across the country are receiving the latest numbers on how well their 4th and 8th graders are doing in reading and math. Results are positive, but there’s only been incremental changes when it comes to race, gender, and income gaps. Host Michel Martin finds out more.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I’m Michel Martin. Coming up, Congress has finally reached a deal on the budget, but it does not include extending federal benefits for the long-term unemployed. We wanted to find out what that means for Americans. And we’ll talk about that later in the program. But first, we want to talk about education. Now this is the time of year when many students are getting their first report cards of the year.

Well, there’s also one for school districts. Twenty-one of this country’s biggest urban school districts got their grades yesterday in a study called the Nation’s Report Card. That’s a report put out by the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. That’s the research wing of the Department of Education. For the past 10 years, this group has looked at how big city students do in reading and math. And the initial reports are that this is good news because fourth and eighth graders in 21 cities are performing significantly better than they did a decade ago. We wanted to dig into that, so we are fortunate to have with us the leaders of two of the nation’s largest school districts. Alberto Carvalho is the superintendent for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, with us from member station WLRN. Mr. Carvalho, thank you so much for joining us once again. Welcome back.

ALBERTO CARVALHO: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Also with us, Daniel Gohl, chief academic officer for Houston Independent School District, with us from Houston. Mr. Gohl, thank you so much for joining us once again.

DANIEL GOHL: Hello, Michel. Glad to be with you.

MARTIN: And back with us for additional perspective in our Washington bureau, NPR educational correspondent, Claudio Sanchez. And, Claudio, I’m going to start with you. Thank you so much for joining us once again. You’ve spoken with education experts about this. Are they generally seeing this report as good news and why?

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: Well, all the people I talked to have – I asked them, you know, what kind of headline they’d give this report. And half said things are terrible, and the other half said things are great. And there is…

MARTIN: That’s a pretty wide range of opinion.

SANCHEZ: Both are accurate, Michel, because, you know, you look at the fact that between 2003 and 2013, large city schools improved their fourth grade reading performance, narrowing the gap between urban schools in the nation by 32 percent – 32 percent. Eighth-grade level, the gap narrowed by 34 percent. Then there was a whopping narrowing of the gap by 38 percent among eighth graders. They closed the gap with the rest of the nation. So this is a lot to celebrate.

Nobody takes that away from them. The bad news is that kids in these cities, all of these cities, are really struggling. I mean, they’re still – you still have these enormous gaps certainly between black and white, between rich and poor. And so you still have many, many kids – for example, only 12 percent overall of these cities – 12 percent of black kids in all these cities are able to read or able to do math.

MARTIN: What about Latino kids?

SANCHEZ: Latino kids, especially – and you’ll hear this, perhaps, from our guest from Houston – Latino kids are actually doing better. But again, you still – you can’t miss the fact that so few kids are reading at grade level, doing math at grade level. And I think that that certainly taints what would otherwise be a really positive report.

MARTIN: Superintendent Carvalho, let’s go to you. And we had you on – if I can remind people of this. You spoke with us, specifically, for a special program about education last year. And you talked a lot about how the efforts that you’ve made in Miami-Dade. The report says no significant changes in reading and math for fourth and eighth graders over the last two years. You know, your thoughts about the report overall and whether you see it primarily as a glass half-full or glass half-empty.

via Nation’s Report Card Shows Improvement, But Race Still Divides : NPR.

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