Why is the racial achievement gap in New York City's public schools relatively small?
As bad as the overall scores are for New York City, they are even worse when they are broken down by race and ethnicity. Two-thirds of black and Hispanic fourth-grade students were "below basic" on the federal test, as were 77% of black students and 73% of Hispanic students in the eighth-grade. This is a recipe for disaster. Black and Hispanic students are not learning much science in our city's schools. These students are not being adequately prepared for college or for the modern workplace or for informed citizenship.
The news for white students in the city's public schools is not much better. In fourth-grade, 27% were "below basic," and in eighth-grade, 39% were in that category. In both cases, white students in New York City performed significantly below white students in other big-city public school districts.
The low scores of white students explain the relatively small performance gap, compared to other big cities, between different racial groups, about which the city's Department of Education has boasted. The achievement gap is smaller not because minority students are doing well in the city, but because white students are doing so poorly.
If one were to ask what percentage of students in eighth-grade are really doing well in science in the city's public schools, the news is bleak. Only 29% of white and Asian students scored proficient or advanced, as did a mere 6% of black students, 7% of Hispanic students, and 9% of low-income students.
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