Readers Comment on Obama’s Failure to Close White-Black Test Score Gap

A number of people have commented on my that the black-white test score gap on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)’s long-term trend survey has failed to close during the Obama years. It is surprising that the election of a black president that had persisted throughout the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

The most astute commentary has been made by Jeffrey R. Smith, a high school geometry teacher in Alameda, California. His to the Wall Street Journal notes that waivers from NCLB have come just in the nick of time; schools were to have all students proficient by 2014. “As we approach a deadline we waiver the goals and gallop off in a new direction. It works; most of the population is either not paying attention, doesn’t know what the milestones are or isn’t aware of by how wide a margin their district missed the target.” Well said. I hope to add to this discussion later this fall.

He also astutely notes the active efforts by school officials to obscure the realities of what is happening inside schools. Writing with an authority that can only come from an honest voice within the schoolhouse, Smith writes: “To retain a captive audience, administrators and teachers collaborate, if only to close off escape routes, i. e., crimp charter schools and veto vouchers.” What’s unfortunate is that the mainstream press collaborates in the obfuscation. Think of the public’s reaction were test scores trumpeted in every town and school district!

I was less taken by some comments on my blog post. “Ceemor” provides absolutely erroneous information. The long-term trend NAEP is carefully designed to make sure that tests are comparable over time: that is in fact its central mission!

“CN” accuses me of making causal inferences when I noted only the simple, well-documented fact that test score gains were no longer being realized at a time when NCLB enforcement was lapsing. I specifically noted that excuses were available for those who wanted to blame the results instead on the recession or slowdowns in the growth in school expenditure. For CN to make pretentious allegations while hiding behind initials is utterly inexcusable.

But I do appreciate Clay Forsberg’s reminder that African American test scores skyrocketed in the south when civil rights leaders gave many hope for the future. I suppose the relationship cannot be proven to be causal beyond the shadow of a doubt. But we can all hope that day may come again.

-Paul Peterson

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