The educational system in the wealthiest country in the world is largely broken. For the vast majority of black students, the system is dysfunctional and has produced poor results for decades. The persistent achievement gap between white and black children and between high-poverty and high-income families shows up before children even enter school: At 24 months, black babies scored significantly lower than white babies on the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort cognitive assessment. Once they’re in school, low-income children are on average three years behind by the time they reach fourth grade.
The outlook doesn’t improve as students get older. The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics reports that the high school graduation rate for black students is 62%, compared with 81% for white students. In many large urban districts, it’s even lower, according to the Schott Foundation, which also reveals that black students have the lowest likelihood of all racial groups of attending a well-resourced, high-performing school, and the greatest of attending a poorly resourced, low-performing school.
Those who do graduate high school may be ill-prepared to tackle a college-level curriculum or to attend colleges that can prepare them to compete in today’s innovation economy, since black students have the lowest SAT scores of any racial group, according to the College Board. These stats do not exclude the children of wealthy African Americans. High-income black students score lower on average on the SAT than low-income white students.
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