EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE
BUsiness Horizon Quarterly Between 1999 and 2008, reading scores for African-American 9-year-olds increased about two grade levels. Math scores for Hispanic 9-year-olds rose about the same. The achievement gap
The average reading score for a white student at age 13 is about the same as an African-American at age 17— That’s a
FOUR-YEAR, FOUR-GRADE achievement gap. In an economy where higher skills are ever more necessary, THAT IS SCANDALOUS.
was closing. Sadly, the gains have stalled. No law is perfect. Every legislative instrument eventually requires adjustment. But the problem comes when people start to give up on the goal. Some have ideological objections to any federal role in education. Some are too comfortable with the status quo. The alliance between ideology and complacency seems to be getting stronger. I fear that the soft bigotry of low expectations is returning. And for the sake of America’s children, that is something we cannot allow. Let me focus on one fact that is uncomfortable even to contemplate. According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Nation’s Report card), the average reading score for a white student at age 13 is about the same as an AfricanAmerican at age 17—that’s a four-year, four-grade achievement gap. In an economy where higher skills are ever more necessary, that is scandalous. In a nation dedicated to equal opportunity, that is scandalous. Among the political heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Everett Dirksen, and Hubert Humphrey, this should be a national scandal, demanding action. None of the solutions are easy. We don’t have, and should not have, a federal education system. Power and responsibility are properly spread on many levels—so the need for reform and creativity is spread on many levels. And sometimes teaching professionals feel trapped in the same massive, immutable structures as parents and children. But whatever difficulties we face, they will not be addressed by weakening accountability. There is a growing temptation among public officials in both political parties, at the federal, state, and local level, to lower expectations. But any education gains we make will eventually be undermined by lowering our sights in the classroom. Without meaningful accountability, our sights into reality will be dimmed. Without meaningful accountability, it is poor and minority children who suffer the most.
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Excerpt of speech by President George W. Bush