Feature

Explaining the race gap in school

If we are ever to erase the racial gap in our schools, we&rsquo;ll have to address&mdash;and repair&mdash;the gulf in parenting, said Patrick Welsh in <em>The Washington Post.</em>

Patrick WelshThe Washington Post

Frustrated that every kid in my 12th-grade class had done horribly on an English test, said Patrick Welsh, I asked my students why they didn’t take school seriously. One student angrily replied: “You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us.” I did, and not a single kid in the all-black class raised his hand. Without a father in the house, another student explained, their overwhelmed mothers don’t enforce discipline or insist that they study.

My students intuitively understand what school administrators and community activists do not: The “racial achievement gap” that separates black and white students is not simply the result of racism, bad teaching, or low expectations. I teach in a “new, $100 million state-of-the-art” high school in Alexandria, Va., where we are trained in the latest theories on “equity and excellence.” Yet six weeks into the year, there have already been 30 fights, and black kids continue to fall behind.

It’s not because they’re black, but because they come from broken, chaotic homes and have parents “who just aren’t there for them.” If we are ever to erase the racial gap in our schools, we’ll have to address—and repair—the gulf in parenting.

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