--Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut and author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004 and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (University Press of Kansas), 2007.
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[Find out The Truth about Black Students.]
[The public opinion piece was pre-empted by the State of the Union.]
Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap. -President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address 2007
Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs. -President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address 2008
Getting It Wrong debunks many popular myths about the state of black America. One myth is that black students do not value education. The fact of the matter is that black students’ standardized test scores have increased since the 1970s, and, as President George Bush noted in last night’s State of the Union address, black fourth and eighth graders posted impressive increases in standardized test scores recently. (See math trends.)
I have discussed the fact that black students are earning larger shares of all college degrees. The evidence that black students value education and are improving on all measures is overwhelming.
The only people who do not seem to know about black students’ improvements are the leading black public intellectuals. Here is a quote from Juan Williams’ Enough:
. . . it is such a shock, a century later, to find Bill Cosby talking to black people, not whites, when he put the challenge on the table: “What the hell good is Brown if nobody wants it?”Cosby and Williams get it very wrong here.
There is no doubt that he is talking about black children who don’t go to school or drop out of school; he is talking about a culture that openly demeans any black student who achieves academic excellence as inauthentic and acting white; he is talking about black parents who accept excuses instead of demanding top grades from their children. (p. 89)
First of all, Cosby assumes that we have achieved the goals of Brown. We haven’t. America’s schools are still separate and unequal. They have been becoming more segregated since the 1990s. Cosby wasted a great opportunity to point this out. Instead, he used his speech on the anniversary of Brown to beat up on black students and the black poor. As they say, with friends like these who needs enemies?
Williams’ book was supposed to be the factual basis for Cosby’s Brown anniversary tirade. But Williams too did not spend nearly enough time trying to understand the facts. He mainly repeats popular misinformation. George Bush knows more about black students than he does. To paraphrase, Cosby, come on Williams!, you can do better than that.
Bush is right about black student achievement but he is wrong about No Child Left Behind. Black student achievement improved more rapidly before NCLB than after it. We will have to see if the next round of National Assessment of Educational Progress tests changes the picture at all.
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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.
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