Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Black-White Achievement Gap (press release)

Confronting the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time
How the Black-White achievement gap sabotages equal opportunity

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—African-American students score below 75 percent of white students on most standardized tests. It is no coincidence that young white adults are approximately twice as likely as their black peers to earn a college degree and nearly three times less likely to land in prison. In critical academic matters, why do black American children overwhelmingly lag behind white American children? What are the long-term economic, social, and racial ramifications for our country if we continue to overlook this deeply distressing reality? These difficult questions are addressed in The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time (AMACOM; February 16, 2010; $22.00 Hardcover).

With boldness and directed focus former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige exposes what he believes is both the greatest and the most frequently ignored barrier to African-American advancement. Dr. Paige joins forces with renowned educator and advocate Dr. Elaine Witty to identify the causes of this racial divide and propose realistic, productive solutions. “Now is the time to see the gap as what it really is: the major barrier to racial equality and social justice in America,” Paige stresses. He calls on African-American leaders at all levels—national, state, city, town, and church—to take ownership of this challenge and work with policy makers, educators, community groups, and parents to overcome it. Paige believes that closing the gap will require a shift in thinking in terms of where African-American leaders commit their energy and effort.

“This achievement gap cannot be eliminated unless and until African-American leadership begins to focus intently on addressing the unacceptable underperformance of black students relative to their white peers. We know these students can do better. They can perform as well as their white peers if they are provided the right learning environments and if they receive the messages of our high expectations—that they can, in fact, succeed.”

The hard-hitting data on test scores and high school dropout rates clearly establishes the fact that the gap exists. Unfortunately, many do not realize the far-reaching consequences of that educational disparity. Paige and Witty contend that this should be an urgent issue of debate for presidents of historically black colleges, organizations such as the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, and national think tanks, among others. The persistence of the black-white achievement gap slows down the accumulation of African-American wealth; leads to more African-Americans without health insurance, in prison, and dying early; and, worst of all, strengthens the stereotype and stigma of blacks as intellectually inferior. Because of its destructive consequences, Paige and Witty argue, the achievement gap crisis now ranks ahead of racism and discrimination as the most formidable obstacle to African-American advancement.

Why do African-Americans continue to suffer an educational disadvantage? What are the solutions?     
The Black-White Achievement Gap confronts these difficult, sensitive, and important questions. More importantly, the authors also provide concrete, timely, and bipartisan answers to those questions. The African-American community possesses the necessary resources to close the gap if they will rally all leaders (both conservative and liberal), embrace the truth that home and family, community environment, and school quality all play a vital role in determining children’s educational possibilities, and create a consistently high standard of school quality nationwide.
Paige and Witty offer inspiring examples of outstanding schools, proven educational initiatives and community programs, and specific suggestions for how national organizations, local civic and religious groups, and dedicated parents can make a decisive difference in the education and future of today’s African-American children.

President Obama recently announced that he will ask Congress for $1.35 billion to extend an education grant program for states. While improving schools is an important step, the authors stress that schools alone cannot close the gap. A clarion call to civil rights leadership, The Black-White Achievement Gap is also a wake-up call for leaders, citizens, and parents of all races. “Closing the achievement gap is a task that offers opportunities for all of us to serve. Each of us has a responsibility to do our part,” says Witty.                

The Black-White Achievement Gap
Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time
Rod Paige, PED, and Elaine Witty, Ed. D.
ISBN 978-0-8144-1519-1    *    February 16, 2010    *    $22.00 Hardcover    *    256 Pages

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