The Persistence of the Black-White Academic Achievement Gap

Another interesting Freddie Deboer article Racial Disparities in the SATs Are Exactly What Antiracists Should Predict

…You let them in despite worse academic preparedness than their peers; if you don’t address that lack of preparedness in a systematic fashion you’re setting them up to fail. But remediation is expensive for institutions and potentially for students if the school doesn’t agree to eat the costs. Then again, what’s the point of letting them in if they don’t get the degree, or getting them the degree if it doesn’t connote actual learning and skills?

And that gets at the essential point that while these disparities are the product of unfairness they are nevertheless real. The average Black student really does struggle more with reading and algebra etc. than the average white student, and the average rich student really does perform better than the average poor student. Again, this is absolutely what you’d expect if you have a progressive outlook on structural disadvantage. But we can’t get anywhere if we pretend that these gaps are the product of measurement error, nor by positing an immense conspiracy among millions of teachers and administrators to pretend that Black and poor students are struggling when they aren’t.

I have very few good things to say about old guard education reform types, but they have always been willing to look at such gaps and understand that the gaps themselves, the underlying lack of ability, are the core problem, the core injustice. Disadvantaged students struggling to get into college is a symptom, not the disease. And the SAT are merely a thermometer that diagnoses that disease.

Spending is not the solution, so what could it be then?

Flogging the SATs for failing to fix disparities that it can’t possibly be blamed for, like insisting that we just need to spend more money when we’ve been trying to spend our way out of our problems for 40 years, says more about the problems we refuse to look at than anything else, our commitment to myopia.

By excluding every other possibility or solution, this article is like the most circuitous way possible of saying that the persistence and insolubility of the black-white achievement gap must be attributable to innate factors such as genes, or at least much of the gap. Of course, he is just flat out said so, he would probably lose half of his (mostly lefty) subscribers. Fortunately for me, losing half of my zero subscribers is still zero, so nothing is lost by not holding back.

Just as socioeconomic disadvantages are possibly unfair, so too are cognitive disadvantages. So the purely HBD argument is still consistent with framing of the issue as a matter of fairness, it’ just that it’s much harder to rectify cognitive disparities compared to environmental ones, now that everyone much has access to the same necessities.

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