After a new, tougher state test was used in 2010, where 51 correct answers, not 37, meant achieving the desired grade, the old gaps between Hispanics, blacks, whites and Asians reappeared as wide as they were when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city schools chief Joel Klein set out to close them.
"We are closing the shameful achievement gap faster than ever," blared Bloomberg in 2009, in the euphoria of what The New York Times now calls "the test score bubble."
"Among the students in the city's third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 83 recent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent of whites and Asians."
Appalling, when one considers New York City usually ranks first or second in the nation in per-pupil expenditures.
Nor has George W. Bush's vaunted No Child Left Behind program fared better. Results of national tests conducted in 2009 make New York students look like the Whiz Kids.
"Forty-nine percent of white students and 17 percent of black students showed proficiency on the fourth-grade English test, up from 45 percent of white students and 14 percent of black students in 2003."
One in six African-American fourth-grade kids is making the grade.
How many scores of billions did this pathetic gain cost us?
Since 1965, America has invested trillions in education with a primary goal of equalizing test scores among the races and genders. Measured by U.S. test scores, it has been a waste -- an immense transfer of wealth from private citizens to an education industry that has grown bloated while failing us again and again.
Perhaps it is time to abandon the goal of educational equality as utopian -- i.e., unattainable -- and to focus, as we do in sports and art, on excellence.
Teach all kids to the limit of their ability, while recognizing that all are not equal in their ability to read, write, learn, compute or debate, any more than they are equally able to play in a band or excel on a ball field. For an indeterminate future, Mexican kids are not going to match Asian kids in math.
The beginning of wisdom is to recognize this world as it is, not as what we would wish it to be.