Walter E. Williams

Let's look at the recent "Nation's Report Card," published annually by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Nationally, in reading, only 13 percent of black fourth graders, and 11 percent of black eighth graders score as proficient. Twenty-nine percent achieve a score of "basic," which is defined as having a partial knowledge and skills necessary to be proficient in the grade. Fifty-nine percent score below basic, not having any of the necessary knowledge and skills. It's the same story for black eighth graders, with 40 percent scoring basic and 49 percent below basic.

In math, it's roughly the same story. For black fourth graders, 12 percent score proficient, 47 percent score basic and 40 percent below basic. For black eighth graders, 8 percent score proficient, while 33 percent score basic and 59 percent score below basic; however, one percent of black fourth graders and eighth graders achieved an advanced score in math.

Teachers and politicians respond to this tragic state of affairs by saying that more money is needed. The Washington, D.C. school budget is about the nation's highest with about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation's average.

Despite this, black academic achievement in Washington, D.C. is the lowest in the nation. Reading scores for Washington, D.C.'s fourth-grade black students are: 7 percent proficient, 21 percent basic and 71 percent below basic. For eighth-graders, it's 6 percent proficient, 33 percent basic and 58 percent below basic. It's the same sad tale in math. For fourth-graders, it's 5 percent proficient, 35 percent basic and 59 percent below basic. For eighth-graders, it's three percent proficient, 23 percent basic and 73 percent below basic. With these achievement levels, one shouldn't be surprised that the average black high school graduate, depending upon the subject, has the academic achievement level of the average white sixth, seventh or eighth grader.

Racial discrimination has nothing to do with what's no less than an education meltdown within the black community. Where black education is the very worst, often the city mayor is black, city council dominated by blacks, and often the school superintendent is black, as well as most of the principals and teachers, and Democrats have run the cities for decades. I'm not saying there's a causal connection, just that one would be hard put to chalk up the rotten education to racial discrimination.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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