Achievement Gap

Spare the “R” word, Professor Rice

Education Post believes that unduly harsh rhetoric impedes productive conversation. It’s much easier to simply ignore or walk away from someone who calls you names than to thoughtfully engage, let alone actually solve problems. So we took notice when Condoleezza Rice—former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and current business professor at Stanford University—equated “racism” with, “Anybody who isn't in favor of school choice, anybody who isn't in favor of educational reform, anybody who defends the status quo in the educational system.” We share Dr. Rice’s belief that opponents of needed change in education—whether it is high standards, strong accountability or school choice—are hurting low-income and minority children. We agree that wealthy people should not be the only ones with choices about where to send their children. For many inner-city parents, public charter schools are the only option. We assert that opponents of college-readiness standards are essentially condemning low-income children to a second-class education. Low standards will be lowest in high-poverty schools, and these students will be denied the opportunity to successfully pursue college. We believe the anti-testing movement is partly driven by middle-class families resisting the transparency, accountability and interventions primarily designed to protect our most vulnerable students—low-income children, children of color and students with disabilities.

‘Undeniable Racial Dimensions’

We contend that no one can defend the gaps in achievement, high school graduation, college-readiness and college completion between low-income and higher-income students. No one can defend the funding inequities that provide extraordinary resources to children of privilege while children with far greater needs make do with less. So, there are undeniable racial dimensions and inequities to education politics, and some of the people resisting needed change could be categorized as racist. But some of the people resisting reforms are African-Americans. They might be teachers, parents or community leaders. It’s hard to call them racist. Some of these opponents raise legitimate concerns about issues like over-testing or low-quality charter schools. Raising honest questions about these issues does not make them racist. And, some people resisting reform may simply be skeptical of change. Still, it is harsh to label them all as racist just because they don’t share our views. Instead, we should just call them wrong.
For another view point on Condoleezza Rice's message, read Director of Outreach and External Affairs Chris Stewart's post.
Peter Cunningham
Peter Cunningham is the founder of Education Post and serves on its board. He served as Assistant Secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration’s first term. Prior to that he worked with Arne Duncan when he was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Peter is affiliated with Whiteboard ...

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