The mission of a school system is to deliver an effective education that allows students to go on to higher education or career. Anything that does not fulfill that mission detracts from that mission.
So, the question is, what evidence is there that poor race relations are preventing school systems from delivering education, and how can introducing aspects of Critical Race Theory, or other race-based ideologies, enable children to learn better? School systems need to justify their actions by showing that race is a significant factor in determining education quality for Black and minority students.
The qualified answer to that question is that there is no evidence that a lack of racial consciousness and racial literacy adversely affect a student’s education. For example, in Loudoun County Public Schools, Asian students, who make up 22.1% of the student population, have a 98.7% graduation rate. Black students, who make up 6.7% of the student population, have a 96.2% graduation rate. This rate is arguably one of the nation’s best outcomes for Black students. Hispanic students have a 79.7% graduation rate — just below the state’s 80.1% rate. According to the school’s report, White students had a 98.1% graduation rate. The Black/White gap is statistically non-existent. That being the case, race, based on historical discrimination, cannot be a factor.
Compare that to Baltimore’s graduation rates. Baltimore has 40% black teaching staff and an 80% black student population. The graduation rate for African American students is 73.5%, for Hispanic/Latino students is 54.9%, for white students, the graduation rate is 72.9% percent, and for students with disabilities, the rate rests at 52.2%. In this example from the largest Black majority city, Whites underperform Blacks, and the overall performance of both groups is decidedly poor. These results indicate that economics, and not race, are the deciding factor in poor school performance. Chicago and Philadelphia both show that poor academic performance is graduation rates are relatively on par between Blacks and Whites.
If critical race theory were real, then Blacks in the Loudoun County Public Schools would be graduating at a much lower rate due to inherent racism. Yet Black students are less than 2% points behind their White counterparts. What role can increased racial consciousness and racial literacy have on improving education outcomes? The answer is that there is no role based on the data. Interestingly, in both Baltimore and Loudoun County school systems, Blacks and Whites are within a few percentage points in graduation rates. Whites outpace Blacks slightly in Loudoun, while Blacks are slightly outpacing Whites in Baltimore. There is no relative inequality by race.
The Boogyman Comes to Public Education
Young children sometimes say there is a monster in their closet. They say it hides underneath their bed. The evidence they give is questionable. This creature appears in the shadows but disappears if you turned on the light. Adults call this creature the Boogyman.
Critical Race Theory is the Boogyman. No one can touch it. It can only be seen in the dark and disappears when the light of truth shines on it. Like the Boogyman under your child’s bed, its power rests solely in the people choosing to believe it exists. The Boogyman of racism distracts from the real issues with American education. Loudoun County’s Boogyman has been validated by an organization that, in its defining documents, states that they are advocates of Critical Race Theory. Having such a group evaluate race relations in our schools is the equivalent of having a tobacco company evaluate smoking safety back in the 1970s and 1980s.
If Not Race, Then What?
A study was conducted in the 1960s through the 1970s. The researcher wanted to determine what factors led students to succeed in life. He followed a class of graduates, contacting them every few years to see how they were doing. During the meet-ups, he administered various tests to determine if there was a way to predict their future success using standardized tests. He tested for different aptitudes, IQ, and multiple skills. Only one test seemed to predict future success. On this test, everyone’s life reflected their scores on this one test. Despite higher aptitude or IQ, those who scored lower were less successful and less self-sufficient in life. Those who scored highest on this test had higher income, stability, and more stable relationships. That test was a vocabulary test.
When we look at the differences among races in academic performance, the same holds true. On average, White children know about three times more words before age 3, which negatively impacts the education outcomes of the minority children entering school. That disadvantage stays with children for a lifetime unless there is intervention. Although these results reflected a racial difference on paper, poor white families can suffer the same vocabulary deficit. We see that in the Baltimore graduation results. The Hispanic community is the greatest victim of this concept. In Virginia, the greatest disparities are in Hispanic families who often have poorer vocabularies even after several generations in American.
So what does it all mean? The results of the initial Hart and Riley’s study proving this vocabulary disparity in the 1980s have been replicated multiple times. This study was the first to identify the vocabulary gap. It is a proven fact that vocabulary makes a difference. The more words parents use at home are a vital indicator of future academic performance and life success.
Many Blacks still suffer from low vocabulary due to racist practices during the Jim Crow era. Hispanic students still suffer today because of weak language skills. Whites living in similarly poor conditions show this learning deficit as well.
As your Congressmen, I will focus resources on helping poor and minority students make up this vocabulary gap. While universal preschools help, studies show that the benefits of this program are erased before a child leaves elementary school. We can do better. Year-round schooling and programs designed to address the low verbal skills of parents are what we need to erase the root cause of these learning gaps.