Why Black Kids Get Trapped in Failing Schools

Few people bother to ask whether there’s a connection between what goes on at predominantly black high schools and observed outcomes.

By Walter Williams Published on November 29, 2017

The educational achievement of white youngsters is nothing to write home about, but that achieved by blacks is nothing less than disgraceful.

Educational Outcomes

Let’s look at a recent example of an educational outcome all too common.

In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state’s mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only 1 percent tested proficient in math.

In raw numbers, 3,804 Baltimore students took the state’s math test, and 14 tested proficient. Citywide, only 15 percent of Baltimore students passed the state’s English test.

Last spring, graduation exercises were held at one Baltimore high school, 90 percent of whose students received the lowest possible math score. Just one student came even close to being proficient. Parents and family members applauded the conferring of diplomas. Some of the students won achievement awards and college scholarships.

Baltimore is by no means unique. It’s a small part of the ongoing education disaster for black students across the nation. Baltimore schools are not underfunded. Of the nation’s 100 largest school systems, Baltimore schools rank third in spending per pupil.

Baltimore’s black students receive diplomas that attest that they can function at a 12th-grade level when in fact they may not be able to do so at a seventh- or eighth-grade level.

Fraudulent Diplomas?

These students and their families have little reason to suspect that their diplomas are fraudulent. Thus, if they cannot land a good job, cannot pass a civil service exam, get poor grades in college, and flunk out of college, they will attribute their plight to racism.

After all, they have a high school diploma, just as a white person has a high school diploma. In their minds, the only explanation for being treated differently is racism.

Let’s look at math.

If one graduates from high school without a minimum proficiency in algebra and geometry, he is likely to find whole fields and professions hermetically sealed off to him for life. In many fields and professions, a minimum level of math proficiency is taken for granted.

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Let’s look at just one endeavor — being a fighter jet pilot.

There are relatively few black fighter jet pilots. There are stringent physical, character, and mental requirements that many blacks can meet.

But fighter pilots must also have a strong knowledge of air navigation, aircraft operating procedures, flight theory, fluid mechanics, and meteorology. The college majors that help prepare undergraduates for a career as a fighter pilot include mathematics, physical science, and engineering.

Educational Fraud

What’s the NAACP response to educational fraud?

At a 2016 meeting, the NAACP’s board of directors ratified a resolution that called for a moratorium on charter schools. Among the NAACP’s reasons for this were that it wanted charter schools to refrain from “expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate” and “cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.”

Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys is a charter school. In 2016, 9 percent of its students scored proficient on the state’s math test. This year, over 14 percent did so.

It’s in the interest of black people for more of our youngsters to attend better schools. However, it’s in the interest of the education establishment — and its handmaidens at the NAACP — to keep black youngsters in failing public schools.

Few people bother to ask whether there’s a connection between what goes on at predominantly black high schools and observed outcomes. Violence at many predominantly black schools is so routine that security guards are hired to patrol the hallways.

The violence includes assaults on teachers. Some have been knocked out, had their jaws broken, and required treatment by psychologists for post-traumatic stress disorder. On top of the violence is gross disorder and disrespect for authority.

The puzzling question for me is: How long will black people accept the educational destruction of black youngsters — something that only benefits the education establishment?


Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

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  • Paul

    “If one graduates from high school without a minimum proficiency in algebra and geometry, he is likely to find whole fields and professions hermetically sealed off to him for life. In many fields and professions, a minimum level of math proficiency is taken for granted.”

    I wonder how many high school graduates could define hermetically.

  • Charles Burge

    I’m sure the author would agree with this, but I also think it’s critically important to point out the role of broken families. We have mountains of sociological evidence that shows growing up without a stable, two-parent family contributes to dis-proportionally high rates of cognitive and emotional development problems. As we all know, black children are far more likely than white children to come from broken homes. Parents who want to break the cycle of poverty and despair absolutely must start honoring the sanctity of marriage again.

    • Lisa

      Two parent families are important, but not essential to learning if you have great teachers. A good example of this is Jaime Escalante, who taught poor students calculus in East Los Angeles. Did you ever see the movie about him, Stand and Deliver?

      As a homeschool mom, I’ve seen many examples of kids learning despite less than ideal conditions. Kids are natural born learners! The fact that they don’t in some public schools reflects badly on that system.

      I’m really hopeful school choice and charter schools take off under this administration.

    • mj

      It’s the welfare system that is promoting and rewarding fatherless families. The graphs prove it. Before welfare, most black families were two parents living together raising their children, Even in slave times, though slaves might not have been “allowed” to marry, the records show that a slave family consisted of a father, mother and their biological children living together.

  • Patty

    just last week there was aStream article about a Christian school for young men that is succeeding.

  • mj

    A wise person once said, “Anger is the result of unmet expectations.” But a more immediate and preventable “treatment” for anger might be to just make sure these students start the day with a good breakfast that allows their blood sugar levels to stabilize and prevents hypoglycemia which masquerades as anger all over the world. Speaking of Baltimore, when Mercy Chefs had their “Two Weeks in Baltimore for Community Service” and fed thousands in the roughest neighborhoods of that city, the police chief came to them afterwards and said that–though they were in the highest crime section–there had been only ONE crime committed the entire time Mercy Chefs had been there. This report is per the founder-director, Gary LeBlanc.

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