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Worst? Wisconsin Can’t Accept That: State Must Find Better Ways To Address Education Gap


Here in Wisconsin, much of the news about public education and academic performance is positive. Wisconsin students consistently rank above national averages in achievement.

Unless, that is, we’re talking about Black students.

According to figures released recently by the U.S. Department of Education, fourth- and eighth-grade Black students in Wisconsin recorded the worst scores in the nation for reading ability. The gap between Black and White students in Wisconsin, the numbers indicate, is the worst in America.

That ought to set off alarm bells from Beloit to Superior, from La Crosse to Milwaukee.

How can it be? How can Wisconsin rank below places like Arkansas or Mississippi or the District of Columbia?

How, indeed. The skeptic in us wonders if some of those other places have been engaging in creative arithmetic and reporting funny numbers.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume the federal education agency verifies its figures and the report is accurate. After all, it is hardly news that there is a racial achievement gap in Beloit and other cities, such as Racine and Milwaukee.

Wisconsin cannot accept the sort of “success” that might be termed No (White) Child Left Behind.

The right question Wisconsin needs to ask is: Why?

And let’s not lie to ourselves, to be politically correct. Something is causing Black kids to fall far behind others in scholastic achievement. It’s not because Black kids are born dumb. It’s not because teachers are racists. It’s not because schools are insufficiently multicultural.

We’re not education experts and we won’t presume to offer answers. But we do know one thing, for sure: The problem doesn’t begin at the schoolhouse door. This is a state problem, and a community problem, not just a classroom problem. Learning must be valued before it can be absorbed. Such values must begin in the home.

This nation is a competitive place surrounded by a competitive world. And, right now, Wisconsin is being outperformed economically by most of its neighboring states. Getting ahead will require a better effort from all.

The stigma of ranking worst just cannot be tolerated. BELOIT DAILY NEWS.

–Associated Press

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