The Black Achievement Paradox Nobody’s Talking About

Darrel Burnette II:

Why do black students whose parents serve in the military so significantly outperform their peers from black civilian families? This question has for years stumped researchers, but a new data-reporting requirement for military-connected students under the Every Student Succeeds Act could provide some insights for practitioners and policymakers serving America’s increasingly mobile students overall.

Moving just once for any student has the potential to derail the student’s academic trajectory.

And yet black military-connected students, who move on average six to nine times before they graduate high school, consistently perform on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and on state exams not only better than black students from civilian families, who on average rarely transfer schools, but also almost as high as their white civilian- and military-connected peers. That gap has only continued to narrow in recent years.

I first came across this emerging research about seven years ago. It was early on in my career as an education reporter, and I was writing frequently about how Minnesota’s schools—some of the best in the nation—had so dramatically left their black students behind.

In my personal life, I was grappling with the lingering effects of an academically and socially disjointed childhood.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”: