The Racial Achievement Gap and the War on Meritocracy: Lower standards for blacks means more mediocre teachers and doctors in black communities.The Racial Achievement Gap and the War on Meritocracy:

Jason Riley:

Yes, this is another September “back to school” column. My apologies. But someone needs to keep pointing out that our national debate over which books to allow in classrooms, or how to teach slavery to middle-schoolers, is far less consequential than the continuing inability of most youngsters to read or do math at grade level.

In Florida, where GOP governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has taken lumps for a couple sentences in a 200-page black-history curriculum, only 39% of Miami-Dade County fourth-graders are proficient in reading, according to a Miami Herald report last year on standardized test results. By eighth grade the number drops to 31%, and math scores are just as bad. Who cares if kids have access to books by Toni Morrison or Jodi Picoult if most of them can’t comprehend the contents?

These dismal outcomes have persisted nationwide for decades, and the racial achievement gap is even more disturbing. The U.S. Education Department reported last year that in 2022 the average reading score for black fourth-graders in New York on the National Assessment of Educational Progress trailed that of white fourth graders by 29 points. This “performance gap was not significantly different from that in 1998,” the report added.

The progressive left’s response to these outcomes has been to wage war on meritocracy rather than focus on improving instruction. The goal is to eliminate gifted-and-talented middle-school programs, high-school entrance exams and the use of the SAT in college admissions. One defense of racial preferences in education for black students is that recipients, including those who go into teaching, are more likely to work in low-income minority communities after graduation. That’s true, but is it what economically disadvantaged students really need, more second-rate teachers?