Race Gap In Schools Less in W.Va.

There’s a large gap in academic achievement between black students and their white counterparts in U.S. schools. Beyond any doubt that contributes to the income gap between black and white adults.

But in West Virginia public schools, black students don’t lag nearly as much behind their white classmates.

You read that correctly: Mountain State public schools seem to do a reasonably good job of ensuring race isn’t a factor in how well children do in school.

Of course, that was the good news. The bad news is that in comparison with most other states, our schools in general leave much to be desired.

Unfortunately, there are not many ways to compare West Virginia schools with those in other states. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP tests are administered to students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In 2011, the most recent year for which NAEP scores are available, the average mathematics score for white fourth-graders throughout the nation was 249. For black children, the average was 224 – a gap of 25 points.

In West Virginia, the average for white fourth graders was 235 and for black classmates, it was 227. That 8-point gap was among the smallest in the U.S.

It gets better. On the writing section of the NAEP test, white fourth graders averaged 159 points nationwide. Black children averaged 139. Here in West Virginia, the average for white children was 147 – and for black kids it was 146. That was the smallest gap in the nation.

Again, though, look back at those averages. West Virginia’s, for both whites and blacks, are far too low.

In many states, double-digit gaps in high school graduation rates for whites and blacks are the norm. Here in West Virginia, the graduation rate for whites is 76.66 percent, with blacks at 71.5 percent. That’s unacceptably low, but what’s interesting is the difference in races is comparatively small.

The same kind of result can be seen in many other education statistics.

Yes, major improvements are needed in our schools. That’s the bad news. The good news is that in a state sometimes labeled as very bigoted, our black children are not being left behind as badly as in many allegedly more progressive states.

Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.