Thursday, August 06, 2020


Article Index

F. Proficiency and Achievement Tests

African-American males trail whites and African-American female students in every aspect of education achievement tests. Specifically, African-American girls out-perform African-American boys. There is also evidence of a significant difference in the educational achievement of African-American boys and girls in lower socio-economic status. Once again, our educational system has failed to identify and address the causes for the differential between white and African-American students, and within the subgroups of African-American boys and girls. African-American male students as a subgroup lag behind in academic achievement of all other students.

African-American students' test scores tend to be lower than white students' scores on proficiency tests from kindergarten through high school. Since Brown, the gap between African-American students and whites has narrowed, but the differential between the gaps is still very prevalent.

As public schools re-segregated, African-American students and other minorities remained in poorly funded, dilapidated school buildings, and were taught with outdated books and by uncertified teachers. Such conditions were similar to the pre-Brown period. The failure on the part of school districts to provide adequate resources and a positive learning environment may negatively impact minority students' academic achievement. Since Brown, states have been sued to adequately fund public school systems and to provide at least a minimally adequate education.

There is a growing gap in the grade point averages of white and black high school graduates. This will negatively impact their ability to obtain admission to college and/or employment.

The use of standardized assessment and proficiency tests by school systems negatively impacts minority students' graduation rate, promotions, and placement. Where standardized tests have been challenged in court, courts have given deference to states' educational policies. Despite this deference, courts recognize that state school systems have had a long history of discriminating against minority students. It is ironic that states which have historically discriminated against African-American students, by intentionally providing inferior educational opportunities, can now legally design standardized tests based on a system which has not corrected its past discriminatory acts.

The over-emphasis of sports in the African-American community lessens the motivation of African-American males to strive for excellence in academia. A disproportionate number of young African-American males believe that playing sports will lead them to a professional sports contract. Consequently, their focus is not on making the honor roll or the debate team but the varsity basketball or football teams. Sadly, African-American males cling to the hope of playing professional sports after high school, but the odds of playing professional sports are extremely remote. Supporters of sport programs in school will often point to success stories of African-American males who were inspired to stay in school because of their participation in sports. However, far too many African-American males who fail to maintain their star status are at the bottom of the academic scale. *33 In addition, African-American male students who are not athletes also succumb to strive for mediocre grades. The preferential treatment that athletes receive lessens their motivation to achieve academically. Unfortunately, those few who go on to play collegiate sports maintain their star status until the season is over or until they can no longer play because of academic troubles or physical inability. A disproportionate number of African-American males who play collegiate sports never graduate, especially at the Big Ten schools.

African-American male athletes who are highly skilled are intensely worshipped, idolized, and praised by teachers, alumni, the press, and other students. African-American male students, who are not super-jocks, are ignored, invisible, and stereotyped.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law