There's sobering data in the report released yesterday by the National Center on Education Statistics on the racial "achievement gap."
The study uses results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, given periodically to a sampling of students in each state since 1992. Pennsylvania has one of the largest gaps between White and African American students in fourth grade reading scores, a 33-point gap that has not narrowed much since 1992.
Black students in Pennsylvania score below the national average for Blacks, while Whites scores above the national average for Whites. A pretty glaring reality -- White students in Pennsylvania score about the same as those in Virginia, but Black students here score 13 points below Black students in the heart of the Old Confederacy.
This reflects national data showing that some of the biggest gaps exist in northern states, not in the old Jim Crow South, a trend pointed out in this article in the New York Times.
The picture looks somewhat better for Pennsylvania in eighth grade reading. But in math, the problem is reversed. For fourth grade, the White-Black gap has been reduced by 10 points since 1992, but no progress has been made in closing a yawning gap -- 36 points -- in eighth grade math.
With 45 percent of the state's African American students living in Philadelphia, the wide racial gaps being described by the Pennsylvania data are very much reflective of the problems in the city's school system.
Coming a day after the end of the 40-year-old Philadelphia school desegregation case, a settlement premised on the assumption that Supt. Arlene Ackerman's Imagine 2014 strategic plan will close this gap, these numbers give reason for pause.