In her first months as Philadelphia school superintendent, Arlene Ackerman has consistently emphasized how Black and Latino students, particularly males, continue to be at a severe disadvantage despite citywide student achievement gains over the past few years.
Philadelphia has a handful of racially and economically diverse schools where Black and White students achieve comparably high test scores, defying the traditional achievement gap. In some cases, African Americans outperform their White peers.
These schools are an anomaly in a city where most schools are racially isolated and high-poverty, and the few dozen that are integrated often exhibit large learning gaps. Though they are not the norm, these successful schools can teach valuable lessons.
Despite the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision rejecting “separate but equal” schools in America, it took years for districts like Philadelphia – as racially segregated in some ways as any in the South – to focus attention on the gap in academic performance between Black and White children.