by Thomas Sugrue
It's been more than a half-century since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. "Separate educational facilities," the court ruled, "are inherently unequal." But for all of our celebration of a "post-racial" America, separate and unequal education is still the norm--and by all measures it's getting worse. In his 2008 race speech in Philadelphia, then-candidate Obama recognized the problem. "Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools: we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students."
Look at New York City. The most recent test score data, reported here, give the lie to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein's "mission accomplished" moment a few years ago, when they touted the narrowing of the gap between black and white students. New York might be one of the richest cities in the world, but its schools are still fundamentally failing. No surprise that New York schools are among the most segregated by race in the country.
Or take the train out to Roosevelt, Long Island, one of the poorest districts in New York state (and a place, by the way, that reminds us that suburbanization does not equal upward mobility, especially for minorities). Today's New York Times reports "glimmers of hope" in a place where four-fifths of students qualify for subsidized lunches. Those glimmers: test scores have inched upward. And woohoo, the district spends $3000 for an annual barbecue to reward students for academic achievement and good attendance. If this is the "road to recovery"--as the Times reports--it's a cul-de-sac.