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Closing the Racial Achievement Gap

wingTitle: Closing the Racial Achievement Gap in Diverse California High Schools

Author: Jean Yonemura Wing

Date: June 2004

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The racial gap in high school achievement limits college, career, and life choices of many African American and Latino students. They foster racial divisions in and out of schools; weaken the economy; and exacerbate the state’s poverty- and crime-related problems. Closing the gap requires identifying the features of schools that contribute to it and then changing them. Four years of research at diverse Berkeley High school—tracking the experiences and achievements of the class of 2000—identified several alterable features that contribute to the achievement gap:

  • Curriculum choices permit (and often encourage) some students to leave high school unprepared for college or without the skills and credentials to secure living-wage jobs;
  • “Mass-production” organization and rules that process and sort students in large “batches” and deprive students of supportive and learning relationships with adults;
  • A school climate that treats racial disparities as normal, even natural;
  • An absence of publicly available advocates and networks within and outside of school, similar to the supports that advantaged students often find or buy in the private sector.


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