Authors: Rod Paige, Ph.D., and Elaine Witty, Ph.D.
Publisher: Amacon Press
ISBN: 978-0-8144-1519-1

Click Here To Purchase The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time

Drs. Paige and Witty [Ph.D]are a brother and sister team who joined hands in writing The Black-White Achievement Gap. Both people are well credentialed and extremely experienced in the fields of education and administration. Dr. Paige was previously the Secretary of Education [2001-2005] under President G.W. Bush. He has been dean of a major Texas university and superintendent of the Houston school system. (2010, inside back cover) Dr. Witty worked as an educator in middle and high school, has been dean at a major university, and head of the educational department at the state university level. 

The breadth and depth of their collective experiences, knowledge, and educational endeavors makes the information contained therein even more relevant and urgent to today’s society and education as a whole. Both authors offer thoughtful measures and steps in this book that are targeted at closing the educational achievement gap between black and white children. Their [Paige and Witty] sage instructions should be the carried out by every family, religious head, teacher, and counselor across our country, especially in the black communities. Their hopes in writing this book is not merely to raise public awareness to this dire situation, but also a call for immediate action to turn the tables that have previously been responsible for this achievement gap such that we can tighten or diminish the gap, thereby providing a quality education to all of America’s children.

The authors state that (2010, p.2) “The average African American public school twelfth grader’s performance on academic measures approximates that of the average white eighth grader.” That is an alarming statement. In order to begin to change the tide on this procession the authors suggest that [paraphrase] leaders in the African American community need to help ferret out the barriers to this dilemma and begin working on a path forward. (p.8) Paige and Witty believe that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was a wonderful piece of legislation, instituted under President G.W. Bush, that can and will help to close this gap. I remain dubious of the good it [NCLB] has effectuated based on conversations with educators and principals across American who wonder about teaching only for a test v. teaching the basics and building on those requirements for each consecutive grade level (i.e. reading, arithmetic, science, and social studies) on a national scale where each state is teaching from the same set of critical building blocks that can ensure that all of our students are challenged to meet and exceeding their [all parties involved] expectations. 

There are many headings in chapters walking back through black history and the history of the United States as it has helped to shape where we are now as a people. These inclusions are meant to help strengthen our understanding that white history differs from black history and perhaps even colors the perception of our black or white members of society today. If we can alleviate some of those biases and remove the barriers from those stigmas we can forge a future, educational speaking, that works for all of our youth and not just some.

The Black-White Achievement Gap is jam packed with statistical data on a variety of subjects ranging from mathematical skills at various grade levels to reading and more. (2010, ch.2) There is ancillary data that correlates to wages for achievement of various levels of education or lack thereof, which is the case in dropouts. Statistics are added to depict how education interacts and interrelates with crime and incarceration, especially for blacks. Largely this information is used to bolster their hypothesis that the achievement gap is real, growing, and requires mitigation immediately. It is compelling.

Some of the key things that must be done to reverse this achievement gap deal with communities offering parenting classes and language development training that can teach valuable skills to parents who are disadvantaged socio-economically as oftentimes those households are equally lacking in level of parental education and require training to be up to snuf. (2010, p.61) Paige and Witty say that “Growing up in an environment surrounded by adverse conditions obviously challenges a child’s expectations for success.” (p.64) So more must be done by our leaders to bring families out of poverty and into productive members of society as that greatly enhances those children’s chances for success.

Improving the overall status of families is not the only place where we need to improve according to Paige and Witty. They also believe that the quality of teachers must improve such that they are teaching at higher levels so we can raise the bar where expectations, on both ends, are concerned. (2010, pgs.73-4) If students are challenged to achieve higher standards and the teachers keep raising the bar for what they expect we can make headway toward closing this achievement gap and improving the educational quality for all students. The authors are realistic in their assessment that reversing this problem may take a generation or two, but it is possible if we make a concerted effort to understand the situation in its entirety and allocate the right amount of resources, energy, and time to see it to fruition. 

I would highly recommend this book for educators, administrative educational staff, community leaders, boards of education and their members, and anyone else who cares about the education of our future generations.

Click Here To Purchase The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time