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backside graduation hats during commencement success graduates of the university, Concept education congratulation. Graduation Ceremony ,Congratulated the graduates in University during commencement.

The Bottom Line Black Students Don’t Need Affirmative Action in College Admissions – They Need Quality K-12 Education

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling barring race-based college admissions decisions was a win for all students – including black students. Placing ill-prepared students in college and saddling them with debt, despair, and high dropout rates does not better their future.

Today’s K-12 education is failing to effectively educate the majority of students, particularly black students.  Instead of affirmative action in college admissions decisions, we need to fix the broken system to provide all students with a high-quality K-12 education, equipping them for success in life based on merit.

The latest (2022) data in the Nation’s Report Card demonstrates the stark and sobering reality of our public education system — and especially the disparity in academic achievement between black students and students of other races in both mathematics and reading. In Grade 8 mathematics proficiency, only 38% of black students achieved Basic, Proficient, or Advanced levels, compared to 71% of white and 84% of Asian students.  In other words, 62% of black children fail to achieve basic proficiency. In Reading proficiency, the result is almost as bad, with only 52% of black students achieving at least Basic level, compared to 77% of white students and 85% of Asian students.

The results for advanced levels of reading and math proficiency are even more alarming.  Here, Asian students lead the way with 12% achieving advanced reading levels, compared to 4% and 1% respectively for white and black students. In mathematics, 26% of Asian students achieve at the advanced level, compared to 9% and 1% respectively for white and black students. Thus, when it comes to admissions at America’s elite colleges and universities, it’s no wonder fewer black students qualify based purely on academic performance, and that Asian students are so highly competitive.

What will it take to address the educational performance gap and give black students an equal shot at academic achievement? It’s a challenging problem to solve. But affirmative action is not the answer, because it falsely addresses the symptom while completely ignoring the disease (or cause). The root disease is often twofold: Parents who do not or cannot support their children academically (for several reasons), and a K-12 public school system that fails to adequately educate the majority of students.

The greatest factor of a child’s learning is parental involvement and the home environment. Parents are ultimately responsible as the primary educator — providing encouragement and accountability even if they can’t provide specific academic assistance.

Unfortunately, demographic trends reveal that 70% of black children are born into homes with a single mother, contributing to a 30% poverty rate. And while blacks make up 14.2% of the total population, 28% of all solo parents are black. In such situations, it can be difficult for a parent to take an active role in their child’s education – just providing for their children can be all-consuming.

Progressive education has severely compromised public schools across America, particularly in urban areas where 41% of blacks reside, due to divisive critical pedagogy that is more focused on social justice ideology than academic achievement. If the status quo in K-12 education continues, then we will continue to see the same result: black students not achieving at the level they need to be competitive in college admissions.

Though it appears grim, positive change is possible. For example, expanded learning programs, before and after school and in summers, for students who need additional help would be of great benefit to struggling parents and their children. Also, K-12 public education returning to the proven classical model of a challenging, content-rich liberal arts and sciences education that grounds students in timeless truths common to all would be transformational.

Other reforms are also critically needed. Teachers should be financially rewarded based on student academic achievement (i.e., merit-based pay for performance) instead of mere tenure. Smartphones and other distracting devices must be eliminated during school hours. And the implementation of school uniforms to help create cohesion would help mitigate socioeconomic disparities.

In short, we need to start addressing root causes of low K-12 academic achievement, particularly among black students.  Affirmative action was never able to address these deficiencies, but only masked them.  As a result, affirmative action undercut opportunities for life success. Of course, changing course won’t be easy or occur overnight. Entrenched powers, such as teacher unions and public school administrators, will provide strong opposition.  But transformation must occur to the education system if students are going to have the opportunity to succeed. They deserve nothing less.

Walter Myers III

Board of Directors, Discovery Institute
Walter is a Principal Engineering Manager leading a team of engineers, working with customers to drive their success in the Microsoft Azure Cloud. He holds a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Biola University's Talbot School of Theology, where he is an adjunct faculty member in the Master of Arts in Science & Religion (MASR) program teaching on Darwinian evolution from a design-centric perspective. He is also a board member of the Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), a classical charter school in Southern California associated with Hillsdale College.
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