Just over 60 years ago the United States Supreme Court made history by unanimously agreeing that separate educational facilities are not equal. The Brown v. Board of Education decision is often touted in speeches and various media outlets as a landmark decision. The past, however, does not always speak eloquently about the future and in the past 60 years we have had no landmark results in education for our minority students.
One might think that more than a half-century should have been plenty of time to bring our nation's achievement gap between white and black students under manageable control. However, in their recent book, Endangering Prosperity, Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann clearly show that equality in education has certainly been elusive. For example, they show that in 2011 "42 percent of white students were identified as proficient in math, but only 11 percent of African American students." The numbers are no better for reading, as 40 percent of white students were deemed proficient but only 13 percent of African Americans. Obviously, these figures say little about the proficiency of white students but they are shameful for African Americans. Most importantly, they speak poorly about our nation's social and educational systems.
The Brown decision was clearly a landmark for the idea of equality; today, however it also serves as a reminder that not much has changed in the past 60 years. Our nation needs to do a much better job of understanding the ramifications of the above numbers. Simply said, they imply "inequality." More importantly, we are simply not doing enough to level the playing field for minority students, and the problem begins with segregated schools. The research clearly shows that integrated schools benefit all students, not just minorities. Additionally, schools where busing has been used to integrate students have successfully demonstrated that all students improve academically.
This issue is not rocket science and it's really not that hard to understand. It does, however, require moral fortitude and a willingness to leave our comfort zones. Our communities need to come together and prepare viable plans for effectively integrating our schools. This requires community leadership and an open mind. It's time for the Brown v. Board of Education decision to show landmark results.