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Winter 2008 Vol. 16 No. 2 Focus on Changing the Odds

Talking equality

Photo: Harvey Finkle

Third graders (from left) Jessica Schaffer, Christopher Prince, and Vanessa Njoo react to their teacher at Fell Elementary School in South Philadelphia, a school where achievement gaps are minimal among students of different ethnicities (click here for charts). Superintendent Ackerman promises to tackle systemic inequities that cause lagging performance among Black and Latino students at many schools in the District.

By by Dale Mezzacappa

In her first months as Philadelphia school superintendent, Arlene Ackerman has consistently emphasized how Black and Latino students, particularly males, continue to be at a severe disadvantage despite citywide student achievement gains over the past few years.

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No gaps here: Schools where racial parity is the norm

By by Sylvia Morse


Philadelphia has a handful of racially and economically diverse schools where Black and White students achieve comparably high test scores, defying the traditional achievement gap. In some cases, African Americans outperform their White peers.

These schools are an anomaly in a city where most schools are racially isolated and high-poverty, and the few dozen that are integrated often exhibit large learning gaps. Though they are not the norm, these successful schools can teach valuable lessons.

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Closing Philly's racial achievement gap: A long, bumpy road

By by Ron Whitehorne

Despite the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision rejecting “separate but equal” schools in America, it took years for districts like Philadelphia – as racially segregated in some ways as any in the South – to focus attention on the gap in academic performance between Black and White children.

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