Commentary: Results Count, Not Race

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 30, 2008

When math scores for black students at Sacramento’s Will C. Wood Middle School fell below standards set under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the principal there persuaded parents of four students to change the racial designation of their mixed-race kids. Two kids who had been black were reclassified white; two others as American Indians.

Principals at 80 other schools across California reclassified kids in a similar fashion. Critics call it "gaming the system." I don’t. Race is an artificial social construct – not a science. When a kid is half black and half white, what exactly is she?

Federal law rightfully requires schools to pay attention to ethnic groups who’ve traditionally fallen behind. But the most important statistic at Will C. Wood is that scores have improved dramatically for all kids. The number of blacks testing proficient in language arts has tripled since 2004. In math, their proficiency has doubled.

Will C. Wood draws kids from some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. It has exceeded state academic expectations for five consecutive years. For that, principal and teachers deserve praise, not a rap on the knuckles.

Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.