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Abstract

Disproportionate numbers of black students do poorly on standardized tests; strategies to improve American education thus frequently target inner-city schools. These strategies often have an unrecognized affirmative action component. A search for more minority students or teachers is clearly an affirmative action effort. But the elimination of all tracking or competency grouping is another matter. Normally viewed as nothing more than a pedagogical strategy, it, like other affirmative action efforts, amounts to a conscious effort to alter the low-track status of minority pupils. Similarly, the demand for curricular reforms, racial sensitivity training, and more culturally "appropriate" tests, while not obviously affirmative action strategies, are precisely that. They attempt to broaden the definition of excellence and to create a more racially inclusive educational system. Such well-meaning strategies are not likely to close the racial gap in school performance. That task may call for quite a different approach.

 

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