25 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, officials look at the reading and math scores of students in a Pasadena school to determine whether desegregation has helped.
Pasadena, California: 25 Years After Brown v. Board of Education
Heidi Schulman, reporting: In Pasadena, California classrooms, academic achievement is up, but it’s unclear whether desegregation can take any credit. Court ordered busing began when these 8th graders started school in 1970. Reading and math scores had been sliding below national norms for several years, and they fell farther in the first turbulent years of busing. Then in 1973, they climbed as a conservative school board stressed a return to basics. But there’s still a big gap between whites and blacks. Overall, whites perform 22 points above the national average, blacks 14 points below it.
Mr. Peter Hagan: The gap has not narrowed, but the gap has not widened either. In other words, we infer from that that white students have not been hurt by this experience, and we infer from that that black students are being helped by that experience.
Schulman: It is poor children who generally do poorly in school. A majority of Pasadena’s black students are poor, and researchers say they begin school behind.
Dr. Jane Mercer: For the minority child to catch up during the school years would require that in fact they learn more rapidly, that they acquire more material, that they develop more rapidly than the majority group, which I think is an unrealistic expectation.
Schulman: While academic achievement is up in Pasadena, school board members disagree on whether that’s despite desegregation, or because of it.
Elbie Higgambottom: Course, there’s not by any means the sole reason, but it certainly has contributed to the atmosphere I think that’s conducive for youngsters to learn.
Mr. Richard Vetterli: Children do not learn by osmosis, by sitting next to someone else, regardless of their race, creed, or religion. Children learn by teachers who spend time with them and have interest with them, and make certain that they learn the basics, and that’s what’s happening here now.
Schulman: But these 8th graders will have to pass a state proficiency test before graduating. Two out of three blacks fail practice exams compared to one in four whites. That makes closing the education gap even more urgent. Heidi Schulman, NBC News, Pasadena.
As the United States entered the 20th century, the principles that underlay its educational enterprise were already set. Educational sovereignty rested in the states. Education was free, compulsory, universal and articulated from kindergarten to university, though the amount of free schooling varied from state to state, as did the age of required school attendance.