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Achievement Gaps
Literature Library


Can the Achievement Gaps be Overcome?

  1. How to Close the Achievement Gaps: Research and Policy

    1. Families

Parents Need to Assume More Responsibility

Glenn C. Loury argues that given problems with crafting effective governmental policies to remedy the test gap, parents can make a major contribution.

This reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:

Loury, G. C. (1998, November/December). The black-white test score gap.The American Prospect,9. Retrieved August 8, 2002, from

To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.

Surveying Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips’s research on reducing the black-white test gap, Loury despairs that for the foreseeable future partisan politics may preclude the creation of policies that will reduce such racial inequality.

  • On the right, he finds that conservatives prefer a policy of “benign neglect” of disadvantaged minorities. If blacks haven’t improved their situation, it’s their own fault, according to conservatives.
  • On the left, Loury finds that liberals are aware of minorities’ persistent disadvantage, but sympathetic policymakers have had little success in developing policies to remedy the problems.

In this climate, Loury cautions about just how much public policies can achieve. In fact, they are just one part of an eventual solution. He writes:

“So while acknowledging that schools serving poor youngsters need more resources, and while understanding that many poor parents are unusually burdened with various stresses and disabilities, we need also to recognize that it is these parents who are ultimately responsible for the intellectual development of their children.” (Glen C. Loury section, ¶ 5)

Search for New Solutions

Loury issues a call to both scholars and parents to find out how families can help their children succeed better in schools. Scholars need to gather much more data about the role of psychological and cultural factors that inhibit minorities’ academic achievement.

Parents, in turn, need to engage in “soul-searching” and “communal mobilization.” He suggests that black parents need to find new ways to support and encourage their children to do well in school.

Jencks and Phillips Respond

Although they do not disagree with Loury’s perspective, Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips put more faith in government’s ability to influence parenting practices.

Public policies should support experiments to find out which techniques for promoting children’s academic achievement work and which do not. Public bodies can then "synthesize and publicize the results of such research" (Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips respond section, ¶18).Jencks and Phillips suggest that parents are looking for advice and facts, and public policies can provide them.

Research Design:

This article consists of a series of responses from prominent experts to Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips’ article “America’s Next Achievement Test,”The American Prospectvol. 9 no. 40, September-October 1998.


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