No White Child Left Behind

Is the glass half empty or half full? And if some people’s glasses are leaking, shouldn’t that be highlighted?

Today’s Star Tribune reports that the high-school class of 2007 in Minnesota had the hightest average ACT scores of any state in the country, and that Minnesotans’ average scores went up a bit.

But on page B5, where the story continues, we learn that average scores for blacks and Native Americans dropped this year, showing “a troubling achievement gap between students of color and white students,” according to an official of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

The headline and subhead on the front page of the B section celebrate the overall news: “State students are ACT aces for the third year in a row,” and “The Class of 2007’s average score on the college exam was tops in the U.S. and the highest since a test retooling in the ’90s.”

In a country where the gap between rich and poor is growing — and where a good education leads to higher income —  surely we all need to know when whole groups are falling behind. It’s too easy to only read the headlines and the few paragraphs on the front page — which in this case give a misleading and incomplete view of what’s happening. You bet it’s news, with education under fire and education funding hotly debated, when Minnesota schools do well by any measure. But it’s just as important to know what’s not working.

What if the headline had read, “Gap between white students and students of color growing”? The water-cooler talk this morning would have been less self-congratulatory. At least the subhead should have highlighted this growing problem that affects us all.

— Benidt