The Education Race Gap in Central Virginia

News & Advance reporter Katrina Dix wrote this provocative story Friday, based on information that came out of a day-long board retreat for Lynchburg City Schools. The key finding: “The variable of race actually has a bigger part of telling the story than the variable of poverty,” Jay McClain, the assistant superintendent responsible for instruction told the board, according to Dix. On tests that measure whether students are keeping up with expectations for their grade level, black students throughout the state have recorded lower scores than white students. Part of the reason is that a higher percentage of black students fall into the economically disadvantaged category, and students from economically disadvantaged families have been shown to have a harder time meeting expectations for their grade level. But as McClain pointed out in Dix’s story, the difference in scores can’t be explained entirely by differing family income levels. Even when matching students of the same economic class, white students showed about 20 points higher than black students, Dix reported. The reasons why can be debated, but Superintendent Scott Brabrand said finding the reasons and eventual solutions start by first facing the facts. “We’ve got to be honest about both pieces of it,” Dix quoted him as saying, speaking of both race and economic disadvantage in the city. “It’s complicated … [but] first we’ve got to be able to talk about it, and then we’ve got to be able to do something about it based on what this data is.” The chart below looks at grade-level proficiency test scores for third graders in math and reading. They include students from economically disadvantaged...