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No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning Paperback – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Thernstroms, senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, deliver "a tough message" about how "to close the racial gap in academic achievement." Although the 48 graphs and tables, 566 footnotes and statistics galore may muffle the work's polemical aspects, the Thernstroms produce a case for standards-based testing and charter schools. Despite caveats (e.g., "Not all Asian parents and their children fit the stereotype... and Asian Americans are not actually one `group' "), the authors' assessment of success and failure attributes much to ethnic cultural factors. Family expectations and hard work lead to success for Asian-Americans, who embrace "the American work ethic with life-or-death fervor," while "the limited education of many Hispanic parents" and "their propensity to work in unskilled jobs that don't require a knowledge of English" underlie the poor performance of Latino students. African-American failure rests in "the special role of television in the life of black children and the low expectations of their parents." "Conventional wisdom" about improving schools (more money, improved cleanliness, smaller classes, etc.) is inadequate, they say. Title I and Head Start appear to have accomplished little, they lament, but Bush's No Child Left Behind (and its mandatory testing program) gets high praise. For the Thernstroms, ideal schools break from tradition and are liberated from such "roadblocks to change" as "hands-tied administrators" and unions. Enter vouchers (implicitly) and charter schools (quite explicitly), where the Thernstroms seem particularly taken by students chanting "answers-with claps and stomps and fists held high" and reciting "rules in unison."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Authors of America in Black and White (1997), the Thernstroms take on the troubling and stubborn gap that persists in academic achievement between white students and black and Hispanic students, a gap that translates into a lifetime of uneven opportunities. They begin by citing statistics based on standardized test scores that verify the woeful achievement gap, which has become the burning issue in the continued struggle for racial justice. In separate chapters, the authors look at the historic and cultural factors at work in the low academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics and the high achievement of Asians, compared with white students. But the heart of the book focuses on several inner-city schools across the nation that have succeeded in educating minority children and provide models for educational reform. The success factors include independence from district control, discretionary budgetary power, and latitude in hiring nonunion teachers. Although it is sure to provoke some controversy, this book provides a thoughtful look at a pressing social problem. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074326522X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743265225
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Martin on October 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In cities and suburbs across America, the average black high school graduate possesses the same reading, writing and mathematical competence of an eighth-grader - with Hispanic students not too far behind. This gap in academic achievement between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts is the central civil rights issue of our time. If nothing is done to close it, true racial equality as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned it, will only be just that - a dream.
Such is the premise behind Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's new book, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning." The authors of "America in Black and White" rely primarily on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as "the nation's report card," in analyzing the academic underachievement of black and Hispanic students. Although an alarming number of all American students are leaving high school with what the NAEP deems Below Basic skills, the Thernstroms show that the numbers for blacks and Latinos are abysmally frightening. In particular, a majority of black students perform Below Basic in five of the seven subjects tested: reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, and geography.
The authors visited handful of what they call "break-the-mold" schools - schools that are doing wonders in providing inner-city black and Hispanic students with a quality education, and have the high test scores to prove it. These little pockets of superb education provide non-stop learning through longer school days, weeks and years, and share a common thread: they are free from the many bureaucratic constraints that stifle educational reform in today's big-city public schools.
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71 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This Christmas many family members and friends of this African-American will be receiving a copy of NO EXCUSES, an honest and necessary book. The authors write that the academic learning gap between the races is "the most important civil rights issue of our time." Amen. Across all age groups, urban and suburban, North and South, affluent and poor, Black and Latino boys and girls are lagging behind whites and far behind Asians. Why is this?
The Thernstroms examined the available research literature and data on the impact of family income, parental education levels, school funding, school segregation levels, television viewing (note: Asian teens watch more TV than Whites teens), among others, and found that none of these influences could explain the learning Gap. For instance, poor whites and Asians scored higher than poor blacks and Latinos. Affluent African-American kids performed worse than the rich white kids sitting next to them. The racial makeup of the teacher had no bearing: black children taught by black teachers faired no better than those taught by white teachers. The authors go on to dispel many of the conventional reasons given for inferior academic achievement.
Again, why the learning Gap? After reading the book and considering all sides, I must consider two possible reasons. First, the ongoing learning Gap exist because Asians and whites are naturally more intelligent than African-Americans and Latinos. I categorically (as do the authors) reject this notion. It's the argument of conservative and liberal racists and the excuse makers.
The second reason for the learning Gap is that Afican-American and Latino parents generally do not establish high enough academic expectations and standards for their children.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Rob Kremer on October 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The achievement gap is arguably the single biggest issue facing the public school system in America today. Failure to eliminate it calls into question the magnificent promise of public schools: that every child, regardless of birthright, will become productive citizens if given a free public education.
"No Excuses" is vital to understanding not just why the current public school system is unable to properly educate black and Hispanic children, but also how some people have succeeded in doing so.
The Thernstroms meticulously document the state of non-Asian minority achievement in American schools, and show that the conventional solutions to the problem will fail, as they have in the past.
The book explains why the current structure of the public school system - dominated by competing interest groups - can not and will not do what is necessary to educate black and Hispanic children.
Their message is not without hope, however. The Thernstroms chronicle the very real successes of some inner-city schools, and analyze the reasons that they have been able to educate the kids the other schools could not.
If you want to understand this issue you must read "No Excuses." The book's message won't be popular with defenders of the status-quo, but as the Thernstroms show, the status quo is the problem.
Only when Americans turn a deaf ear to their perpetual caterwauling will the public school system live up to its glorious promise.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Pick a topic:race,civil rights or education.No Excuses is the definitive work of the last 30 years on each.
Rigorously researched and beautifully written,the Thernstroms provide the most cogent analysis of one of the most difficult problems facing our society-- the prodigious gap in academic achievment between wh
ite and Asian students on the one hand and black and Hispanic students on the other.
The book examines the various factors that cause some schools and students to succeed while others fail, with actual examples of schools that graduate students who are not just competent, but more often than not, academic superstars, despite disadvantages that conventional wisdom would suggest should doom them to failure.
This is a magnificent work that is both scholarly and inspiring: an encyclopedic analysis that somehow manages to read like an adventure novel.It's a searingly intelligent examination of race, culture, family, finances,teachers,administrators,testing, instructional methods and a host of other factors that affect the achievment gap.
No Excuses should be mandatory reading for teachers, parents, students and politicians.This is a profound problem but it can be fixed.
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