It's easy, and politically correct, to attribute the "racial achievement gap" separating Asians and whites students from Latinos and blacks ones to socioeconomic status and class size.
But Asian and Latino students in the same socioeconomic boat (say, those who recently immigrated from Vietnam and Mexico) get very different grades in school - so what's the reason?
In this interesting article in the Los Angeles Times by Hector Becerra, students from the Lincoln High School discussed the issue still considered taboo by many:
Both the neighborhood and student body are about 15% Asian. And yet Asians make up 50% of students taking Advanced Placement classes. Staffers can't remember the last time a Latino was valedictorian.
"A lot of my friends say the achievement gap is directly attributable to the socioeconomic status of students, and that is not completely accurate," O'Connell said. "It is more than that."
But what is it? O'Connell called a summit in Sacramento that drew 4,000 educators, policymakers and experts to tackle the issue. Some teachers stomped out in frustration and anger.
No Lincoln students stomped out of their discussion. Neither did any teachers in a similar Lincoln meeting. But the observations were frank, and they clearly made some uncomfortable.
To begin with, the eight students agreed on a few generalities: Latino and Asian students came mostly from poor and working-class families.
According to a study of census data, 84% of the Asian and Latino families in the neighborhoods around Lincoln High have median annual household incomes below $50,000. And yet the Science Bowl team is 90% Asian, as is the Academic Decathlon team.
(Photo: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)