D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said she wants to eliminate the achievement gap between white and black students in D.C. public schools (“Rhee hails schools’ progress in D.C. but gives herself an F,” Page 1, Monday). To do so, she should look at how family breakdown affects black children.
Seventy-seven percent of black children in Washington are born outside of marriage, compared to 8 percent of white children. Children growing up without the support of both parents are at a distinct disadvantage compared to those who do. Children living with both parents have higher grade-point averages and better attendance records, are more likely to graduate and have fewer disciplinary problems than children in one-parent homes.
An approach that looks toward long-term solutions must recognize these facts and should work to support programs that help to increase the number of two-parent families.
Mrs. Rhee is hostile to programs that seek to break the cycle of out-of-wedlock childbearing by promoting sexual abstinence before marriage. The program that I co-founded has specifically been barred from D.C. public schools because the goal of helping youth abstain from sex until marriage is seen as being out of synch with the Rhee administration’s goal to promote all family structures as equal, including same-sex couples. As such, Mrs. Rhee’s approach can never produce the long-term results she wants as long as it does not recognize and support the critical role of marriage and family for the long-term well-being of the black community.
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