Ellen Herman

Department of History, University of Oregon


HIST 460/560, Winter 2007
Reading and Discussion Questions, Week 7

Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 11-40.

1. What is the four-year skills gap that the Thernstroms identify?

2. What position do the Thernstroms take on standardized tests? What do they think the tests measure? Do they think that tests are part of the problem or part of the solution? What do they have to say to their critics?

3. What explanations do the Thernstroms offer for racial gaps in academic achievement? Do you find them persuasive? What is the historical context of this debate?

4. Why do you think the achievement gap has become a chronic controversy among politicians and educators?

5. If standardized tests suggest significant racial gaps in academic achievement, why are there few or no racial differences in rates of college attendance? Why do the Thernstroms believe that increasing access to higher education will not narrow the achievement gap?

6. What do you think about the organization of testing data into groups called white, black, hispanic, and Asian? Do you think that the emphasis on aggregate patterns helps or hinders the usefulness of tests for evaluating individual students and applicants?