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We learned about the achievement gap in an epic news dump exactly 50 years ago

Friday afternoon of the July 4th weekend is a great time to bury news. But if that’s what Congress was trying to do in 1966 when it invited sociologist James Coleman to present his research about schools on that day, it fell short.

The report about race and education that Coleman delivered has shaped five decades of education policy. Here’s the first paragraph of the New York Times story about the study, published on page 24 of the newspaper’s sleepy July 2 edition:

“A survey of educational opportunities ordered by Congress has shown that predominately Negro schools are inferior to those largely attended by whites and that this tends to widen the achievement gap between the races.”

Now known as the Coleman Report, the July 1 news dump gained steam because it added evidence supporting the growing push for desegregation and created a new model for studying the effects of schools on students. But even as the report has informed countless efforts to close test score gaps among student of different races, the gaps remain wide.

For more about the report’s unusual impact, check out this retrospective by the journal Education Next, out of the right-leaning Hoover Institution.

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