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SAT scores reveal gaps in opportunity, not ability

While I certainly applaud the news that Maryland SAT scores have risen above the national average (“Maryland students score above national average in newly released SAT scores,”), I believe one point made in the Sept. 26 article requires further clarification — the issue of racial disparity across the state.

Let us not forget that behind that 200-point gap is systemic injustice rooted in a long history of inequitable funding, racial segregation, and a lack of political will to educate all of our children. It is also important to remember that behind that significant numerical difference, there are real students and dedicated educators striving to rise above adversity and economic inequality.

It’s no secret that public schools in urban neighborhoods are severely underfunded and inadequately staffed to provide the same quality of education offered in predominantly white and wealthy school districts. As a city, as educators, as community members, we have a commitment to do better and hold our elected officials accountable.

The state of Maryland and, for that matter, the United States, has never lived up the promises made to all our children regarding public education. That's why we instruct everyone within the Loyola School of Education to see opportunity where others see deficiency and disrupt systems of both bias and privilege. We encourage them to work toward social justice and consider ways to improve education for all of Baltimore’s youth, especially those suffering from systemic disadvantage.

Baltimore’s youth are far more than their SAT scores, but those scores do tell us something. It’s time we understood these data as gaps in opportunity rather than achievement, hear the stories from communities of both challenge and perseverance, and fulfill so many years of promises to Maryland families made and broken.

Robert Helfenbein, Baltimore

The writer is the Associate Dean of the Loyola University Maryland School of Education.

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