Re: Who will close the achievement gap?, Oct. 6.
The St. Petersburg Times has written and editorialized extensively about a variety of problems with the Pinellas County Public School System. However, a lead story about an administrative decision to switch from Apple products to PCs and another on the inordinate length of time students spend on school buses pale in comparison to William Raspberry's again calling attention to the long standing achievement gap between black and white students.
This is where Times reporting and editorial persuasiveness could more profitably focus, unless you think the gap unimportant in a competitive world where diversity is believed to be a strength. It is not unless there is some comparability in educational accomplishment between black and white students.
Now Raspberry cites two studies that attempt to identify factors which try to explain the achievement gap and he, like other experts, can't put his finger on the incremental causes with great precision. It suffices to state that they all fit under a general rubric of nurture and nature. Raspberry is on the mark that black students can close the gap, except he adopts the findings of one researcher that "black students were quite open in telling the researchers, in general, their white classmates studied more, worked harder and cared more about getting good grades." Now this will outrage some people, but Raspberry calls it the "low effort syndrome," and it has been raised by others.
Instead of blasting or denying Raspberry's thesis because it sounds racist - and we all know there are many academically successful black students - at least give it a hearing. Raspberry hits the issue in the guts by demanding a change in attitude even while he notes "alienating factors." His call is: Don't wait on whites to make the change.
James R. Gillespie, St. Petersburg