First he gives the Grey Lady's education reporting way too much credit vis-a-vis the Obama Effect.
Even the New York Times weighed in with a story that made the Obama effect appear based on science (relying on a single study; am I alone in thinking that was sub-NYT standards?) by writing up a study claiming that black test takers upped their scores post-Inauguration Day, apparently the dividend of a "Yes we can" self-esteem movement.
Sadly, this kind of education reporting for the NYT is very much the rule and not the exception.
But on to the Whitmire's closing pathways.
First he claims that College is not sufficiently accessible. I'm not sure that's really the problem. State colleges already admit many students who aren't sufficiently prepared for college level work. Most of these ill-prepared students aren't going to make it out of college anyway, so I don't see accessibility as the problem; lack of preparation is the problem.
Whitmire recognizes this lack of preparation as a problem, but unfortunately blames the wrong culprit:
The stimulus bill proposed by the House would bump up Pell grants for poor students to make college more affordable, but that does not solve the biggest problem faced by these students: As a result of attending subpar high schools, they are not ready for college work.
The achievement gaps are present long before high-school. It is debatable whether elementary schools have really improved, as Whitmire claims, but one thing is clear they haven't improve enough yet. Middle-schoolers remain woefully unprepared for high-school level work, so why are we blaming high-schools for being unable to deal with all these ill-prepared children?
Next Whitmire claims that "[n]ational education reforms have pushed curriculum demands lower into the grades, handing kindergartners the verbal tasks that two decades ago confronted second graders." This is only partially true. Today's kindergartners are still doing the same stuff that many kindergartners of twenty years ago did. Teh only real difference is that back then we allowed the struggling students to wait until they were "developmentally ready" which has been proven to be a large waste of valuable academic time. Yet the problem remains that we are still often not too successful in teaching these at-risk kids. In this respect Whitmire has a valid point and literacy rates will have to soar for there to be an improvement.
WHitmire's next point that black boys need to be rescued is also a valid point, as long as if by rescued he means to provide them with the effective commercially available curricula that has existed for decades.
Last, Whitmire jumps on the teacher quality bandwagon with both feet:
Knowing what we know about the value of a high quality teacher, we should be on the verge of delivering those teachers to inner-city students.
Really? I though the "research" pretty much indicated that we don't have the foggiest idea how to make average teachers into superstar teachers. Actually do know how to improve the effectiveness of all teachers: hand them a effective curricula and teach them how to use it, but this isn't what most people mean when they talk about teacher quality.
Ultimately I disagree with Whitmire's major premise that the lack of pathways are what's holding back students. The pathways have been in place for all children of a certain ability level and family stability to take advantage of. It is the access to those pathways that need to be improved to accommodate a level of student ability that has never been able (or had the opportunity) to take advantage of them up until recently.