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Editorial: The racial divide grows in schools

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A report issued last week by the state’s Education Department shows that the performance gap among public school students continues to widen with Asian Americans doing the best and African American students consistently faring the worst.

These are dangerous waters. Although the report probably comes as no surprise to most educators, it is no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for the city’s African-American families.

The news is very disturbing. In every district in Queens, Asian and white eighth-graders did far better on standardized reading and math tests than their black and Hispanic counterparts.

In School District 29 in Rosedale, where 74 percent of the student population is black, black students performed dismally on the state tests. Only 37 percent of blacks passed the English exam and 27 percent passed the math test. By comparison, 53 percent of whites and 56 percent of Asian students passed the English exam. Hispanics students in District 29 had a 42 percent passage rate on the English test.

In District 26, which includes Bayside and other parts of northeast Queens, 81 percent of Asian and 71 percent of the white students passed the math test. Only 53 percent of the Hispanics and 49 percent of the blacks passed.

Education officials must look at the growing divide to see what it tells us. The first and most obvious conclusion must be that the schools in the two best districts, 25 and 26, are doing a better job of educating children than the districts with the lowest scores. But why?

As we have noted in the past, the Korean and Chinese students do very well in New York City despite language difficulties. The Asian culture places an emphasis on hard work and academic excellence. Children grow up in an environment where it is expected that they will work long hard hours on school assignments every night. The work pays dividends.

But that does not explain why only 37 percent of the black students passed the English exam in District 29. No one can be happy with this academic divide. We must find ways of helping the districts with the lowest scores to learn from the success of the schools in the highest performing districts.

Editorial: Throw away the key

Unless he screws up in prison, confessed serial rapist Edwin Feliciano will walk out of prison at the age of 48. At that time, there is every reason to fear he will rape again. Feliciano is a three-time loser and, if justice had prevailed, he would die in prison.

Feliciano is the embodiment of all that is wrong with a criminal justice system that places expedience in front of public safety. Had he been convicted at a trial, he would have almost certainly been sentenced to life behind bars.

Feliciano confessed to brutally raping three Asian-American women, between the ages of 24 to 37 in the lobbies or elevators of their buildings. If they are lucky, it will take years of counseling for these women to get over this terrifying and degrading experience. Chances are they will be emotionally damaged for life.

The monster who did this served an 18-month sentence for assault and attempted rape in the early 1990s. In July 2000, Feliciano was released from prison after serving five years for transporting narcotics into the United States. He was on parole when he committed the eight felonies that he pleaded guilty to last week.

Something is wrong with any system that gives this creep another chance to rape again. If the district attorney did not use plea bargains, the justice system in Queens County would grind to a halt. But the district attorney has to draw the line. There are some criminals so vile, so dangerous and so resistant to rehabilitation that society should feel compelled to keep them away from decent citizens. From all that we know about 31-year-old Edwin Feliciano, he is one of those people.

Perhaps there will be a day when criminal science will uncover an effective means of dealing with violent sexual offenders. Until that day, the district attorney should do everything possible to keep the Edwin Felicianos of this world off the streets forever.

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