Calling it a “national catastrophe,” an urban education group Tuesday released a study showing a vast achievement gap between black and white male students in the country, and suggesting that poverty is only part of the cause.

The report, by the Council of the Great City Schools, finds for example that only 11 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading in 2009, compared with 38 percent of white boys. Only 10 percent of black male eighth-graders were proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of whites.

The study also found that poverty, as measured by whether a student qualifies for federal lunch subsidies, explains only part of the difference. While both black and white male students who qualified for the subsidies scored below their counterparts who did not, white students from low-income homes did about as well as black students whose families were not poor.

“What this clearly shows is that black males who are not eligible for free and reduced-price lunch are doing no better than white males who are poor,” Michael Casserly, executive director of the council, told the New York Times.

A download of the 120-page report in .pdf format is available here.

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