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[Susan notes: Champion letter writer Walt Gardner scores big on this one.]

Published in Los Angeles Times

To the editor

Re "Years Have Done Little to Help Local Blacks," July 14

It's more than mere coincidence that the shameful findings of "The State of Black Los Angeles" 40 years after the Watts riots so closely track the disheartening academic achievement of too many African American students. When children go to school with vision and hearing problems, toothaches, malnutrition and exhaustion, they cannot possibly learn to the best of their abilities. That's why it makes no sense to focus on narrowing the performance gap between blacks and other groups if greater attention is not first paid to economic and social reforms.

The latest study is an urgent reminder that schools at their best cannot alone help children most in need. It will take an unprecedented effort to improve the health, housing, employment and parenting of black Los Angeles and, by extension, other U.S. cities.

Walt Gardner

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