Minorities, poor are still receiving inferior education
Gannett News Service
May. 14, 2003 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Almost 50 years after the legal end of school segregation, many
minority and poor students still receive a
substandard education, according to a report released Tuesday by an education
College-preparatory classes are electives in too many states, and minority
students often are not enrolled in rigorous, upper-level
courses, the Education Trust found. Poor and minority students also are more
likely to be taught by unqualified teachers.
In Ohio, for instance, Black students accounted for 16 percent of public school
enrollment but represented just 4 percent of the students who took Advanced
Placement tests in calculus, according to the Education Trust. Students take
these tests after completing college-level, Advanced Placement classes, which
are typically the most challenging courses high schools offer. Nearly 90 percent
of the Ohio test-takers in AP calculus were White.
And in Arizona, Hispanic students make up 34 percent of the public school
population but account for just 16 percent of the students enrolled in gifted
and talented programs.
"Students don't have to be in legally segregated schools to be segregated into
different classes and therefore different futures," said
Kati Haycock, the group's director.
The report was released just days before the 49th anniversary of the Supreme
Court's landmark decision, in Brown vs. Board of Education, striking down school
segregation. And it comes as an increasing body of research shows that what
students study in high school influences their prospects later in life.
Officials are so concerned about students' lagging skills overall that a group
of more than 400 university educators recently released a booklet to nearly
20,000 public high schools detailing what courses students should take in high
school to be ready for college.
While 42 states spell out the courses needed for high school graduation,
Oklahoma is the only state in which the public school
system and public colleges agree on the number and content of math classes
graduates need to be prepared to attend college, trust officials said.
The stakes are high for students. People with just a high school diploma are
twice as likely to be unemployed as college grads,
according to the Education Trust. Only 45 percent of Black students who enter a
four-year college eventually earn a bachelor's degree. But that proportion jumps
to 73 percent among Black students who took rigorous classes in high school.
At the same time, the skills needed for a variety of jobs are increasingly in
demand. Tool and die makers, for instance, must have a grasp of algebra,
geometry, trigonometry and basic statistics, said Patte Barth of the trust.
"Students who don't get this rigorous curriculum are increasingly locked out of
good middle-income jobs," she said.
Education Trust officials said some states are making needed changes. Starting
next year, high school freshmen in Texas will be
enrolled automatically in a college-prep curriculum unless their parents choose
to exclude them. And Indiana officials are working to
make a college-prep curriculum a graduation requirement, according to the
In El Paso, where schools began pushing a college-prep track for all students in
the 1995-96 school year, students in the city's
predominantly Hispanic and poor schools are taking harder classes and graduating
at higher rates.