Education gap persists

The achievement gap between white and minority students in North Carolina’s public school system has lessened a bit, but still exists, a new study says.

“The Achievement Gap Revisited: How Minority Students Are Faring in North Carolina’s Public Schools” was released by the Education & Law Project of the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh as a follow-up to reports issued in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

The number of minority students in the state’s school system is rising, representing 42.4 percent of the student body during the 2004-05 school year, up from 34 percent a decade ago, the study says.

In grades 3 through 8, more white and minority students are performing at grade level than four years ago, but the gap between them still exists, with just over one in 10 white students below grade level, while the rate for black students is almost triple that.

More than two in 10 Hispanic students scored below grade level last school year, the study says.

All together, more than 126,000 students, including minorities and whites, did not receive a sound basic education during the 2004-05 school year, the study says.

Performance for all students declines in high school.

Upon leaving eighth grade, about three in four black, Hispanic and American Indian students score at grade level in reading, but within two years, that number falls to fewer than half, with all three groups reporting declines of more than 25 percent from eight grade to 10th.

Math scores decline during the same period as well, but not as dramatically.

White students perform at grade level at a higher rate, but still show a decline in reading ability by 10th grade, the study says.

Among the Education & Law Project’s suggestions for addressing the gap is full implementation of the recommendations of the N.C. Commission on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps, most importantly helping teachers become more comfortable interacting with various cultures.

It also recommends local education agencies create “early warning systems” for students under performing in reading and math in grades K-3, and recommends providing more resources to middle and high schools for intensive reading instruction for children falling behind, the study says.

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