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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2005

The poor's performance

TOLEDO Public School Superintendent Eugene Sanders is frustrated by yet another study documenting the low academic performance of poor and minority children. "There is no absolute that every child who grows up in an urban poor area is destined to be a failure, nor is every child who is born in an affluent area destined to be a success," he notes, and he has a point.

In this country, environment does not guarantee destiny. There are students from poor inner-city homes who are academic stars, and there are slackers in wealthy districts.

But on average, poor and inner-city students don't fare as well as they should. The superintendent knows that, and he knows that in order to solve the problem it has to be kept in focus.

The latest such study reveals little that is new. Conducted by the Urban Affairs Center at the University of Toledo and the Institute for Community Partnerships at the University of Cincinnati, it shows, once again, that poor and minority students do not graduate as often and aren't as well prepared for college, if they get there.

Superintendent Sanders knows that, too. The district has been laboring to improve academic growth among its children, though at times the subject becomes wearisome. But Carter Wilson, a UT Urban Affairs Center faculty research associate, views the latest findings as another opportunity to tell students of color that they must take more challenging courses. And he echoes that the only hope is for all of us to keep talking about what might be called the "educational divide."

The importance of this issue demands public debate. If ignored, it is unlikely that finding a solution will become a priority. And the results of such indifference could be more disastrous than the divide itself.

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