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Published: 3/25/2005

Study says poor, minorities facing hurdles in education

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA AND KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

A local study released yesterday that focuses on public K-16 educational institutions in Toledo and Cincinnati shows that people of color from low-income urban areas are facing serious and ongoing problems when it comes to getting an education.

The findings were compiled in a study titled "A Status Report on Educational Attainment of People of Color in Two Ohio Cities: Cincinnati and Toledo," and was conducted by the University of Toledo's Urban Affairs Center and the University of Cincinnati's Institute for Community Partnerships. In addition to addressing issues related to education, the report offers policy recommendations to state leaders and education officials.

Among some of the key findings:

●Despite improvements in both the Toledo and Cincinnati public school districts, both districts continue to have relatively low proficiency scores, very low math and science scores, and high drop-out rates.

●African-American and Hispanic-American students are less likely to have completed the high school academic core courses and most likely to require remedial courses when in college.

●The four and six-year graduation rates for students of color were substantially lower than the norm.

w●Whites age 25 and older were twice as likely as African-Americans in Lucas County and three times as likely as African-Americans in Hamilton County to have a college degree.

Carter Wilson, a UT faculty research associate for the Urban Affairs Center who co-authored the study, said one of the key findings pertains to the preparation of students from high school to college.

"There are some policy implications of the study, and we've had discussions here at the University of Toledo - this was before the study came out - that a lot of students are coming to the university not as well-prepared as they should be," he said.

He added that this marks another chance to inform students directly about the problem.

"The implication is to get the message out. They can't just take the easy math courses. They have to take the more challenging course," he said.

Eugene Sanders, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, declined comment on the study because he had not seen it.

Mr. Sanders said the 34,000-student district has made the greatest strides over the last several years in the most troubled schools. "We have documentation to demonstrate that the majority of the academic growth has occurred in our most challenged buildings," he said.

Mr. Sanders said urban schools face more challenges than those in the suburbs.

"I believe there is a strong correlation between academic achievement and poverty," he said. "I want to be very clear about this: 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."

As part of its effort to reform low performing schools, the district identifies highly trained teachers to work in those buildings.

A national study released Wednesday said student performance is improving and that school districts are closing achievement gaps but that accountability rules for disabled students and non-English speaking students should be changed or eliminated.

The study found that the 2002 No Child Left Behind education law is helping more needy students, but its success is in jeopardy unless states and schools get more financial help.

That report, by the independent Center on Education Policy, was based largely on surveys of education officials from 49 states and 314 school districts, plus case studies in 36 districts. Cleveland Public Schools was among the districts studied.

Of the states and districts surveyed, 36 states and 72 percent of districts reported that student achievement on state tests is improving. Most states and districts said achievement gaps are narrowing between white students and other student groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and those who do not speak English.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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