Losing the lead among top minority and disadvantaged students

Study highlights receding position of leading students in high school

Imagine entering high school among the top quarter of your class in reading and math, only to have a lower GPA, SAT and ACT at the end of your tenure there.

The counter-intuitive result is the reality for tens of thousands of minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students across the country, according to a new study released by The Education Trust this month.

Following a reading and math exam administered by The Education Trust, students scoring in the top quartile were labeled "high achieving." These students were then tracked throughout high school. The result revealed a recession of achievement among minority students and those from "low-socioeconomic" backgrounds, determined by family incomes, parental education and occupations.

The study stands in stark juxtaposition to the news of Kwasi Enin, a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from Ghana, getting accepted into all eight Ivy League schools this week. If the way the media has distastefully made a spectacle of Enin's achievement - and by extension race - is any indication, society does not view this as the norm.

And perception is half the battle. The report cited past research that indicated teacher perceptions of students accounted for "a great deal of this gap, as opposed to student-reported study habits and behavior records."

The gap in life chances based on race and family's socioeconomic status is both pronounced and well known. A related study by The Annie E. Casey Foundation found that black, Latino and American Indian children face significant barriers to achievement throughout their lives, beginning at childhood. Lack of resources and the state of their communities were among the most significant issues.

Simply put, not enough is being done within society or schools to correct a lingering gap in the achievement of minority and disadvantaged students. This study highlights that even when these students enter high school as high achievers, those gains are eroded in four years.

This Education Trust report concludes bluntly that students of color and from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds "leave high school with lower AP exam rates, lower SAT/ACT scores, and lower GPAs than their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers," which goes on to influence post-high school decisions.

These achievement gaps along racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines have become entrenched in this country. The divide, however, need not be a continued problem in this country.

Though the study provides few substantive steps to take, it does call for more attentive action across schools and communities, and surely knowledge of an issue in the first step to remediation.

Outside of a more engaged and involved faculty across this nation's secondary schools, we can also ease these growing divides. Internships and volunteering opportunities exist throughout the city with young and teenage students. Additionally, these programs exist within area high schools.

Beyond just substantive actions, perception plays a key role. In a nation founded on principles of rising above and dreaming beyond circumstance, all students deserve the best, regardless of race or socioeconomics.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com