Originally created 11/28/01

Black pupils need boost, group says



ATLANTA - Smaller classes, skilled teachers and extra help at a young age are the keys to helping black pupils perform on par with their white peers, a group of black lawmakers said Tuesday.

And members of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators called closing the achievement gap a nationwide social issue on par with the struggles of the 1960s.

"It's time to take action," said C.J. Prentiss, an Ohio senator and the chairwoman of the caucus's education committee."Unless we take action immediately on this, this will be the new civil rights movement."

Members of the caucus laid out a 34-page study Tuesday that analyzes the performance gap and offers solutions.

The 25-year-old group, with about 600 members in 45 states, is designed to help black state lawmakers and their staffs. Members are meeting in Atlanta for the group's annual conference.

Among the report's findings:

Forty-seven years after the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling ended school segregation, two-thirds of minority pupils still attend schools that are predominantly minority.

Only 54 percent of the math and science teachers at schools with virtually all nonwhite pupils (90 to 100 percent) are certified in their field, compared with 86 percent at schools that are predominantly white.

The nation's wealthiest school districts spend 56 percent more per pupil than the poorest districts.

In 2001, 68 percent of pupils who took advanced placement tests were white. Only 5 percent were black.

The group's proposals include efforts to limit class sizes to 15 pupils in struggling schools and increase funding for teacher training and retention programs.

They also recommend expanding preschool programs and extra learning time for pupils who struggle in the early grades.

But the plans cost money, and they come at a time when the nation is mired in recession and many state governments are facing spending cuts and tight budgets.

Reach Doug Gross at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.