Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nebraska Still Failing Minority Students

by Kyle Michaelis
The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Nebraska's college-bound students are scoring higher on the ACT college entrance exam and showing increased readiness for the college courses that await them. Among students in the class of 2007, the average score rose to 22.1 from 21.9 the year before, according to a report from the testing company being released this morning. That increase kept Nebraska's result among the nation's best. The highest possible score is 36. Nebraska also showed improvement in other key indicators. Scores were up for every racial category compared with 2006....  
Education Commissioner Doug Christensen called the results "fantastic." "Needless to say, our teachers are doing a great job of educating all students," he said in a statement....  
While officials applauded students' and teachers' work, the results showed room for improvement among the state's black, Latino and American Indian students. Students in those groups made slight gains in narrowing the test score gap with white students. But the average black, Latino and American Indian composite score was below the score of 20 that would earn them admission to the University of Nebraska. Latino and American Indian students scored an average of 19.2 and 19.1, respectively. Black students' average score was 17.9....  
Across Nebraska, 27 percent of all test-takers met ACT's college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects on the test: math, science, reading and English. The national average was 23 percent....  
The readiness scores are far lower for Nebraska's black, Latino and American Indian students. Among black students, for instance, just 5 percent of test takers - 25 students statewide - met all four benchmark standards.
I'd say "room for improvement" doesn't really do justice to the continued need of our state's minority populations - sounding far too happy a note that allows Nebraskans to persist in their sad state of apathy and unconcern.

These results are not all doom-and-gloom. They even show signs of improvement over years past. But, it's hard to see how our State Education Commissioner can find anything "fantastic" in so appalling a racial divide that sees only 25 black students in the entire state prepared for a college education.

One also has to keep in mind that even the disturbing scores seen above are probably inflated because they only reflect students who actually took the ACT. Without a doubt, minority children from impoverished backgrounds are less likely to take the test at all - for lack of encouragement, for lack of motivation, for lack of resources, and for the simple fact that many have already dropped-out of school.

Remember, 60% of black children in Omaha are being raised in poverty - the highest rate in the nation. These are numbers that deserve our attention. And, these are facts that demand our outrage if we're ever going to realize the full scope of these problems and finally discover the will to confront them head-on.

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