Share This Page

Pittsburgh strives to bridge racial education gap

| Thursday, July 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Schools and communities should provide more support for preschool and other educational programs to put black male students on a path to succeed academically, experts said Wednesday at a conference at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It's not an issue of race and ethnicity, but an issue of providing students the opportunity to learn,” said John H. Jackson, president and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education in Cambridge, Mass.

The Heinz Endowments, which started an initiative to improve the lives of black males in Western Pennsylvania, sponsored the conference at which experts brainstormed ways to help black males in the classroom.

Nationally, 51 percent of black males graduate from high school within four years, Jackson said. About 65 percent of white males do, said Stanley Thompson, director of Heinz's education program.

In 2011, the graduation rate of black males in Pittsburgh Public Schools was 57.7 percent; for white males, it was 76.1 percent. On state tests last year, 42.9 percent of black males in grades 3, 8 and 11 scored proficient or advanced in reading, compared with 72.9 percent of white males. In math, 52 percent of black males scored proficient or advanced, compared with 77.7 percent of white males.

Pittsburgh Public Schools, the second-largest public school district in Pennsylvania, spends an average $21,000 a year to educate a child, almost $7,000 above the state average.

“It matters what you're spending the money on and how you're allocating the resources to get the greatest return,” Jackson said.

City schools Superintendent Linda Lane said the district needs to spend money on programs that work well.

She discontinued the eight Accelerated Learning Academies, schools with longer school days and year. Four schools closed because of low enrollment, old facilities, high cost of operation or low achievement. The other four now operate with different programs.

To close the racial achievement gap, Lane said the district should provide students with effective teachers, adequate resources and a challenging curriculum.

“Average teaching does not close gaps,” she said.

Jerry D. Weast, retired superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, encouraged parents to enroll their children in high-quality preschools and to take advanced placement courses. In 2010, 40 percent of black males in the Montgomery district were taking AP classes, compared with 5 percent nationally.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.