Durham schools win grant to boost minority achievement

Posted February 9, 2010

— The NEA Foundation on Tuesday awarded Durham Public Schools $1.25 million to boost the classroom achievement of minority students.

The money will target black males in the early grades to help them graduate on time. Research shows the group is struggling the most within the district, said Kristy Moore, president of the Durham Association of Educators.

Five-year grant targets black males Five-year grant targets black males

"We want to make sure that we have mentoring programs. We want to make sure that teachers have accessibility to go out to the homes and to visit parents and see what the students really need," Moore said.

Fifty-seven percent of black high school students in Durham graduate in four years, compared with 85 percent of white students, according to state statistics. Statewide, the gap is narrower – 78 percent of white students and 63 percent of black students graduate within four years.

"It's a huge problem," Andrew Lakis, an academic coach at Lowe's Grove Middle School, said of the achievement gap.

Lakis said he sees many black students fall behind their peers in class. No one has been able to determine the reason for the disparity, but he said his job as a teacher is to address the situation.

"We are really trying to solve the problem, more so than diagnose it," he said.

Durham was one of three school districts nationwide to win the competitive, five-year grant under the NEA Foundation's Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative. The 6-year-old project supports partnerships that develop and implement comprehensive, sustainable approaches to advancing academic achievement.

“Good schools – schools that provide real educational opportunity – have a clear focus on teaching and learning,” said Harriet Sanford, president and chief executive of the NEA Foundation. “Real opportunities for students grow when the whole educational system keeps its eye on the prize.”

The foundation is a 40-year-old charity funded by contributions from teachers, corporate sponsors and others.

Moore said Durham schools will apply for mini-grants to pay for programs tailored to their individual needs.

"We are allowing the schools to look and see what they have that is already working in their schools," she said. "Maybe it's mentoring, or it may be some after-school programs that are already working but they need to extend it out to make it a larger program."

"A teacher needs to wear the hat of a social worker and a care provider and a community organizer and get that involvement from the student, the parent, the grandparent (and) anybody who is involved in that child's life," Lakis said.

Moses Richards, a junior at Hillside High School, called himself "a perfect example" of what schools can do for local blacks.

Richards moved from Liberia with his family when he was 4. At the time, he spoke other languages but not English. The grant will help students like him get the academic attention they need, he said.

"We believe that all children can learn at a high level," he said.

Durham’s proposal for the five-year grant was created by the Durham Association of Educators and district administrators and is backed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University and local business leaders, officials said.

Sanford said the district will have access to NEA research and practices found to be successful elsewhere, as well as a national network of educators to provide advice. An independent evaluation will continually measure the progress of the project.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she was thrilled that Durham was chosen from among 14,000 school districts nationwide for the grant.

"No matter what your ZIP code is, no matter what the color of your skin is, no matter what kind of creed or beliefs you have in your heart, you deserve a shot in North Carolina," Perdue said.


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  • mad_dash Feb 10, 2010

    ambidextrous cat.. Poor white children also need assistance, but to a slightly lesser degree. Does the truth hurt?

    How can you say that "poor white children" need assistance ONLY to a lesser degree than black children?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 10, 2010

    Pitance. We pay this much to jail 2 people for 20 years each. This program could help hundreds to stay out of jail.

  • HanginTough Feb 10, 2010

    Minorities (black) are the democratic voting base. As you can see from the push for ILLEGALS to have the magic wand of CITIZENSHIP waved over them that they are the new up and coming democratic voting base. Why would you vote against the group that hands out government healthcare at no cost, WIC at no cost, free and reduced lunch at no cost to you...all burdens on the know the ones that WORK everday!Of course, what is even sadder and more pathetic is that these MINORITIES dont realize that they are still slaves just a different set of shackles and slaves of their own making to the master that is the government and it is this government that holds them back and they dont seem to care. It is shame that parents that raise their kids, single mothers that raise their kids, maintain a job, pay their taxes and watch everyday as their WHITE children are ignored, looked over and not given the attention they might need to have better grades - PC RACISM - ACCEPTED & PROMOTED!

  • whitleycattleco Feb 9, 2010

    Just dont understand....

  • anonymousone Feb 9, 2010

    Congrats Durham Public Schools! Now let's use the grant money to think outside of the box to reach these kids. You've done a great job allowing programs like Trips For Kids - Triangle inside the schools. We need more programs like that!

  • affirmativediversity Feb 9, 2010

    Why isn't Rev Barber and the NAACP complaining that young black males are being profiled?

    What happened to the other NON BLACK MALES right to EQUAL EDUCATION????? How is it the educational system's fault if one demographic group appears to do markedly poorer than all other groups when ALL have access to the same program?

    Why is the NEA permitted to segregate out ONE group for different attention?

    Where did the NEA get the million plus they are giving away...membership or redirected tax dollars?

  • colliedave Feb 9, 2010

    This is ample proof the Department of Education has been an abject failure.

    The Department of Education was created by the Peanut Farmer as political payback to the NEA. Yes, the same useless group that funded this study. Over the past 35 years test scores has declined had have graduation rates. Critical thinking skills are not taught and schools have largely become indoctrination tanks where students are taught to worship the almighty government.

    In terms of the AA community, aside from the terrible teachings of the Nation of Islam a desire to learn, achieve, and excel is thought of as a "white thing." That is unless one is a football, basketball, or rap star

  • manofjustice Feb 9, 2010

    The racial makeup of the city was (2000 census) 45.50% White, 43.81% African American, 0.31% Native American, 3.64% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.75% from other races, and 1.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.56% of the population.

    Sorry but those stats were 10 years ago and they were incorrect then. Now you know that the Black and Hispanic population has significantly increased since then. Don't look at statistics...look at the city itself.

  • ncmickey Feb 9, 2010

    The racial makeup of the city was (2000 census) 45.50% White, 43.81% African American, 0.31% Native American, 3.64% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.75% from other races, and 1.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.56% of the population.

  • ambidextrous cat Feb 9, 2010

    manofjustice: That is a good point, women are often considered a minority as well.

    Titus Pullo:
    This program may help a select group of students who are capable of performing decently/well academically, and it will help those with substantial willpower.

    I personally think that parents should be subjected to mandatory parenting programs when they have children, especially more than three!