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Group Hopes to Close Achievement Gap Between White and Black Students

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DURHAM — Black students are improving on their end-of-grade test scores, but they are not catching up to their white classmates. Now, traditionally black colleges are joining forces to try to shrink the achievement gap between all students.

North Carolina Central Universityin Durham was host to 12 colleges and universities for Monday's forum. It is also the first to pilot a program to look at what can be done to help black students catch up.

Watts Elementary School will be one of the first to get extra help on their school work. It is one of the lowest-performing schools in the state.

NCCU is going to bring 100 elementary students on its campus for a Saturday Academy -- 10 weeks of writing, math and language skill-building. Parents must come too.

"We're going to deal with the whole, total family, so that the family will have input in making a difference," says NCCU professor Dr. Beverly Washington Jones.

That is one strategy that will be studied by the newly-formed consortium of historically black colleges and universities.

The group wants to use their research, personnel and resources to help close an achievement gap between white and black students.

The gap is most evident on end-of-grade reading and math tests. The percentage of students performing at grade level has steadily increased for both white and black students. But the gap between them -- more than 30 percentage points -- remains unchanged.

State School Superintendent Mike Ward says three decades of integration, and the benefits of diversity that came with it, are in jeopardy.

"Progress has been made, but we will not have the luxury of another 30 years at this pace. So we must make a difference because it is right, because it is our duty," says Ward.

Durham students will start the Saturday Academy in February. If NCCU can prove its program makes a difference, other colleges are willing to try the model too.

NCCU will carefully study the outcomes of its summer academy, testing students before and after the experience. That is important to prove the program works.

The consortium plans to meet in January to create a more detailed plan of how they will solve the achievement gap problem in North Carolina.


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