Monday, September 29, 2003

Group tackles gap in learning


Study: Poor, minorities lag

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Human Rights Commission is the latest group to weigh in on the issue of an academic "achievement gap."

The commission, in a study of 12 school districts being released today, said it found marked differences in test scores between most white students and those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

Students who lag also tend to be poor, and from racial and ethnic minority groups, the study concludes.

"Black children, Hispanic children are just not succeeding" at acceptable rates, Beverly Watts, the commission's executive director, said.

None of which was startling to officials at the Kentucky Department of Education. "We agree that this is a problem, but it is not a new problem," department spokeswoman Lisa Gross said.

The achievement gap has gotten increased attention in the last two years. The General Assembly last year decreed that test data should be broken down to show results by race, gender and socioeconomic group.

In addition, the new federal education law known as No Child Left Behind holds states responsible for ensuring that all categories of students are making "adequate yearly progress." In Kentucky's case, schools had been required to demonstrate overall progress.

The commission criticized the Department of Education for being "more passive than active." It said the agency needs to be more of "an organization that spearheads a concerted statewide endeavor to close the gaps."

"Closing the achievement gaps between various groups of Kentucky's public school students is not only an issue of their performance, but also is a civil rights issue. Especially when most of the affected students are from protected groups such as disabled students and minority students," the report said.

Districts included in the study were Jefferson County, Fayette County, Bardstown, Bowling Green, Covington, Christian County, Hardin County, Hazard, Henderson County, Owensboro, Paducah and Shelby County.

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On the Net: Human Rights Commission: http://www.state.ky.us/agencies2/kchr




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Sunday's local news report