Urban Schools Improve, But Still Trail Suburbs

BIG-CITY schools in the United States have cut their dropout rates and raised student achievement in math and English, but still lag behind suburban schools in many areas, according to a report just released by The Council of The Great City Schools.

"The bottom line is, in terms of urban education, the nation is getting what it is paying for - financially, politically, and culturally," said Michael Casserly of the council, which released the report on Tuesday.

Mr. Casserly said the move to the suburbs by many employers has left "inner city schools with fewer community and economic resources to assist them."

Even equalized spending among school districts would not compensate for the institutional support suburban schools have, or the greater needs of urban schools.

The average large urban school spends about $5,200 per student compared to $6,073 in suburban schools - and $5,512 nationally, said Casserly.

Drawing on information from 44 of the nation's largest urban public school systems, the report said:

* The median annual dropout rate declined from 10.5 percent in 1988-89 to 8.8 percent in 1990-91.

* 5.2 percent of juniors and seniors successfully completed a college-level English course, while 3.3 percent passed advanced placement tests in math and science.

The national averages are 2.3 percent, 1.5 percent, and 1.2 percent, respectively. However, only 36.1 percent of the juniors had completed first-year algebra, a course required for college-bound students.

* 98.6 percent of high school English teachers were certified in that subject; 96.9 percent were certified to teach math, and 97.3 percent were certified to teach science.

* There was one black teacher for every 25.4 black students and one Hispanic teacher for every 62.9 Hispanic students, but one white teacher for every 7.4 white students.

* 41.8 percent of graduates were headed for college.

* 31 percent of graduates were black, while blacks made up 42.1 percent of enrollment; 16.6 percent were Hispanic while Hispanics accounted for 26.5 percent of enrollment.

The 44 urban schools that make up the council serve 5.4 million children, 13.1 percent of the nation's public school enrollment.

That also includes 37 percent of the nation's black, 32 percent of its Hispanic, and 22 percent of its Asian-American students.

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