Minorities trail academically - income no factor

Black and Hispanic students lag behind white and Asian students academically - even when they come from similarly privileged backgrounds, according to a report issued Sunday by the College Board.

"We are not just talking about disadvantaged youngsters," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. "Even minority students from relatively wealthy families with well-educated parents do not typically perform as well as white and Asian students from similar backgrounds."

Surveying data going back to the 1960s, the report found that academic underachievement among black and Hispanic students begins in the earliest grades and persists all the way into higher education. Even among students whose parents had PhDs and high incomes, black and Hispanic students got lower test scores and grades than white and Asian students. They also take fewer advanced placement courses, which offer college-level work to high school students.

But the report also found some signs of progress. For example, the gap in average math scores for 17-year-old minorities versus white students decreased by 30 percent between the early 1970s and the mid-1990s. And 87 percent of all black students graduate from high school or pass equivalency tests - about the same rate as white students.

The report did not address criticism that standardized tests may contain cultural biases that keep minority scores low, but it did cite racism, peer pressure that disparages intellectual achievement, and other conditions.

To remedy the problem, the College Board is recommending that potential high-achievers and gifted students be identified from the earliest age and encouraged by parents, educators, and other community leaders.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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