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Taking Our Achievement Gains for Granted

Taking Our Achievement Gains for Granted

On Capitol Hill, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus are outraged over Republicans’ decision to shift jurisdiction of historically Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions from the House Education and Workforce Committee to the new Select Education subcommittee. Under the new subcommittee’s jurisdiction is also
juvenile justice, child abuse and runaway youth programs.
Democratic Congressman Major Owens of New York says he not suggesting that there’s any malice involved with the shift, but that it’s about perception and
“whether these programs [for HBCUs] belong in the same category as social problems.”
As a result,
Democrats on the House Education committee announced last month they would boycott all subcommittee assignments to protest new rules they say slight minority-serving institutions.
And by now, many of you have probably already heard that one of the most respected HBCU presidents, Florida A&M University’s Dr. Frederick Humphries, announced his resignation effective June 30. His announcement came as a shock to the FAMU community, as well as to the larger academic community. His resignation has many people wondering who will lead FAMU.
I use these recent examples to demonstrate that African Americans cannot take their achievement gains for granted. HBCUs have received federal funding increases over the years, and last year the GOP hosted an HBCU summit under the leadership of Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla. Nevertheless, African American and Latino members of Congress are currently having to fight to keep HBCU and HSI programs from being relegated to a subcommittee that will also deal with
“social problems.”
The looming departure of Humphries, who most agree has taken FAMU to new heights during his 16-year tenure, also illustrates that we cannot take achievement, nor our leaders for granted.
This marks a good segue into our cover story which offers a glimpse of what’s being done to address the achievement gap that exists between K-12 Black and White students. Senior writer Ronald Roach recently attended a conference at the Brookings
Institution at which scholars
presented ideas and research on
strategies for boosting the academic performance of under-achieving minority students (See story, page 26). Most of the scholars agreed that the gap can be closed. Where their opinions vary is on the means of closing it. Scholars and academicians offer several remedies: from smaller class sizes, to better teacher training, to strategic funding
Clemson University in South Carolina believes they have found one remedy. Recognizing that
minority students often score lower than their White counterparts on standardized college
entrance exams such as the SAT, the university has established the SAT Workshop for Minority
Students. The “academic boot camp,” as the students call it,
accepts approximately 130 African American high school sophomores from around the state and immerses them in an intensive two-week SAT workshop. The
results are impressive (See story, page 30). However, 70 percent of the workshop participants are female, which is another story for another edition of Black Issues — where are our Black males?
In future editions, Black
Issues will revisit the overall achievement gap issue because there are many facets to the problem, and more than one remedy and program working to narrow and ultimately close the gap. 

Hilary Hurd

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