Most Black and Latino Students Unprepared for College, Study Says

By Julie Shapiro on October 24, 2012 2:57pm 

NEW YORK — Students from the city's black and Latino neighborhoods are much less likely to be prepared for college than their counterparts in white areas, a new study found.

In Mott Haven, for example, just 8 percent of students graduated high school ready for college last year, while in TriBeCa, 80 percent of high school graduates were prepared for higher education, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University found in a report released this week.

The findings alarmed parents and education advocates — and even the study's authors.

"I didn't expect the data to be as bad as it was," said Norm Fruchter, one of the co-authors of the study.

"Given that the Bloomberg administration has focused its reforms so specifically on trying to reduce the achievement gap and make sure demography is not destiny," Fruchter continued, "I was surprised at the extent to which demography still is destiny when it comes to preparedness for college."

The study found that in neighborhoods that were 100 percent black and Latino, less than 10 percent of students were graduating high school ready for college. Most of the neighborhoods with low college readiness rates were in The Bronx, while most of those with high readiness rates were in Manhattan.

The study, which focused on the class of 2011, used the state's definition of college readiness, which includes scoring well on the English and Math Regents exams or the SAT and AP tests.

City Comptroller John Liu and his predecessor, William Thompson, joined dozens of parents in a rally at a plaza across the street from City Hall Wednesday morning.

Natasha Capers, 33, a Brownsville resident who has two children, said she was appalled to learn that her neighborhood was the lowest-scoring in Brooklyn, with just 11 percent of high school graduates prepared for college.

"It's really sad to me," she said. "It shouldn't be that. My zip code determines if my children get a quality education."

Capers' children are still a few years away from entering high school — they're in first- and third-grade at P.S. 298, where Capers is president of the parent-teacher association — but said she worries shortcomings in their education now could hurt them down the road. P.S. 298 has no library and lacks an up-to-date computer lab, putting the students at a disadvantage in learning basic skills, Capers said.

"If you're not doing well in high school, it's probably because you didn't get the quality education you needed in junior high school, which is probably because you didn't get the resources you needed in elementary school," she said.

The Annenberg report recommended that the city deploy more guidance counselors to help middle school students apply to strong high schools and education officials focus on improving existing high schools rather than just creating more options for students.

The Department of Education acknowledged the college readiness gap but said the situation is improving.

While just 8 percent of black and Latino students graduated prepared for college in 2005, that figure rose to 13 percent of black students and 15 percent of Latino students in 2011, the DOE said.

"In the last 10 years, graduation rates have increased, test scores have improved and more students are prepared for college and careers — including more black and Latino students," the DOE said in a statement. "There is much more work to do, which is why we are finding new ways to make even more progress."

New initiatives include a program to boost middle school students' reading skills, the DOE added.

The Coalition for Educational Justice used the new Annenberg report to create a map showing college readiness by neighborhood.

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