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Educational Attainment Urged By Black Leaders At Meeting

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Washington--Black leaders gathered here last week to discuss the importance of education in improving the economic and political status of blacks and other minorities in the country.

Although most of the conference participants addressed the issue from a higher-education perspective, several speakers cited the need to improve education at the elementary and secondary levels.

One of those speakers, Mary F. Berry of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said that the educational problems of black students can be solved in the public schools and that the black community "ought to insist on their share of tax money" to solve those problems.

Ms. Berry said it is possible "to close the education gap that now plagues us" by mobilizing at the local level and pressing for legislation focused on poor people. "There is a need to provide jobs so that [black students] will know that there is a payoff for learning," she said.

"Falling for every new fad will not help solve the educational problems of black children," Ms. Berry said. The black community should set priorities that make teachers and school principals accountable.

The two-day meeting, "A National Assessment Conference on Education and the Future of Black Americans: 1983 and Beyond," was sponsored by the University of the District of Columbia in cooperation with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's "push for Excellence" program.

During one of the conference sessions, Mr. Jackson, president of Operation push, a civil-rights and economic-development organization based in Chicago, joined comedian Bill Cosby in urging the college students in the audience to pursue educational opportunities--particularly in the fields of science and technology--despite racial and cultural barriers. The educational challenge, according to Mr. Jackson, is that "this generation [of black students] not let down on your effort" to seize educational opportunities.

As an outcome of the conference, Mr. Jackson is expected to announce a new educational initiative in the area of computer science for elementary and secondary students, according to the Rev. Tyrone Crider, executive director of push for Excellence.

Other speakers participating in the conference included John B. Slaughter, chancellor of the University of Maryland at College Park and former director of the National Science Foundation; Clarence E. Hodges, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services' office of children, youth, and families; Thomas I. Atkins, general counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Margaret Bush Wilson, naacp board chairman; and Carol Gibson, education director for the National Urban League.--sgf

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