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Study Suggests That Gang Members Have Unrecognized Academic Goals

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Teen-age gang members may have great--but often unfulfilled--academic ambitions, according to a University of Southern California researcher.

Audrey James Schwartz, a professor of sociology, bases her conclusions on interviews with 3,450 10th graders and 363 teachers at 19 schools in the suburban eastern section of Los Angeles County. The findings are contained in a 420-page report published this fall by the university's institute for research in educational administration.

Of the gang members Ms. Schwartz interviewed, 20.3 percent said they planned to go on to a two-year college--a percentage almost equal to that of their peers not involved with gangs--and 20.8 percent expressed a desire to attend a four-year college. An additional 35.5 percent said they expected to finish high school.

"Youth-gang violence has caused many school officials to target gang-member pupils for behavior control," Ms. Schwartz noted in the report. But while such policies help curb violence on school grounds, she said, "our data indicate these youths can be guided positively, by giving them a fuller educational opportunity."

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