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Report Advocates Network To Benefit Minority Students

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Washington--A group of prominent educators and policymakers has recommended the establishment of a national networking organization to help champion and disseminate promising strategies for boosting the school achievement of minority youths.

The nonprofit network is among 58 recommendations contained in a report scheduled for release this week by the Quality Education for Minorities Project, an endeavor established with $1.2 million in funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The book-length report, Education That Works: An Action Plan for the Education of Minorities was developed by the project's 35-member "action council," headed by former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall.

It was compiled following a two-and-a-half-year research effort during which project members examined the U.S. educational system from kindergarten through graduate school and gathered comments and data at meetings in nine communities with large minority populations.

The report's recommendations, which encompass both broad strategic principles and specific programs, echo many of the themes outlined in previous national studies. But they stress the pertinence of such ideas as school restructuring, early intervention, and school-to-work transitions to minority achievement.

The recommendations include the elimination of tracking, the establishment of programs that provide minority students with year-round schooling at least once every three years, expansion of federal preschool programs to serve all eligible children, and the encouragement of more minority parent involvement in schools.

"No major, national education-reform effort to date--including the President's education summit last September--has focused on the edu8cational needs of minorities," said Shirley M. McBay, director of the q.e.m. Project. "But there are exciting educational models which are succeeding all over America."

"It is essential," Ms. McBay said, "that such effective models be incorporated as we restructure this nation's educational system."

Ms. McBay, dean for student affairs at m.i.t., acknowledged that critics may dismiss the report's recommendations, which address education on the national, state, and local levels, as too far-reaching.

The action council deliberately failed to put an overall pricetag on its proposals, she said, because "the cost of implementing all programs nationally would be astronomical."

"That would scare people to death," said the dean.

"Our position," she continued, "is that we really don't have much choice. ... We cannot run this country with just an elite group of people being educated. We need depth in our workforce in terms of quality."

In addition to Mr. Marshall, now a professor of public policy at the University of Texas, the action council included Mary Hatwood Futrell, former president of the National Education Association; Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr.; Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico; and Donald M. Stewart, president of the College Board.

Education That Works describes the panel's recommendations as aiding both minority and non-minority students, but focuses on five groups it says have "historically been underserved by the nation's educational system--Alaska natives, American Indians, black Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans."

The report concludes that, despite some significant forward strides in the last five decades, "most minority children remain in schools that are separate and decidedly unequal."

Moreover, it says, "the fundamental reality of educational reform for most minority children is that so little of it has been to their benefit."

"The rush to raise test scores, to institute competency tests, and to increase teacher standards without addressing root causes of problems," the report warns, "has served more to cull than to harvest minority youth."

To facilitate and monitor reforms benefiting minorities, the report calls for the establishment of the Quality Education for Minorities Network, a nonprofit organization that would publicize pedagogical strategies that have proven effective with minority youths, advocate minority concerns during the course of school-restructuring efforts, and encourage minority families to play a greater role in ensuring that their children are ready for school.

For the short term, the report proposes a reform plan for minority education that would cost $27.3 billion to implement between 1991 and 1995. It would include the expansion of many federal services to cover all minority students, as well as the establishment of pilot programs at 130 schools in 22 large urban districts.

The report calls on state and local governments, colleges and universities, foundations, and the corporate sector to fund these pilot programs, which would extend the school year, expand curricula, encourage community involvement, and supplement teacher salaries by 5 percent.

The 22 districts that would receive pilot programs serve one-third of all K-12 minority students, according to the report.

The plan also calls for full federal funding of the Head Start, Chapter 1, and child-nutrition programs and an expansion of other federal programs dealing with job training, bilingual education, and other needs.

Single copies of Education That Works are available free from the Quality Education for Minorities Project, m.i.t., Room 26-157, Cambridge, Mass. 02139; (617) 253-4417.

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