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College Board To Expand Equity 2000 Program

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Mounting evidence that a pilot program to prepare more minority and disadvantaged students for college is showing success has prompted the organization that sponsors the SAT to expand its initiative, officials said last week.

A preliminary report by the New York City-based College Board has found that the Equity 2000 project, begun in 1990, has helped to get more students onto a college track. More than 500,000 students at 700 public schools are participating in Fort Worth, Texas; Milwaukee; Nashville, Tenn.; Prince George's County, Md.; Providence, R.I.; and San Jose, Calif.

The project provides support programs for students, professional development for teachers to improve instruction--chiefly in mathematics-- and opportunities for more parental involvement. Although designed to help disadvantaged and minority students, the program targeted all students in the pilot districts.

Officials said that thanks to Equity 2000, more students have enrolled in rigorous math courses who might not otherwise be placed on the college track.

"The Equity 2000 program has clearly transformed the educational experience as well as future opportunities for thousands of students," Donald M. Stewart, the president of the College Board, said in announcing the expansion.

The initiative is set to move into Fort Wayne, Ind., and Memphis, Tenn., next year and plans to add 12 new sites each year for at least the next five years. The DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the Ford Foundation will help pay for the expansion of the project that has already cost $25 million.

Math Leverage

The study found that overall participation in algebra classes among 9th graders in the pilot locations was anywhere from 31 percent to 69 percent before the program was in place; by comparison, the percentages ranged from 61 percent to 100 percent in 1994-95. More than 45 percent of the 10th graders enrolled in geometry classes that year--surpassing the national rate of 34 percent.

Participation rates among black and Hispanic students also increased in all pilot sites. One of the most dramatic examples was among Hispanic students in Providence. Their enrollment in algebra classes rose from 27 percent in 1990-91 to 99 percent in 1994-95.

"We were looking at using math as a lever to drive reform across whole school districts in ways that students will be prepared to go on and graduate from college," said Vinetta Jones, the executive director of the project.

Failure rates were also high for some students. More than one-third of the students in Fort Worth, Nashville, and Providence failed algebra.

Officials say the overall results are positive despite the high failure rates. "We don't say and don't feel that we are there yet in terms of having all the answers, but we are committed to continuing to work to get there," she said. "The fact that we've seen such dramatic results in the pilot sites is extremely encouraging."

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