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‘Achievement Gap’ in Mississippi Targeted By Top Education Official

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 09 Mar 2012 05:43pm | comments
Three Lanier Students.

Black students in Mississippi routinely trail their white counter parts on statewide proficiency tests by significant margins. The difference is known as the achievement gap. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the gap is attracting the attention of high level national officials.

"Hello, Hello, Welcome to Lanier High School,"

The principal of Lanier high school in Jackson welcomes Anthony Miller the deputy secretary of the US department of education and Mississippi's second district congressman Benny Thompson during their recent tour of the school.

Thompson and Miller visited Lanier and Canton High School, two schools with an overwhelming minority population.

Miller, who is black, says closing the achievement gap between white and black students means raising expectations and making the benefits of education clear.

"The reality is the difference between being a high school drop out and having a college degree can be a million dollars over the course of your lifetime. So, what I always say is 'is it worth having a million dollars' and kids say 'of course'. But they don't always see that. They don't always have that perspective," Miller said.

The average results of standardized testing across the state shows that black students routinely score ten points or more behind their white counter parts.

86-percent of the Lanier students live in poverty, and Lanier Principal Shemeka McClung says it is important for them to meet successful African-Americans.

"It is so important because they need to see role models. They must have role models. They must have mentors. And they need to see that school is a benefit and if you are getting an education than you can be successful in life," McClung said.

18-year old Lanier Student Jordan Hunter agrees that believing students like him can succeed goes a long way.

"A lot of these kids like myself and my classmates, we don't get a lot of chances to see very successful African-American people.  And it is important because we do have such a bad reputation as a school. So it is important that someone finds the time to come and speech to us as they see something in us," Hunter said.

Hunter says he will graduate on time and is planning to attend Morehouse College and major in Business.

If he does, he will be part of slim majority of his peers....just 65-percent of Lanier Students graduated last year.



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