Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Report Uncovers Major Obstacles for PA's Kids of Color

Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA 

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is falling far short when it comes to giving children of color the resources they need to succeed, according to a new study.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's "Race for Results" report compares how children of different races are faring in areas including reading and math scores, high school graduation rates and poverty levels.

Joan Benso, who heads Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said the report shows non-white children in the state face challenges that could persist into adulthood.

"Particularly African-American and Latino children, who are facing very serious obstacles, particularly around their education outcomes," she said, "which speaks very clearly about their likelihood of graduating from high school, college and career-ready, and going on to be able to earn a family-sustaining wage."

The biggest gaps, Benso said, surface in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math proficiency, the rate of African-American and Latino kids who earn degrees and the general economic conditions where these children's families live in the state.

Laura Speer, an associate director with the Casey Foundation, said the findings involving non-white students are especially important considering that the Census Bureau projects that by 2018, children of color will represent a majority of children in the United States.

"We think it's a really critical time for the country to focus on improving outcomes for these kids," she said, "since they really are going to be the future success of the country."

By 2030, she said, the majority of the U.S. labor force will be made up of people of color.

Central to closing the achievement gaps are greater investments in education, Benso said. Pointing to major funding cuts in the past few years, she said that in the years just prior to the recession, when funding levels were higher, so was student achievement.

"When we were consistently increasing resources for education, we were seeing test scores go up every single year at the exact same time and watching test scores go up for children who are African-American and children who are Latino and children who live in high-poverty communities," she said. "We were closing the education gap."

The report, "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children," is available online at aecf.org.

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