Blacks Say New Study Gives Cause for State of Emergency Over Minority Reading Skills

Responding to the shocking results of a study on educational quality in New York State, members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are calling for a state of emergency to be declared to address the reading capabilities of minority children in urban public schools. The study quantifies the fact that minority children are being short-changed in the area of reading, and that reading test scores actually declined further after state education officials began intensifying their efforts to identify and correct the problem.

Project 21 member and legal analyst Charles D. Ellison said: “What is it going to take for black America to realize that its children in urban public schools are abysmaly ill-equipped for the next century. Reading is the root of knowledge — it is essential. These latest figures show how desperate the situation really is.”

The study, “Separate and Unequal: The Reading Gap in New York’s Elementary Schools,” published by the Public Policy Institute of New York in March 1998 concludes that:

  • The results of a New York state reading test in 1996 revealed nearly half of third graders in high-minority public schools could not read even at a minimum level.


  • More than 40 percent of sixth grade pupils tested in high-minority public schools failed to meet the state’s minimum reading standard for their grade.


  • Eighty percent of sixth graders in high-minority schools could not read well enough on their own to fully comprehend a typical sixth grade textbook.


  • Only 29 percent of third graders in high-minority schools scored at or above the statewide grade-level median for reading — with only 27 percent of sixth graders doing so.

“I think it’s deplorable and unacceptable to allow children of any race to fail so miserably,” said Tara Wall, an education reporter and Project 21 member. “As someone who covers and reports extensively on urban schools, I find it ironic and inexcusable that the same schools that tout multi-education, bi-lingual studies and other wasteful diversity programs allow the children with the most need to be sadly overlooked. It’s a disgrace, and there is no excuse. Wake up! New York and all other urban districts that care more about how their numbers look than whether their students will succeed. This is an emergency!”

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