A Times Editorial

Black & white

How fast is it happening? Look at this chart to see the trends in a half-dozen south Pinellas high schools. And this is only the first year of "close to home" schools, which will speed up the process.

The achievement gap between black and white students has been well documented, but the resegregation of Pinellas schools puts the problem in stark relief. It demands prompt attention from educators, families and business leaders.

Last year, the state gave A's to 63 schools in Pinellas. At that time, 16 schools already had more black than white students. Only one — Bay Point Middle, which includes a math and science magnet — earned an A.

People grew tired of busing for desegregation and wanted children in schools closer to home. But because of the county's historic housing patterns, schools are resegregating even faster than anticipated. (In Hillsborough, 12 percent of the schools were majority black last year, compared to 8 percent of Pinellas schools that are majority black this year.) High minority schools are often high poverty, too.

Many of these schools have a significant number of teachers who want to transfer or have little experience. But these are the very schools that particularly need skilled, veteran teachers for students who need more attention.

School officials have promised to narrow the achievement gap. While the FCAT has issues, the test is an indicator of students' ability to read at grade level. Schools with substantial poor, minority populations tend to have more students with low FCAT scores. If scores at those schools keep dropping, who will step up with solutions to help those children?

From the superintendent to teachers to parents, everyone has to be part of the answer — and close-to-home schools make it easier for parents to be involved.

Desegregated schools remain desirable as a means of ensuring children are prepared for a diverse world. Specialty schools such as magnets and fundamentals should continue to help some schools integrate voluntarily. But many Pinellas schools are resegregating, particularly in St. Petersburg, and it's happening fast. We need to pay closer attention to the impact on our children and our communities.

Black enrollment in south Pinellas high schools

Boca Ciega42%44%53%
St. Petersburg28%25%21%
Dixie Hollins26%20%14%

Black & white 10/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 4:45pm]


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