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Created: January 24, 2003
Latest Update: January 24, 2003
Thursday, January 23, 2003
Black Students Have Fewer Mentors in Schools Than White Students, Study Finds
By JEFFREY R. YOUNG
Black high-school students are less likely than their white classmates to form strong interpersonal relationships with teachers and other adult school officials, relationships that can help motivate students to attend college, according to a study released last week.
The study, an analysis of statistics from a U.S. Education Department survey that tracked 14,915 students from 1988 to 1994, found that students who formed good relationships with officials in high school had higher educational expectations and were more likely to attend college than students who lacked those relationships. It also found that black students formed those relationships less frequently than white students.
"They're less likely than a white student to have teachers talking with students -- actually forming that relationship where a teacher and student are talking," said George L. Wimberly, who conducted the study. Mr. Wimberly is a research associate at ACT Inc., which administers the ACT college-entrance examination.
Exactly why the gap exists is not clear, said Mr. Wimberly.
"Students develop trust and respect for their teachers when their cultural identity is supported in the classroom," he wrote in a report on the study. "Conversely, social, economic, and cultural gaps between African-American students and their teachers may make it difficult for students to form cohesive relationships."
Mr. Wimberly said that a lack of school mentors for black students could be one factor leading to the difference in college attendance between black and white young people. The study found that both black and white students planned to attend college at nearly equal levels (88 percent of black students and 89 percent of white students), but fewer black students did so (56 percent of black students, compared with 67 percent of white students).
Schools should do more to "connect students to adults through school-based student activities -- clubs, sports, things outside of the classroom -- things that will get students and adults together," said Mr. Wimberly. The report on the study, "School Relationships Foster Success for African American Students," is available online at ACT's Web site. It can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free.
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