Congratulations to the Lawrence school district and the local NAACP branch for tackling an educational problem that is plaguing schools across the nation: a trend toward lower academic performance by students who are members of certain racial groups or who come from low-income families.
The effort announced last week could set an example for other local groups to follow in attacking this stubborn educational issue. The fact that Lawrence groups are willing to focus on the so-called "achievement gap," shows a heartening concern for local youngsters who are struggling in school.
This is a great mission for the Lawrence-Douglas County NAACP branch. Lack of interest and participation put the group near extinction several years ago. Directing their efforts to a project that could have such a tangible impact on poor and minority youngsters should give new purpose to an organization that already has been on the upswing.
The problem is clear. Students whose families qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at all four of Lawrence's junior high schools failed to reach proficiency standards in either math or reading in the 2006-07 school year. As a subgroup, black students at South Junior High School failed to meet math and reading standards; at West Junior High, black students missed the mark on math tests.
"What we found in a very simple way," said NAACP President Donna Bell, "Is that our students of color generally are not performing at the proficiency levels and our majority students are performing."
The solutions may not be as simple. Nonetheless, a team effort by the school district and leaders in the local black community is a positive development. Bell said that after looking at the data for the last several months, the group hopes to start implementing strategies soon. Those may include additional mentoring or tutoring programs.
Taking the lead in such programs certainly is a worthy effort for the local NAACP. There's nothing more important to any of us than preparing the next generation to succeed and become contributing adults. The community, along with the school district, should give its full support to the NAACP effort.