- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

Education Secretary Rod Paige yesterday issued a second annual report advising colleges and universities on “race-neutral ways to achieve diversity” in admissions.

Kenneth L. Marcus, the Education Department’s acting civil rights chief, said the report is intended to help schools achieve diversity in constructive ways “without falling back upon illegal quotas,” following the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the University of Michigan affirmative action case.

“The focus on recruitment is just one significant indicator that colleges and universities have already begun adopting practices that could be considered ‘race-neutral,’” the report said.

“Indeed, if ‘race-neutral’ means race is not a factor in the admission decision, then [a survey last September by the National Association of College Admission Counseling] shows more than two-thirds of responding colleges and universities already follow ‘race-neutral’ policies and practices,” the 55-page report concluded.

Apart from admissions policies and practices, the report offers a number of “developmental approaches” to diversify student enrollments with more minority and ethnic applicants.

The report emphasizes better academic preparedness of black and Hispanic students upon high school graduation and narrowing the “achievement gap” between white and minority students under the No Child Left Behind school reform law.

“Diversifying the pool of students capable of succeeding in college is fundamentally a matter of elementary and secondary education reform. The most important recent approach to reform in this area is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).”

The report highlights recent state efforts to improve the academic readiness of college-bound minority students:

• “States like Florida and Kentucky are providing virtual curricula and encouraging the expansion of Advanced Placement (AP) courses to enrich high school education.

• “Partnerships between postsecondary institutions and nearby public schools facilitate mentoring and the preparation of students for higher education in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Vermont and other states.

• “Partnerships between the College Board and various school districts in Washington, Delaware and Maryland are encouraging students to take AP courses and preparing them for Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) examinations.

• “Coordination between community colleges and traditional research institutions encourages students to overcome prior educational disadvantage and transfer into research institutions in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states.

• “Nonprofits, charitable foundations and for-profit corporations are likewise providing and facilitating effective race-neutral programs.”

The report said school choice options, such as charter schools and the Knowledge is Power Program academies in New York, Texas and the District “are serving as a race-neutral pipeline to higher education for students who might not otherwise attend college.”

“A foundation for this success is not selection of students by the school administration, but self-selection by the applicant families themselves,” the report noted.

“Students and their families choose to be at the school and choose to submit to a demanding behavioral code. The code includes a promise to do homework, behave safely, take responsibility for their behavior, and do whatever it takes to really learn. The school day and school year are longer than usual, the latter involving three to four weeks of attendance in the summer.”

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