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Friday, October 3, 2014

National Initiatives Help Minorities Prepare for College Course Work

Written by Delece Smith-Barrow

For many minority teens, getting into college is one challenge, but thriving in college is an entirely different battle.

Only 34 percent of black high school graduates who took the ACT in 2014 were ready for college-level English courses, and 14 percent were ready for college-level math, according to a recent report from the testing organization. Among Hispanic test takers, 47 percent were ready for college-level English and 29 percent were ready for college-level math.

The percentages for white students were significantly higher: 76 percent for English and 52 percent for math.

This data comes on the heels of an April Pew Research Center report that says Hispanics are enrolling in college at a higher rate than black and white students, but few are actually getting bachelor's degrees.

A number of factors can influence how well students grasp academic concepts that will help them in college, experts say.

Students from low-income backgrounds, who are often minorities, may go to schools that don't push them to master certain math concepts. Instead, they are passed on to the next grade even if they are not ready to advance, says Theresa Price, founder and executive director of the National College Resources Foundation. The foundation puts together college expos for African-American and Latino students, provides SAT and ACT preparation and offers other support services.

"Math is the No. 1 subject that students need help in," says Price. "If you miss the basics, how can you move on?"

Minority students who struggle in math, English and other subjects can get help from several national organizations. Price's foundation, as well as organizations such as Talent Development Secondary and Upward Bound, are trying to meet their needs and aid them in their college admissions endeavors.

The National College Resources Foundation is based in California but serves students across the country using partnerships with some of its affiliates located in other regions, says Price.

For $20 an hour – a fee that's not set in stone for families facing great financial need – students can receive tutoring in specific subjects from peer advisers, who also provide help with filling out college applications.

Talent Development Secondary takes a slightly different approach by reaching middle and high school students in their classrooms.

The Maryland-based organization operates within the school of education at Johns Hopkins University and uses various strategies to "turn around the most challenged secondary schools in the country," says Charles Hiteshew, Talent Development Secondary's CEO. It develops curriculum and is hired by school districts to help teachers and students transform their learning environment. The vast majority of students it reaches are African-American​ and Latino, says Hiteshew.

Talent Development Secondary ​is involved in a partnership with other organizations, including​ ​City Year, which allows college and high school graduates to mentor students and tutor them in math and English.

"It's an incredibly rewarding experience," says Hiteshew.

High school students who want tutoring in math and English, but would rather it be in a more collegiate environment,​ can turn to the Upward Bound program for help. Upward Bound is federally funded and located at a number of community colleges and undergraduate institutions throughout the U.S.

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