Minority scores show divide between North and South Fulton County


Jessi Rich, Staff Writer

According to U.S. News, 33% of Milton High School students belong to a minority group, whether that be African Americans, Hispanics, or the economically disadvantaged. Other high schools within Fulton County, such as Langston Hughes High School, claim minority enrollment percentages in the high nineties. No matter the size of the percentage, countywide test scores show that there is a considerable gap between minority and majority academic performance.

An underlying cause behind this gap may be a student’s home environment. “The biggest difference between a school like Milton and one like Creekside…is the support a student gets at home,” observes Brian Jones, principal of Milton High School, who has experience managing high minority percentage schools such as Creekside. According to Jones, high school students in these lower income areas live mostly in single-parent homes, and may have to work one or two jobs to support the family. For these students, education may not be the highest priority.

The effects of a student’s home life manifests itself in a school’s College and Career Ready Performance Index score. The CCRPI examines a school’s academic achievement, academic progress, and the gap between low-performing and high-performing students. Schools receive a numerical score as well as a letter grade that reflects their accomplishment in each area.

Several North Fulton high schools in predominantly white, affluent areas, such as Milton, Cambridge, and Roswell, boast A and B scores. On the other hand, schools in lower income areas, such as Banneker and Creekside, have D and F scores.

Student performance on assessments such as End of Course Tests is a prevalent factor on the CCRPI. Based on data from previous years, the Georgia Department of Education provides a statewide target proficiency rate on these tests. In other words, the percentage of students receiving a passing score must meet the state’s benchmark if the school does not wish to raise any red flags.

To put this into perspective, the state target for all Georgia students on the 2016 9th Grade Literature EOCT was 64.7%. For solely Hispanic students, the expected percentage of passing scores was 58.0%, and the target for black students was 52.1%. Minorities with the lowest targets included those who are English language learners and disabled students. Asian and white students claimed the highest target percentages at 87% and 75%, respectively.

“When you start looking at data like this,” says Jones, “there’s…a discrepancy.” For instance, schools with high black proficiency rates on the 9th grade Literature EOCT include  Alpharetta, Chattahoochee, Milton and Cambridge, along with a multitude of other schools in the same general area. High schools such as Tri-Cities, Banneker and McClarin, all institutions closer to Fulton’s southern end, fell beneath the target.

Thus, there must be a difference in how Milton and high schools similar to it cater to their minority students versus how Banneker, per se, does. Jones, however, believes this difference is far from concrete. “It’s unfair to say that Milton does a better job serving our [black] students. They’re a majority at schools like Creekside, when, over here, we’re at 10%.”

This begs what Jones calls “the million dollar question”: how do we solve the minority performance problem? The answer has yet to become definite. Jones says, “One might say to just throw more money at it, but that doesn’t always help.” Schools such as Banneker receive considerable funding from programs such as Title I, which provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers of students from low-income families. Still, Banneker EOCT scores are consistently low. Milton, in contrast, does not benefit from Title I and receives lower state funding than Banneker. Yet, Milton showcases a steadily high percentage of passing students.

“There are studies that show that when you read with your child when they’re as young as one, just thirty minutes a day, you’ll see their academic success rise exponentially above the kids whose parents didn’t interact with them that way,” Jones offers. Perhaps, then, the answer may even lie in a child’s most primary care.

Even now, the solutions remain ambiguous. The blame, however, certainly cannot be ascribed to any specific cause. There are several variables and factors that influence minority performance, and every school is different. However, it is a problem that Fulton County and education systems nationwide cannot ignore. “With a topic like this,” concludes Jones, “the data just doesn’t lie.”