Georgia ranks low in national index on opportunity for all children

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by Andres David Lopez

The Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia at the Buck Melton Community Center in Macon served about 139 young people on spring break Monday, most of them black.

While their peers enjoyed a five-on-five basketball game and organized dancing in the gymnasium, four teenagers sat down with The Telegraph to discuss race and opportunity in the state.

The Bibb County students, all black, rejected the idea that they were less likely to succeed than their white peers. They were unaware that a new report ranks Georgia 36th in the nation in terms of how children across races are doing based on 12 different indicators of success.

This is significant because children of color will represent the majority of children in the U.S. by 2018, and by 2030 most of the labor force will be people of color, according to the report released Tuesday by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The report, called “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” found black and Hispanic children are held back by barriers to success.

“Every parent wants good schools, safe communities and access to the services their children need,” the report stated. “But the odds are stacked against many children of color, who, along with their families, disproportionately lack those resources.”

The report ranked states in a Race for Results Index and awarded them composite scores for how well children of different ethnic groups do, based on a scale of one to 1,000.

In Georgia, Asian and Pacific Islander children have the highest index score with 791, followed by white children with 664. Hispanic and black children fare much worse in the state, receiving index scores of 368 and 362, respectively.

“If the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and African-American and Latino student performance had caught up with white students by 1998, the gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher,” the report stated, citing research by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.

The 12 indicators examined by the report covered the areas of early childhood, education, family and neighborhood circumstances. The Annie E. Casey Foundation examined data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Black and Hispanic children are more likely to live in high-poverty areas than their white peers and less likely to graduate high school on time. Only 40 percent of black children in the state lived in two-parent families from 2010 to 2012, according to the Kids Count data center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Using data to effect change

The Race for Results report recommended expanding the use of data and connecting data to investment for the greatest impact for minority children. It also recommended implementing promising and evidence-based programs.

“We do a better job today of looking at data and interpreting data,” said Angie Wilson, vice president of program services at the Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia.

Wilson said staff members track the grades of students in each club and are able to intervene if necessary to encourage academic success.

She said she was able to use this data a couple of years ago when she noticed fifth graders at one of the clubs underachieving in math at Hartley Elementary.

Wilson presented the data to the school principal, and they were able to develop a summer math academy, she said.

Ketrick White, a Westside High School freshman, said he is driven by people who tell him he won’t succeed. He acknowledged he has seen teachers interacting with students differently based on how they dress.

“Depending who they think we are, they don’t care if we make it in life,” White said.

Tanita Thomas, who is graduating from Central High School this year, said she regretted her school not having a more balanced mix of races in its population. Central High is majority black. The best schools have a more even mix, she said.

Jazmin Hunt — a sophomore at Mount de Sales Academy, a predominately white private school — said she sometimes felt uncomfortable because of her race at her school, but it was nothing she could not overcome.

The teenagers said they are on track to graduate high school and have high expectations for themselves, and they credit the Boys & Girls Club with keeping them on the right path and away from trouble.

“Instead of us popping drugs, we pop the basketball in the net,” White said. “Instead of shooting guns, we shoot pool. Instead of talking to strangers, we have staff members to talk to and our new peers.”

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Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.

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