WASHINGTON – A program tested in Prince George’s County public schools that is designed to prepare minority and poor students for college has been so successful it’s being expanded.
The EQUITY 2000 program, tested in Maryland and five other states, is being launched within the next year in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Memphis, Tenn., representatives from the College Board said Thursday.
The board’s program “puts theory into action” and provides real college opportunities for all students, said Vinetta Jones, founder of EQUITY 2000.
Operating now in 14 school districts, the program discourages school principals, teachers and counselors from advising minorities and poor students to take only lower-level math courses. This practice of “tracking” does not help the students prepare for college.
The program also urges school districts to offer programs outside of regular school hours to help students pass their math classes.
Although officials said they have not yet compiled statistics on whether or not more minorities are attending college because of EQUITY 2000, they said there have been tangible results.
“More students are passing algebra 1 now than were even enrolled in algebra before EQUITY 2000” was introduced at the pilot centers, Jones said.
Jones said the project strives to have all ninth graders taking algebra and tenth graders taking geometry.
Seven hundred schools with about 500,000 students are already involved in the program.
Christopher Cason, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County public schools, said since the program started there in the 1991-’92 school year, more high school students have been receiving the help they need in preparing for college.
“We’re putting more kids in touch with these [algebra and geometry] courses that will help them achieve at the collegiate level,” Cason said.
About 81 percent of the 124,000 students enrolled in Prince George’s County public schools are minorities.
Jerome Clark, superintendent for Prince George’s County public schools, said the program has cost the county more than $1 million. But, he said, the cost has been worth it. The school board “embraced it wholeheartedly,” he said.
Between the 1991-’92 school year and the 1994-’95 school year, there was a 15 percent increase in black 9th graders taking algebra 1 or higher and a 10 percent increase in the number of black 10th graders taking geometry or higher, College Board figures show.
Among Hispanic students in the county, ninth grade enrollment in algebra 1 or higher increased 19 percent during the same time period. Tenth grade enrollment in geometry of higher rose 20 percent.
Last year, the county school board passed a measure requiring all high school students to complete algebra and geometry before graduating, Clark said.
The College Board is an educational, nonprofit organization aimed at smoothing students’ transition to higher education. -30-