K-Central sees positive signs for minority students
- K-Central sees positive signs for minority students
by Julie Mack | Kalamazoo Gazette
Saturday June 07, 2008, 10:01 AM
KALAMAZOO -- At a time when many are bemoaning the low academic achievement
of black males, Corey Person and Darian Bridges graduated this week from
Kalamazoo Central High School with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
And they didn't earn those grades taking easy classes: Person aced Advanced
Placement biology and calculus, and Bridges has four AP courses -- biology,
calculus, chemistry and physics -- on his transcript.
Shawano Cleary | Special to the GazetteDarian Bridges was one of two
African-American male valedictorians who graduated this week from Kalamazoo
Central High School.
The two symbolize how Central's school culture seems to be slowly changing
for minority students, more of whom are taking Advanced Placement and honors
classes, students say.
"It's definitely positive to see more African-Americans in the advanced
classes," said Bridges, who is attending North Carolina Agricultural and
Technical State University in the fall.
Central's minority population also is graduating in higher proportion to
Sixty-one percent of all Central students are minorities, and they comprised
54 percent of this year's graduating class. By comparison, at Loy Norrix
High School, minorities are 59 percent of the student body and 41 percent of
the class of 2008.
In analyzing the difference between Central and Norrix, officials say
Central has more middle-class minority students, and they cite research
showing a strong correlation between academic achievement and family income.
Both Central and Norrix continue to lose many of their students between
ninth grade and graduation.
The state says the district had about 1,050 freshmen four years ago,
compared to the 507 diplomas awarded by the district this month. The
freshmen numbers include students who were originally in the class of 2007
and had to repeat ninth grade.
But Von Washington, who is finishing his first year as Kalamazoo Central
principal, said his school has been working to keep students in school.
"We're making very concentrated efforts to look at the data and focus on
interventions for students who are low achievers," he said.
Shawano Cleary | Special to the GazetteDarian Bridges, left, and Corey
Person were two of 10 valedictorians who graduated this week from Kalamazoo
Central High School.
Cara Greeley, an African-American student who graduated Thursday from
Central, said it is all about attitude.
"I know a lot of people who are capable, and they still dropped out," she
Fellow Central graduate Heaven Dunning agreed.
"People go on completely different paths," she said. "Our path has been
education. Their path was something else."
They said the key to reducing the dropout rate is engaging students in
school activities and offering them the personal attention that make them
care about staying in the school environment. In that sense, they said,
Central is moving in the right direction.
"Our new principal is doing an awesome job," Dunning said. "He's getting to
the student's eye-level."
Person, who is headed to University of Michigan, attributes his success to
parental encouragement and his own desire to succeed. Like Bridges, he
earned a perfect grade-point average in middle school and was determined to
continue that in high school.
"I just wanted to keep it going," said Person, a star on the K-Central
basketball team. "I want to prove that you can play sports and still get
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