Oakland students honored for good grades

May 12, 2008 5:56:11 PM PDT
It's a big night in Oakland. More than 1,000 African American students will be honored on Monday for working to close the academic achievement gap. School officials hope these students will inspire many more.

Eunique James is an honor student at Peralta Creek Middle School in Oakland. She's relied on help from others to achieve a 3.8 grade point average.

"I study more and I get help from the school, they have after school programs, they have counselors, we have teachers who take their time," says James, a student.

Teachers are key in closing the achievement gap among minorities. That is according to a report by Education Trust West, a nonprofit researching education trends. That same report found low-income students and students of color are consistently assigned to the least qualified teachers.

"What you need is more experienced teachers who have many strategies and know how to teach in different modalities and will be able to say, 'You need this, as opposed to this,' and a lot of it comes from experience," says Wandra Boyd, from the African American Education Task Force.

When it comes to math and reading, the California Department of Education says African American students are still struggling to catch up with their white counterparts.

Take the API results which measure a student's proficiency in English and Math. In 2007 the average score for white (non-Hispanic) students was 884. For African Americans it was 603. 800 is the goal set by the California Department of Education.

African American students with a 3.0 GPA or higher will be recognized by the Education Task Force and the district.

"It tells me that they are actually trying to make us feel recognized and important, so it makes us want to work harder to achieve higher than a 3.0," says Roni Owiang, a 4.0 Student from Montera Middle School.

The hope is those honored will be an inspiration for other students.

"It also helps to create more of a culture of, 'This is also a facet of what we can do,'" says Boyd.