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Blacks and Latinos Lag in Readiness for College

October 23, 1988|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

Blacks, Latinos and American Indian high school students in Los Angeles County are less well prepared for college than their Anglo and Asian counterparts, according to a recent analysis by the county Office of Education.

Angel A. Sanchez, a demographer for the county education office in Downey, found that students belonging to these ethnic minorities lagged behind Asian and Anglo students in such measures of readiness for college as enrollment in advanced science and mathematics courses.

Asian and Filipino students were much better represented in college-preparatory courses than other minorities or Anglos. A large proportion of Asian and Filipino graduates had taken tough courses, including math, foreign language, English and other courses required for entrance to the University of California.

Looking at countywide statistics supplied by the state, Sanchez found dramatic differences in preparedness.

For the 1986-87 academic year, 13% of graduating American Indian students had completed the sequence of UC-required courses, compared to 31.7% of Anglo graduates and 54.4% of Asian graduates. Slightly more than 16% of Latino graduates and nearly 23% of black graduates completed the courses.

Sanchez said all ethnic groups in the county had slightly higher rates of completion than they had in June, 1986.

The state's ethnic pattern of preparedness was much like Los Angeles County's. Statewide, a slightly smaller proportion of Asian and Filipino graduates finished the UC requirements in 1986-87 (49.2% and 36.7%, respectively). The percentage of American Indian graduates completing the courses was higher--17.3%--than in Los Angeles County.

Sanchez also looked at ethnic patterns in enrollment in advanced science and math courses.

In 1987-88, Asians had the highest percentage representation in advanced math courses, followed next by Filipinos, then by Anglos.

Chemistry also attracted a larger proportion of Asians than other ethnic groups.

More than 39% of the county's Asian seniors took physics. Latino students were the least well represented in county physics courses, with 7.8% of the seniors taking the course.

Sanchez reported his findings in the October issue of Trends, a newsletter on educational issues published by the county Office of Education and distributed to local school districts. Sanchez urged districts to look at ethnic course-taking trends in their own schools as a first step in their efforts to increase the number of minority students who finish high school and go on to college.

Breakdown of Graduates

There were 65,035 graduates from Los Angeles County public high schools in 1987. Of that number, 42.7% were Anglo, 30.5% Latino, 13.7% black, 10.6% Asian, 1.8% Filipino, 0.4% Pacific Islander and 0.3% American Indian.

The California Office of Education, which keeps track of demographic trends throughout the state, points out that all ethnic groups statewide have shown gains in recent years in numbers of students taking rigorous courses. For example, the percentage of blacks completing UC requirements has risen from 18.4% in 1984-85 to 22.9% last year. "Blacks are closing the gap," a state education spokesman said.

The state also notes that more minority students than ever before are taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test, a standardized test of academic ability often required for admission to college. Statewide, the number of American Indians taking the SAT jumped 154% between 1983-84 and 1987-88. Twenty-four percent more black students and 34% more Latino students took the SAT in 1987-88 than in 1983-84.

Asked to comment on the ethnic pattern in college preparedness, California Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig said preparing minority students for college is a continuing concern. "We've got to get these kids started early or they are not going to be able to go to college."

In the future, public high schools will be asked to give the state an ethnic breakdown of graduates who go on to college, Honig said.

PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL COURSE ENROLLMENT

Blacks, Latinos and American Indians in Los Angeles County lag behind other ethnic groups in taking advanced courses and subjects required to enter the University of California, according to state Department of Education statistics. Figures below show percentage of students in each ethnic group enrolled in advanced courses in 1987-88. (For example, 44.4% of Asian juniors and seniors in the county took advanced math. Column totals do not equal 100%.)

ADVANCED MATH* PHYSICS** CHEMISTRY** Asian 44.4 39.4 68.9 Anglo 14.4 14.3 35.0 Black 6.0 8.0 34.1 Latino 6.3 7.8 27.6 Filipino 23.8 25.0 60.5 Pacific Islander 11.8 15.8 40.1 American Indian 7.3 9.0 28.5

* juniors and seniors

** seniors only

Percentage of 1987 graduates within in each ethnic group, who completed UC requirements:

Asian . . . 54.4

Anglo . . . 31.7

Black . . . 22.9

Latino . . . 16.1

Filipino . . . 39.7

Pacific Islander . . . 30.9

American Indian . . . 13.0

COUNTY AVERAGE . . . 28.6

STATE AVERAGE . . . 29.4

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