Community Leaders Tackle Achievement Gap

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COLUMBIA - Community leaders are banding together to find a solution to the achievement gap in Columbia Public Schools. In 2010, black students made up 23 percent of the district's population. Seventy three percent of those students graduate. In addition, 90 percent of the district's white students graduate, leaving a 17 percent gap. 

Last year Superintindent Chris Belcher announced a joint effort with community organizations to try and figure out ways to close that gap. The Minority Men's Network is in charge of that effort. President Steve Calloway said a solution won't be easy to find. "You could probably look for lots of different reasons," said Calloway. "Our systems in many ways are set up that they don't very well serve the minority community."

The Boys and Girls Club of Columbia is an after school program that serves mostly minority children. It provides a safe place for children to do their homework and play, and gives them a free meal and snack before sending them home.

It's looking to expand its current teen center on North Seventh Street. Leaders said they want to add a second floor and more space that will allow them to  serve at least 150 more children and provide classes for high schoolers. Those classes include college application and job readiness courses. 

Community leaders said finding a solution will not be easy, but it's not solely a school issue; it's a community issue. They also said they believe once Columbia becomes aware of the issue, community members will be ready to do what needs to be done to help. 

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