Nearly one-third of African American students (32.9 percent) and one-quarter of Hispanic pupils (23.8 percent) dropped out during the 2007-08 school year compared to 18.9 percent of youngsters overall in California.

That figure from the California Department of Education represents a four-year adjusted rate and also the first time officials say they have been able to determine a true drop-out rate.

At the same time, two new reports have been released by The Education Trust-West detailing the fact that despite many efforts including task forces and studies, Black and Latino children still face an achievement and opportunity gap in California.

In fact, one of the reports, “Opportunity Lost: The Story of African American Achievement in California, 2010,” noted that English and math proficiency rates for Black second graders have actually decreased since 2009.

While this fact definitely raises cause for alarm, the report also noted some key successes. For example, Compton Unified School District is one of the top-gaining districts in terms of fourth graders scoring at proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and math–jumps of 35 and 40 points respectively.

The Ed Trust West report also notes a disturbing trend among African American pupils at the secondary level: “. . . By high school, for every three White students who achieve proficiency in Algebra II, only one African American pupil reaches proficiency.” This, added the report, is a step backwards in terms of the achievement gap.

What is key about mastering algebra, says the report, is that subject is the “gatekeeper” course for the higher-level math classes students need to become eligible for admission to the University of California and California State University systems.

These and other facts are part of the impetus behind a series of townhalls that have been held by community leaders, parents, education officials and grassroots activists, who are crafting a plan of action to demand improvements for Black students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The third in the series will be held Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at Southside Bethel Baptist Church, 10400 S. San Pedro St. This meeting will feature a presentations of the notes from the previous meeting and proposed strategies and goals that must be taken.

For additional information about the meeting, contact Rev. Eric Lee at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (323) 903-5860.