Several institutions of higher learning and school districts are using race-neutral policies in their admissions and student assignment processes. These approaches include comprehensive review, socioeconomic preferences, class-rank plans and lottery procedures.
Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, for example, are using socioeconomic criteria for student assignments. The University of California also takes into account a variety of socioeconomic factors in its comprehensive review of undergraduate applicants.
California, Texas and Florida employ class-rank plans that guarantee university admission to high school seniors who graduate within a specified percentage of their school's senior class and, in certain cases, fulfill other basic minimum requirements. In addition, Florida and Texas use targeted class-rank approaches. Finally, many K-12 schools, such as the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, Michigan, use lottery methods to admit students in a race-neutral manner.
Given the commitment that so many institutions now have to the important goal of student diversity, we expect that new programs will continue to develop. As these alternatives evolve, the Department will continue to provide technical assistance on effective use of race-neutral alternatives.
Race-neutral approaches to increasing diversity in education fall into two categories: those that focus exclusively on the process for admitting students into educational institutions and those that focus on the way in which we fill the pipeline into these institutions with students who are well prepared for success. Interestingly, the public has focused almost exclusively on "admissions" approaches and, more narrowly, the percentage plans used in California, Texas and Florida. However, "developmental programs" are more numerous, varied, complex and, in many cases, more ambitious. Developmental approaches are designed to develop the skills, resources and abilities of students who might not otherwise apply to and succeed in college. These approaches seek to improve the educational performance of our nation's students, particularly those who attend traditionally low-performing schools, so that the admissions process will naturally produce a diverse applicant pool.
These developmental or systemic approaches to the problem attempt to meet two goals: first, to build skills in students who would not otherwise be competitive in the admissions process, and, second, to provide support throughout the postsecondary educational experience that will enable these students to succeed. State and federal initiatives also reach out to students from traditionally low-performing schools to encourage them to attend and graduate from colleges and universities through recruitment and financial aid strategies.
No Child Left Behind
Most measures of academic preparedness indicate that there is an "achievement gap" based on a number of indicators. For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in the 12th grade score four years behind white 12th-graders in both reading and mathematics.The maximum score on the SAT is 800 points on each of its two batteries, with a combined maximum score of 1600. The College Board, which sponsors the SAT, reported gaps of approximately 149 points between the combined verbal and mathematics scores of African-American students and white students and 146 points between Hispanic students and white students. Average verbal scores for Asian American students were 29 points below those of white students, but average mathematics scores for Asian American students were on average 32 points higher than those of white students.