Nearly four in 10 Columbia Public School students live at or below the poverty level. For black students, that number is almost eight in 10. Since 2006, the number of children who qualify for free or reduced price lunches has gone up 25 percent.
Poverty is just one of the conditions contributing to a gap in achievement in Columbia schools.
Superintendent Chris Belcher has recruited an army of volunteers to tackle a problem that neither begins nor ends at the schools.
Community working groups are tackling the problem in ways that loosely align with four stubborn and complex social issues that sit at the nexus of the achievement gap.
In eight months of intensive reporting by the Missourian, both in and outside the school district, the consistent message was that any success in closing the gap will require progress in those areas: closing the "opportunity gap;" providing more universal and effective early education; dealing with the many tentacles of poverty, and confronting the clash of culture – often race-related – that undermines learning.
Tune into KBIA/91.3 FM at 2 p.m. Monday for Intersection, where Belcher, Minority Men's Network president Steve Calloway and Missourian reporter Sarah Horn will discuss the problems surrounding the achievement gap.
Then, come back to ColumbiaMissourian.com first thing Tuesday morning for the full report on the Achievement Gap. You can also look for it in Tuesday's print edition.