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Henrico schools study possible achievement gap between white and black students

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Henrico County School leaders met with the community Tuesday night to talk about a possible achievement gap between black and white students.

The U.S. Department of Education started a study in late 2010 on whether black students are being discriminated against in Henrico County schools.

A focal point of the study was figuring out if children in the West End are afforded better treatment than children in the eastern part of the county.

That study by the Office of Civil Rights looked at the population growth of schools around the country, and found the population of African American students was higher in the East End of the county than in the West End.

Many parents told CBS 6 last May that they believed the county treated the East End differently regarding school resources and educational opportunities.

Parents believed because there are more white people, businesses, and higher taxes being paid in the West End, schools there got more attention.

Henrico School Superintendent Pat Russo told CBS 6 geography was not reason behind the gap.

"Even with our African-American students in our West End, the gap still existed, so this is not about East End or West End," Russo said.

A new high school and middle school opened in western Henrico in the fall of 2010.

The East End hasn't had a new high school in 50 years, but HCPS recently opened Harvie Elementary and Elko Middle Schools in the area.

School leaders CBS 6 spoke with welcomed the compliance review and said they started one themselves before the federal government got involved.

"We hope the community comes out to hear and see the data we've collected over the last several years on this achievement gap, and some of what we've recognized on our own and started to address on our own.  We want to share the data with them and then say, 'This is what we're doing. How can the community and the families help us close this achievement gap?'", said Mychael Dickerson, with Henrico County Public Schools.

Parents were stunned by the stark difference in academic performance between white and black students in Henrico County.

County data showed on reading SOL tests, 94% of whites passed compared to 82% of blacks. The gap widened even more on math SOL’s, with 92% of white students passing compared to just 78% of blacks.

School leaders still want more input.

They’re holding another meeting on Wednesday, January 25th from 6pm-7:30 pm at the Henrico Training Center located at 7701 E. Parham Rd.