School districts across the state are looking for ways to help minority students catch up with their white classmates. In Cedar Rapids, school leaders met with community members Thursday at the African American Museum to talk about how to help minority and low-income students do better. Kathleen Conley is principal at Wilson Elementary in Cedar Rapids.

“When we look at all students, the achievement is pretty good. When we look at individual students, there are some gaps,” Conley said. Overall, minority and low-income students in Iowa are not scoring as high on exams, getting as involved in sports and activities or even graduating at the same rate as their Caucasian, middle-class classmates. Cedar Rapids Schools Student Equity Director Aaron Green says all students face challenges that could prevent them from reaching their potential – but some face more than others.

“We believe strongly that it’s not just the school system, it’s the whole community that it takes to close that gap,” Green said. The district has tried to recruit more minority staff members in the past…even taking trips to cities like Detroit and St. Louis. But, they’ve only had limited success. Officials believe community conversations could help them get better results in the future. Twenty years ago, only one in 20 Iowa students was a minority. Today that number is about one in six. According to the Iowa Department of Education, minorities represent only 2% of the state’s K-12 teachers.

By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids