Only about a third of McCaskey's African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students.
Pennsylvania's McCaskey East High School has come up with a controversial plan to help the school's black students: to segregate them.
The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school's black students. Tilghman suggested that the school separate black students and pair them with black homeroom teachers of the same gender. She offered to work with a group of black female students.
WGAL News reports the school started the practice in December, dividing its junior class into their homerooms by race and gender.
The policy applies only to homeroom, which meets each day for six minutes and once a week for 20 minutes, and was intended to help close the school's racial achievement gap.
The plan was proposed to help black students, and bring their test scores up to those of their white peers, but it's sparked a debate about the pros and cons of separating students.
Responding to cries of racism, school employees have defended the policy using research which shows that having mentors of the same race and gender can help inspire young people to have better self-esteem and perform better in school.
Homeroom mentors will be keeping close tabs on their students' grades and test scores to track how the program affects them.