The diagonal line in Arkansas separating academic and economic strivers from those less likely to make the grade--and then, land a decent job--runs roughly from Texarkana in the southwest to Blytheville in northeast. The wealthiest people live above that line, said Dr. James Jennings, a history professor and education department chairman at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
He had drawn that line in 2006, based on his first-hand and empirical knowledge of parents, students, teachers, schools and the long-haul impact of unabated poverty in the 41 Arkansas counties that are part of the Mississippi Delta, an area below that diagonal line.
"We're talking places where only 38 percent of the population, age 25 and older, has graduated high school. Six percent of the people, 25 and older, graduated college. Imagine a society where 6 percent of the people have college degrees," Jennings said. "Where 90 percent to 100 percent of children in some schools are on free lunch? It's an extreme poverty."
With that understanding--and research on narrowing the achievement …