Educational disparities persist in U.S.
Feds’ data shows continued struggle
Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that black children have the right to the same education as their white peers.
But civil rights data released yesterday by the Education Department reflect an education system rife with inequities for blacks and other minority students and those with disabilities.
“It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Here are five things to know about the department’s findings:
Access to advanced classes
STEM is the buzzword in education these days. Education in the fields of science, technology and engineering, and math is considered critical for students to succeed in the global marketplace. Yet the department found that there was a “significant lack of access” to core classes like algebra, geometry, biology and chemistry for many students. That lack of access was particularly striking when it came to minorities.
“A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer Algebra II; a third of these schools do not offer chemistry,” the department said.
Quality teachers can play a key role in student performance.
Minority students are more likely to attend schools with a higher concentration of first-year teachers than white students. And while most teachers are certified, nearly half a million students nationally attend schools where nearly two-thirds or fewer of teachers meet all state certification and licensing requirements. Black and Latino students are more likely than white students to attend these schools.
There’s also a teacher salary gap of more than $5,000 between high schools with the highest and lowest black and Latino student enrollments, according to the data.
The Obama administration issued guidance earlier this year encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office, the so-called “schools-to-prisons pipeline.”
But even before the announcement, school districts had been adjusting policies that disproportionately affected minority students. The civil rights data released yesterday from the 2011-2012 school year show the disparities begin among even the youngest of school kids.
Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once.
Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.
Seclusion and restraint
“Seclusion and restraint” is a term used to describe when students are strapped down or physically restrained in schools.
The data show students with disabilities represent about 12 percent of the student population, but about 60 percent of students placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement and three quarters of students restrained at school. While black students make up about one in five of students with disabilities, more than one-third of the students who are restrained at school are black.
The Obama administration views access to preschool as a civil rights issue. It says 40 percent of school districts do not offer preschool programs. Their numbers don’t include private programs or some other types of publicly funded early childhood programs outside of school systems.
Obama has sought a “preschool for all” program with the goal of providing universal preschool to America’s 4-year-olds that would use money from an increase in tobacco taxes.