In today’s “Water Is Wet” news, new data released by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows some troubling disparities when it comes to educating minorities.
The data shows that racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience.
And this information comes on the heels of Michele Obama speaking in China about the importance of education. As someone stated on Twitter today:
First Lady visits China to speak to students about education. America lecturing China on education is like Tebow giving Brady throwing tips
— Adam Wolf (@AdamWolf77) March 21, 2014
Black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer any Algebra II courses, while a third of those schools do not have any chemistry classes. Black students are more than four times as likely as white students — and Latino students are twice as likely — to attend schools where one out of every five teachers does not meet all state teaching requirements.
“Here we are, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the data altogether still show a picture of gross inequity in educational opportunity,” said Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project.
In his budget request to Congress, President Obama has proposed a new phase of his administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program, which would give $300 million in incentives to states and districts that put in place programs intended to close some of the educational gaps identified in the data.
“In all, 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,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.
One of the striking statistics to emerge from the data, based on information collected during the 2011-12 academic year, was that even as early as preschool, black students face harsher discipline than other students.
While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American.
“To see that young African-American students — or babies, as I call them — are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” said Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
So where do we place the blame? If first year teachers are more prevalent in schools systems with a high percentage of minority students, is it because those school systems can’t keep good teachers? Also, why are teachers allowed to teach if they don’t meet the requirements?
Then there’s the lack of equality when it comes to course offerings in these schools. Compared to schools with more than 70% white students, where the courses being offered are in preparation for college and include algebra, biology, calculus, chemistry, geometry and physics —the data also showed that just over half of all black students have access to those courses.
“We want to have a situation in which students of color — and every student — has the opportunity and access that will get them into any kind of STEM career that takes their fancy,” said Claus von Zastrow, director of research for Change the Equation, a nonprofit that advocates improved science, technology, engineering and math education, or STEM, in the United States. “We’re finding that in fact a huge percentage of primarily students of color, but of all students, don’t even have the opportunity to take those courses. Those are gateways that are closed to them.”
Maybe the U.S needs to bring some Chinese education officials to school them on how to educate students properly.