It’s not good news. The United States educational system is stacked against African-American and Latino students. The data speaks for itself.
“Gaps in achievement begin before children arrive at the schoolhouse door. But, rather than organizing our educational system to ameliorate this problem, we organize it to exacerbate the problem. How? By giving students who arrive with less, less in school too,” Jose Cruz bemoaned.
Cruz, Vice President for Higher Education Policy and Practice at the Washington DC-based Education Trust, was addressing journalists at a recent seminar on education reform organized by New America Media, a nationwide association of ethnic media organizations.
Declaring that the achievement gap between students of color and their White counterparts is based directly on policymakers’ decisions, Cruz revealed that school funding is directly linked to the levels of poverty and ethnicity within a school district.
For example, the funding imbalance between high poverty versus low poverty states is $2,278 per student. In other words, rich schools get that much more per child. The situation in high minority versus low minority states is similar; the difference is $2,330 per student. The discrepancy within states is not as striking, but still troubling at $773 less per student in poor neighborhoods and $1,122 less per child in high minority districts.
Adding to the problem said the Education Trust executive, are choices or policies at the educator level. It seems that students in poor schools are expected to be underachievers and often “receive As for work that would earn Cs in affluent schools,” reported Cruz.
A vicious cycle is created for African American students as statistics show that these children, for example in grades 6 through 8, are more likely to be retained, or held back, than White students. It stands just above 40 percent for Black students versus 33 percent for White students. Just as glaring are the suspension rates for Black children against that of Whites: Blacks are three-and-a-half times more likely to be expelled from school.
The fact that minority children in poorer schools are more likely to be taught by novice or out-of-field teachers adds to the low performance and expectation. Thus, it is not surprising that African American and Latino students are less likely to graduate from high school on time. And even worse, may not even graduate. Indeed, the high school drop out rate among Black students is twice that of Whites.
All of this data points to the fact that Black students have limited access to quality education and stand a good chance of being ‘educationally impaired’.
But, in spite of the uneven playing field, some Black and Latino students are achieving against the odds at schools with strong advocates for quality education. According to Cruz, some schools are celebrating high achievement among their minority students. Osmond A. Church School in Queens, New York and Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School in Elmont, New York are excellent examples.
College attendance is also going up regardless of income, said Cruz. In fact, 54 percent of low income students are attending higher institutions, even if White students are outpacing them. Among some of the colleges recording success among minority students are Michigan Technological University, Georgia State University, and the University of Louisville.
Creating more upward ticks through equal access and maintaining high standards is key to improving the success rates for African American and Latino students. Indeed, President Obama’s recent announcement of his Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans is aimed at giving this group equal access to quality education.
And, although some see it as an election year move, the policy does promise to “help expand educational opportunities, improve educational outcomes, and deliver a complete and competitive education for all African Americans.”