Equity and Opportunity Elusive in U.S. Public Schools

Of all groups, black students fare worst

public schools
(Image: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages)

Across the country, black students are more likely to attend schools with fewer rigorous math and science courses and fewer experienced teachers. They are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions and less likely to be enrolled in Advanced Placement or gifted programs.

That’s according to data from the 2013–2014 Civil Rights Data Collection released earlier today by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

The data represent a survey of all public schools and school districts in the country, serving more than 50 million students.

Although much work has been done under the Obama administration to address these severe disparities, much work remains. In every area of education, including discipline, teacher quality—even access to algebra 2—inequities persist and affect black students the most.

Across the country, compared with all other groups of students—white, Asian, Hispanic, Alaskan, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander—black students fare the worst, according to this data.

Key data points:

  • Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as are white preschool children.
  • In kindergarten through the 12th grade, black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as are white students. Black students also are nearly twice as likely to be expelled—removed from school with no services—as are white students.
  • More than half of high schools in the United States do not offer calculus, 4 in 10 do not offer physics, more than 1 in 4 do not offer chemistry, and more than 1 in 5 do not offer Algebra II, considered by many a gateway class for success in college.
  • By many measures, some student groups are more likely than others to miss out:
    • Only a third of high schools with high black and Latino enrollments offer calculus, compared to 56% of those that serve low numbers of black and Latino students.
    • Less than half the high schools with high black and Latino enrollments offer physics, while 2 in 3 high schools that have low numbers of black and Latino students offer physics.
    • Black and Latino students also participate at lower rates in Gifted and Talented Education or GATE programs. Although black and Latino students make up 42% of students enrolled in schools that offer GATE programs, they are only 28% of the GATE participants in those schools.

“The CRDC data are more than numbers and charts—they illustrate in powerful and troubling ways disparities in opportunities and experiences that different groups of students have in our schools,” John King, education secretary, said in a statement.

The data are available for the public to review at CRDC.ed.gov.



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