The latest report on civil rights in our public schools has been released, and while children of different races may no longer be separate, their educational experience is certainly not equal. The report, which utilized data from over 50 million children in 95,000 schools across the country during the 2013-2014 academic year, showed that black students and Latino students don’t receive the same educational opportunities as white students, a trend that is reflected in fewer high-level course offerings, disproportionate amounts of suspensions, and a higher likelihood of attending a school that employees a police officer but not a counselor. Read on for more disquieting findings from the report, including the fact that some of these racial inequities begin as early as preschool.
That’s right — some of the discipline disparities begin before “traditional” school even starts: black public school preschool children are 3.6 times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than white preschool children. Once children attend K-12 public schools, the number actually increases, with black children being 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white children. Students with disabilities are also disproportionately more likely to be suspended from school. Black students are also nearly two times as likely to be expelled from school and are more than twice as likely to be referred to or arrested by a law enforcement officer (which may stem from the fact in high schools where the student population consisted of more than 75% black and Latino students, over half had an officer on-site).
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Aside from discipline issues, other disturbing gaps exist. The availability of high-rigor courses such as calculus, physics, and chemistry varies nationwide according to subject (i.e. 48% of high schools offer calculus and 72% offer chemistry), but fewer schools with high enrollment of black and Latino students offer these courses. Black and Latino students also have less access to gifted and talented programs and are more likely (along with American Indian and Alaska Native students) to be taught by a teacher who is less experienced and is in his or her first year of teaching.
One surprising issue was the prevalence of chronic absenteeism. 11% of elementary school students are chronically absent (missing 15 or more days of school a year), with that number jumping to 18% for high schoolers! Another notable fact: while girls represent almost half of the student body and represent proportionally in calculus, they are underrepresented in physics. An additional 91,000 girls would need to take physics in order to close the participation gap in this subject.