Public Schools

Gaps of Equity and Opportunity in U.S. Public Schools


July 29, 2021, US News & World Report

Ana Aparicio, associate professor of anthropology and Latino studies at Northwestern University and an NU Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project, analyzed the current U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights report on equity and opportunity gaps within the nation's public schools. The report, \”A Start looking,\” drawing in the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from 2021-2021, finds that bias persists.

Since 1968, the CRDC is a mandatory data collection authorized within quantity of statutes and regulations. This most recent CRDC survey includes 16,758 (99.2%) school districts, 95,507 (99.5%) public schools, and 50,035,744 students. \”The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, instructional and other staff, and resources-as along with school climate factors, for example student discipline and bullying and harassment-that impact education equity and chance of students.\” Later in 2021, more data and analysis is going to be released addressing topics for example \”student discipline, early learning access, teacher and staffing equity, access to courses and programs that foster college and career readiness, and chronic student absenteeism.\”

In her research into the report for U.S. News & World Report, Aparico highlights the following data:

Among the findings is the fact that black and Latino children are disproportionately issued school suspensions as soon as pre-kindergarten. Black preschoolers are 3 1/2 times more likely than their white peers to be suspended-despite a general decline in overall suspensions nationwide.

Black students are also disproportionately expelled from schools and, together with Latino students, tend to be more than two times as likely as their white peers to become arrested or deal with law enforcement through the K -12 years. The targeting of scholars of color for disciplinary actions is all the more troubling because, because the report points out, it's along with the reality that the students may have underprepared teachers and lack advanced courses within their high schools.

In her analysis, Aparico references other studies and initiatives through the country that reinforce the findings within this new report from the U.S. Department of Education. As many organizations, advocates, and policymakers have found with the decades, racism and other types of inequality persist in the nation's public school system.

Aparico contends that because the nation prepares for that Every Student Succeeds Act to exchange the No Child Left out Act in the 2021 -18 academic year, \”It's imperative that states collect and disaggregate data on disciplinary actions taken by schools along race, ethnicity, gender and grade.\”

Aparico offers recommendations.

There will also be options to school suspensions and expulsions that more schools should consider. Initiatives like the National School Climate Coalition happen to be making great strides in bringing to the fore problems with bias. Schools such as the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy in San Jose, Calif. have created successful restorative justice programs.

The challenges this report exposes are formidable. Achievement gaps remain stubbornly wide in the United States. Other countries remain ahead of the U.S. in offering quality education for those its children. The debate around student achievement is further constrained through the narrow parameters of No Child Left Behind. Deep economic inequalities in America are causing lawmakers and presidential candidates to address educational \”opportunity gaps\” too. \”A First Look\” along with other initiatives and research thankfully keep your spotlight on these urgent issues and on identifying solutions.

Aparico concludes her analysis with this prescription:

Given the racial disparities and inequalities the most recent national and global studies point to, elected officials-at the national and native levels-as well as school and community leaders, must receive more support and resources to better counteract these realities. Their decisions may have long-term consequences for communities of color and our nation overall. Our kids deserve better.

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