New data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education shows the depth of inequality among school districts across the nation. The data covers a range of areas, including access to advance courses, discipline, and teacher quality.
The Civil Rights Data Collection, from the department’s Office of Civil Rights, found that scores of students attend high schools that don’t offer math and science courses that would prepare them for the rigors of college.
For example, only a third of predominantly Black and Hispanic high schools offer calculus compared to 56 percent of other schools. Less than half of the schools that serve students of color teach physics, while two-thirds of other high schools offer the course.
The new data confirms other research, anecdotal evidence, and the department’s annual civil rights report about racial disparities in student discipline. According to the CRDC, Black K-12 students are suspended nearly four times as often as White students.
Unequal punishment begins in preschool, where Black children are 3.6 times as likely as White students to get suspended. St. Louis public schools found similar racial disparities and recently announced a ban on out-of-school suspension for preschool through second-grade.
Data from the CRDC also revealed that 11 percent of Black students attend schools where at least one of five educators are in their first year of teaching. White students tend to have far more experienced instructors at schools where there’s less faculty turnover.
Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in a statement that the Obama administration has long viewed data as a valuable tool to inform the decisions of parents, educators, and policymakers.
“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,” said King.
This latest research examined the experiences of more than 50 million students enrolled in nearly all the school districts in the nation, and covers the 2013 to 2014 school year.
Catherine E. Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said the CRDC data casts a light on educational opportunities offered and denied. “We urge educators, researchers and the public to join us in using this data to its full potential to support students in realizing their opportunities,” she added.
King said the uncovered disparities are a call to action. “This is one of the reasons I am excited by the opportunity offered by the new Every Student Succeeds Act,” he stated. “It makes clear the obligation our schools and states have to ensure that all students have access to an excellent education that prepares them to succeed in college and careers.”
He added that federal funding to schools in low-income communities should supplement state and local funding—not replace it. The secretary is alluding to an ongoing struggle to ensure parity in school funding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty