A+ Schools’ 2018 Public School Progress Report outlined alarming education disparities across the city. After carefully analyzing the report, I have come to the conclusion that students of color in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district face discrimination.
One of the first sections in the report is labeled, “Gifted Education in Pittsburgh: Moving Toward Equity.” The section maintains that advocates will continue to ensure that “the gifted screening processes becomes more accessible for all families…”
The following statistics suggest otherwise. Sixty-six percent of Gifted Center students are White, while only 18 percent of Gifted Center students are Black. The Pittsburgh Gifted Center, for reference, is an advanced learning facility located in Crafton Heights. Students from most Pittsburgh Public Schools’ middle schools are invited to attend classes at the school that bolster creativity and critical thinking along with other factors. However, the center is only accessible through an I.Q. test, which is administered to students per teacher request. Moreover, the Gifted program is a prerequisite to the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) high school program which is similar to honors classes in other districts. Students who were not identified as Gifted in middle school must pass a specific test to be in the CAS program.
In high school, the discrimination in early grades becomes evident in student progress. Thirty-one percent of Black students were suspended at least once, the highest percentage as compared to 14 percent of White students. At Brashear High School, only 8 percent of Black students are enrolled in CAS classes.
Pittsburgh Public Schools simply does not invest in the success of students, especially students of color. The A+ report shows that the average high school student-to-counselor ratio is 1:197. There is no way that every at-risk student has been thoroughly assisted by their respective schools, which leads to students falling between the cracks and exemplifying the school-to-prison pipeline. With only 180 days in a school year, there is just enough time for each student to spend a day with their counselor, but strains mean that counselors have many other tasks to complete besides personal one-on-one meetings.
The results of this year’s A+ Schools Public School Progress Report are alarming, disappointing, and evidently discriminatory. Education is the keystone to success, and for the sake of our future generations, academic leaders should take steps to eliminate these disparities, instead of letting students fall victim to systematic oppression in the form of academic abandonment. By approaching education with an equity, not equality mindset, students of color and disadvantaged youth as a whole will have a better chance at succeeding, in academics and in all spheres of life.
(Gianna Griffin, 18, a senior at Allderdice High School, is a New Pittsburgh Courier intern.)