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Racial disparities remain in schools, federal data show

WASHINGTON — Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that black children have the right to the same education as their white peers.

But civil rights data released Friday by the Education Department reflect an education system rife with inequities for blacks and other minority students and those with disabilities.

Minority students are less likely to have access to advanced math and science classes and veteran teachers, officials found. Black students of any age, even the youngest preschoolers, are more likely to be suspended. And students with disabilities are more likely than other students to be tied down or placed alone in a room as a form of discipline.

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Advanced classes

Training in science, technology, engineering, and math is considered crucial for students to succeed in the global marketplace. Yet the department found that there was a ‘‘significant lack of access’’ to core classes such as algebra, geometry, biology, and chemistry for many students. That lack of access was particularly striking when it came to minorities.

Only a quarter of black and Latino students were enrolled in an Advanced Placement class, which allows high school students to earn college credit, and fewer than one in five got a high enough score generally necessary to get college credit.

Even as black and Latino students represent 40 percent of the enrollment in schools offering gifted and talented programs, they represent only a quarter of the students in their schools enrolled in them.

Veteran teachers

Minority students are more likely to attend schools with a higher concentration of first-year teachers than white students. And while most teachers are certified, nearly half a million students nationally attend schools where nearly two-thirds or fewer of teachers meet all state certification and licensing requirements.

Black and Latino students are more likely than white students to attend these schools.

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There’s also a teacher salary gap of more than $5,000 between high schools with the highest black and Latino students enrollments, and the lowest, according to the data.

Discipline rate

The Obama administration issued guidance earlier this year encouraging schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office, the so-called ‘‘schools-to-prisons pipeline.’’ But even before the announcement, school districts had been adjusting policies that disproportionately affected minority students.

The civil rights data released Friday from the 2011-2012 school year show the disparities begin among even the youngest of students. Black children represent about 18 percent of children in preschool programs in schools, but they make up almost half of the preschoolers who are suspended more than once. Six percent of the nation’s districts with preschools reported suspending at least one preschool child.

Overall, the data show that black students of all ages are suspended and expelled at a rate that is three times higher than that of white children.

Physical restraint

Students with disabilities represent about 12 percent of the student population, but about 60 percent of students placed in seclusion or involuntary confinement and three quarters of students restrained at school.

While black students make up about one in five of students with disabilities, more than one-third of the students who are restrained at school are black. Overall, the data show that more than 37,000 students were placed in seclusion, and 4,000 students with disabilities were held in place by a mechanical restraint.

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