Disparities remain in America's schools

Studies show minority students have less access to advanced classes, preschool and are more likely to be suspended or restrained
Associated Press
Mar 22, 2014

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. 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.

"It is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

But the department offered no explanation of why these disparities exist.

Here are five things to know about the department's findings:


STEM is the buzzword in education these days. Education in the fields of science, technology and engineering and math is considered critical for students to succeed in the global marketplace. Yet the department found that there was a "significant lack of access" to core classes like algebra, geometry, biology, and chemistry for many students. That lack of access was particularly striking when it came to minorities.

"A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer Algebra II; a third of these schools do not offer chemistry," the department said.

And it's not just lack of access to core curriculum subjects.

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.

Christopher Emdin, a professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said if a school doesn't offer advanced math and science classes, students are told they are not expected to take those classes.

"There is nothing more severe in contemporary America, particularly as it relates to youth of color, than the soft bigotry of low expectations," Emdin said. "These inequities in the availability of science and math classes show young people that not much is expected of them. It highlights a subtle and severe bias that we will collectively suffer from as our STEM jobs continue to go unfilled, and our young people refuse to be scientists and engineers."


Quality teachers can play a key role in student performance.

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.

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

Maddie Fennell, a literacy coach at Miller Park Elementary, an urban school in Omaha, Neb., said that too often in teaching, the mindset is that the more experienced a teacher is, the more deserving the teacher is of a less-challenging school environment. She said this doesn't make sense because, in comparison, an experienced surgeon wouldn't be given the healthiest patients. Ultimately, she said, the most qualified teachers will request to follow strong principals.

"A lot of it has to do with the leadership of a (school) building," Fennell said.


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 school kids. 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's three times higher than that of white children. Even as boys receive more than two-thirds of suspensions, black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or most boys. More than half of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black.


"Seclusion and restraint" is a term used to describe when students are strapped down or physically restrained in schools. The data show 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.

Democrats Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., have unsuccessfully fought for a federal law for years to end the practice. National associations representing school boards and superintendents have said such legislation would reduce the authority of states and districts, but that seclusion and restraint should only be used as a last resort to protect school staff and students.


The Obama administration views access to preschool as a civil rights issue. It says 40 percent of school districts do not offer preschool programs. Their numbers don't include private programs or some other types of publicly funded early childhood programs outside of school systems. Obama has sought a "preschool for all" program with the goal of providing universal preschool to America's 4-year-old that would use funding from a hike in tobacco taxes.



Before a school is accused of not providing algebra and chemistry we should ask how many students in that school can even spell those two words.


That's a good point. This starts way before high school.


"Disparities remain in America's schools"
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"

The Big Dog's back

Until this country recognizes that education and healthcare are rights, we will continue to have disparities.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Please describe how they are "rights". Are you entitled at all hours of every day without question to the life of another person or entire group of people to administer these services?

If I were feeling snarky I'd point out that we already tried that in our history prior to the Civil War. I forget, can you tell me what it's called when someone else has the right to your life and service to them?

It's on the tip of my tongue. Dang it. Help me out here Big Dog. What's the word for when you legally obligate other people to your personal service and they have no other choice?

The Big Dog's back

So you don't think everyone in this country has a right to an education and healthcare? Really?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

A right to it? No. That's absurd. I don't think you actually know what a "right" is. I totally get your intention, but your word of choice is not correct. If health care is a RIGHT then you are entitled to it as a sovereign entity. Any time, any place, it is an absolute.

"A right must be exercised through your own initiative and action. It is not a claim on others. A right is not actualized and implemented by the actions of others. This means you do not have the right to the time in another person’s life. You do not have a right to other people’s money. You do not have the right to another person’s property."

Read more of this clip at: http://www.freerepublic.com/focu...

"Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory."

Read more of this clip at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights

"a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral: You have a right to say what you please."

Read more of this clip at: http://dictionary.reference.com/...

In other words if medical treatment is a right then you are entitled to it simply by existing. However, unlike others, this one must be dispensed by a person. That makes that person indentured to serve you. If you go to a hospital and aren't seen immediately then your rights have been violated and you can sue them. Because a doctor couldn't help you, you can sue them for violating your RIGHT to get their skills, talents, and education from them any time, any place, any where.

I will agree with you that we have a privilege to deserve a high standard of care. We have an expectation that it will be there. We have a legal requirement that we will deserve reasonable and due care. But we don't have the right to it. Please, if you think it is a right, go into your local Emergency Room and demand to see a doctor immediately. If one doesn't come, speak to a local attorney about suing them for violating your right to immediate, on-demand care with no barriers (such as payment). That doctor OWES YOU his time if it is a right.

The Big Dog's back

So by your comparison, which is dumb, you should be able to carry a gun anytime, anywhere, anyplace. You should be able to whatever, to whomever, whenever you like. Get the point yet? There are rules and regulations. Grow up.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Interestingly enough it seems that so long as I don't (or haven't in the past) infringe on other people I can do that. Huh...thanks for proving my point. High five!

There you go again

Hero Zone, you are giving some entitlement junkies some "ideas." Seriously, I enjoyed reading your comments and find them thought compelling. It just will take educating some people on what rights they have as Americans, I.e. understanding the Constitution..

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thank you for the compliment. It's always my hope to compel thought of some kind! Education is my burning desire and passion. There are many things I'd like to see introduced to the curriculum so that conversations like these are the standard and not the exception.


I really think your comparison to slavery is a bit off Hero. You need an education and your health to make it anywhere. The people you reference were deprived of both in an effort to oppress them. Encouraging good health, and promoting education are things that can help anyone if available and I think they should be. Slaves were punished for even trying to be better. I don't see how making you be responsible for something that is going to help you a bad thing.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

The comparison was to illustrate that, if made a right, doctors will owe you their time, their service, their life. There will be no barriers to prevent you from obtaining an education. If you don't get your diploma? Sue the schools for violating your rights. After all, the teachers didn't provide 24/7 service to you and it is their fault your rights weren't served. As I told Big Dog. Go to Firelands and demand to see a doctor immediately as is your RIGHT for simply existing.

Therein is my comparison, even if I am being picky with words. Slaves HAD to serve their masters. If they didn't? Bad things happened. If a doctor doesn't serve a patient, if a teacher doesn't serve a student then THEY can be sued for violating YOUR rights as YOU expect them.

In addition, responsibility isn't something that can be inflicted on another person as you suggest. Would you call everyone in the Erie County Jail responsible because they turned themselves in when they were supposed to according to the law? Or even after "being made to" go to jail by the police, are they responsible people? Are North Koreans responsible citizens because they cried a mandated amount of times at their last leader's passing under penalty of death?

Education and health are privileges. Opportunities that we deserve to be able to pursue. But they are not rights. Unless you intend to legally saddle doctors and teachers with the absolute burden of service to you at any point in your life for nothing in return.


Notice how piddles won't explain why education and healthcare should be rights? he has no answer to that. he demands others explain why they shouldn't be. All the other rights we have are listed in the Constitution and Amendments. Piddles explain why yours should be added. It is up to you to say why they should be, since you want them.


Having a "right" to something does not mean it should be free and no one is advocating for that. You have the "right" to bear arms but the arms are not free. The Constitution is over rated. Times have changed!


The Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, but I'm sure no one will try to prevent you from baring your arms.
The Constitution is over rated? If it can remain relevant for over 200 years, then it is still relevant today!


Relevant? Overrated!


Re: "The Constitution is over rated."

And with what "law of the land" should it be replaced?


Altered not replaced pooh!


The Constitution provided a way for it to be altered... It is called Amendments. If you wish to alter it simply get your Amendment passed. It is one of the things that make the Constitution a good document... if you can get enough backing in the country it can be changed. But then again you have to get the backing to make the change... till then you have nothing but whining to do.


Re: "Altered,"

The process is called Amendments.

Where is healthcare and education specifically mentioned in the Constitution?


Where is privacy?


Re: "privacy"

Off-topic. However, see: Fourth, Fifth and probably Sixth Amendments.

Besides, what do you care? To you the Constitution is "overrated."


Just askin' pooh!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

"The U.S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy."


I'm not going to touch the issue of abortion as it is a branch off this tree and is irrelevant to what we're talking about. However, the events leading up to Roe v. Wade were a series of cases built upon one another once various legal footholds were found in the "penumbras and emanations" of the Bill of Rights.

Check out 1961's Poe v. Ullman to see where this issue began.


Again, I'm not going to argue the morality of abortion but when Planned Parenthood/ACLU brought this case up after fishing up a specific set of people who would be "violated" by an old and unused law it was thrown down because the fact the law was old and unused. So it was tried again in another way and eventually it led to this declared "Right to Privacy".

Ignore the flag waving and partisan snips and such, but if you want to listen to the story about how the "privacy right" came to be, give less than 30 minutes of your time to this:



The liberal idea of government requires no critical thinking acumen. They have been manipulated to believe that anything emanating from Obama's butt is sacrosanct.

The Big Dog's back

stumpy, if I have to explain to you why education and healthcare would benefit everyone, then you're not bright enough to understand anyways.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Education and health care are currently available to everyone. Are you "not bright enough" to see that? Also, just because something "would benefit" someone else does not make it a right as I have pointed out above. Unless you are arguing for equal outcomes guaranteed as a right for everyone?

Or is it enough that equal and opportunity is out there for people to grasp themselves as a privilege of living in our civil society?


A healthy, educated society is a prosperous society. Equal healthcare and equal education is not available to all but they should be. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this.


Re: "Equal healthcare and equal education is not available to all but they should be."

The Soviet Union was the first nation to guarantee both in their Constitution.

Per usual, American progressive-socialists foolishly think they're smarter than those 'dumb' Russians. :)