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.


The Big Dog's back

You know, for you dissing the Soviet Union all the time pooh, you sure have a man crush on Putin, who more than anyone else, exemplifies the old Soviet Union.


That is so true Dog!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Unless we strip away all that makes every individual talented in ways over others (athleticism, educational capactiy, physical mobility, sensory aptitude, etc.) what "should be" is literally impossible. There is no way to accomplish this without standardizing human life, expectations, and providing the exact same cookie-cutter education or medical capacity above.

That's not a world I want to live in, as nice as it may be intended to be. So if that works for you then yes, I as you will respectfully agree to disagree and appreciate your politeness.

The Big Dog's back

What are you babbling about? Why would everything be the same? Says a lot about you if that is what you're thinking.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Ok, here, I'll hold your hand and walk you through it to answer your question. I'd rather teach you to fish than give you one. Your question of "Why would everything be the same?" was asked in the context of a conversation deertracker and I were having.

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

The Hero Zone: "Unless we strip away all that makes every individual talented in ways over others...what 'should be' is literally impossible."

We can dream about a perfect utopia, but because of the fact that we are all different in talent and ability as well as flawed in innumerable ways we can never have that dream. Accepting this is an acceptance and/or tolerance of actual diversity. Imposing standardized templates on every individual, city, state, and the country strips away that diversity and, LITERALLY, dehumanizes us. It strips us of our backgrounds, abilities, life experiences, and every beautiful/awful part of us that makes us...us.

P.S. - I can always explain what is on my mind, why I think the way I do, and other such details. I'd urge you to exercise your ability to do so as well. Knowing where you sit before declaring where you stand is vitally important as is a firm grasp of literacy and extensive use of vocabulary. Else you may find your seat swiped from under you and you constantly fall on your butt.

The Big Dog's back

Once again, what are you babbling about? Read your comment that I posted to.

There you go again

You meant "anyway" right? Certainly your RIGHT to an education taught you correct grammar!



We have the Bill of Rights in this country. Can you please tell me where it specifically guarantees a citizen education and health care. We have laws about education and health care but no rights about education and health care.


FDR proposed a "Second Bill of Rights."


Not to worry; the progressive-socialists are on track to eventually provide every necessity and some luxuries free gratis to all citizens.



Sprinkles, how can one be personally responsible without healthcare and education?


Basic education and health care are available and always have been available. Whether one uses those resources is up to their personal responsibility.


Basic only gets you so far. If these two things were not available one would not even be able to read the Constitution. If by law I am required to go to school then it should be provided. The fact that these things have always been provided proves someone thinks we have a right to them.

The Big Dog's back

When the GOWP (grumpy old white people) went to school back in the 50's and 60's, everything was provided for them in school. Now there are a lot of out of pocket expenses. Also the GOWP's parents had better insurance back then.



That where we differ. Society has deemed that school is a good thing. But,no where is it written into our laws that it's a right. Sounds like I'm nitpicking but in times of trouble (economic depression) school and healthcare would not have to be funded.

Don S

Stop giving public school money to charter schools !!! The parents that send their kids to charter schools can a afford to pay for the schools.


Again notice that those who wish to make education and health "rights" won't give reasons for them to be "rights". They want others to give reasons why they shouldn't be. Those who wish those things to be rights need to give logical reasons for them to be. Then it will be clear that it is "just because it would be "fair". The Constitution was to make "rights" that were equal opportunities, not equal outcomes. Otherwise we would all have graduate degrees from Harvard, and such a degree would then be meaningless.

The second amendment gives you the opportunity to bear arms. It doesn't provide the arms, nor does it make you bear arms, you have the OPPORTUNITY to do so if you want to.

There are limits to these rights. You are not allowed some firearms and explosives. You are restricted from them. You are limited in speech. You can't lie to the court, you can't plagiarise, you can't break copyrights, can't yell fire when there is none, among many other things. Even though you have the right to "free speech". There are legal limits.

Give us reasons for education and health need to be made rights, or is it beyond your ability to do so? You are the ones who wish to make changes... give us your reasons, surely you can do so other than "why shouldn't they be".


Re: "The Constitution"

"Obama characterizes the Constitution as 'a charter of negative liberties,'"

It limits the power of the govt. over it's citizens.

Dear Leader and his progressive ilk want a 'positive' Bill of Rights in order to state what power the govt. will have over it's citizens.


Oh Brave New World!


The tenth Amendment grants power... everything not listed in the Constitution granting power to the federal gov't is granted... to the STATES. It makes no limits on the state gov't... except for the things listed in the Constitution that are granted to the federal gov't. The federal gov't wants to steal the power granted to the states by the Constitution.

The Big Dog's back

More opinion pieces.


Re: "opinion pieces."

True. It contains quotes of your Messiah's socialistic opinionated nonsense.


Is socialist your buzz word for the day? Your constant rants about the President or his policies when they are not even the topic of conversation makes you look really small.


Re: "the President or his policies,"

The Dept. of Education is not part of the Obama admin.?

You don't advocate socialism?


No I don't although parts of this society are already socialistic. Social Security?


Re: "No I don't"

But aren't you in favor of societal guaranteed education and healthcare for all citizens?

How is that not advocating socialism?


....because those two things are basic necessities. I am not saying the government has to provide higher education. There are no guarantees pooh. Nice try. Why does the government make you immunize your kids?


Re: "because those two things are basic necessities."

So you agree that you're a socialist?

What about food, clothing, job, housing, et. al.?

Aren't those "necessities"?

The Big Dog's back

Always ducking questions aren't pooh.




Re: "Always."

Forgot I was addressing a 12 yr. old with OCD.

"because those two things are basic necessities."

Whose providing them if it isn't at the direction of the central planners, i.e. socialism?


Yep, that was the start of relying on the government and not yourself to provide for your life. Now look at what we've started.