Category: This is Dropout Nation

The Integration Question

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the…

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg and Laura Wilson Phelan of Kindred to discuss where do we go on integration seven decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the Little Rock Nine.

Listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the On the Road podcast series and the overall Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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Missouri Fails All Children

These days, the Show Me State demonstrates a lot of things to people. Few of them any good. Yet none of the black eyes it has gotten compared to the…

These days, the Show Me State demonstrates a lot of things to people. Few of them any good. Yet none of the black eyes it has gotten compared to the damage its public education systems are doing to its children.

The latest stain on the states reputation can be seen in St. Louis, where protests against police brutality after Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson let former Police Officer Jason Stockley off the hook for murdering Anthony Lamar Smith is a reminder of the slaying of Michael Brown by another rogue cop in nearby Ferguson three years ago. The arrests of protestors and journalists by the Gateway City’s police department — as well as  arrogant chants ““Whose streets? Our streets” by those officers — has justified the NAACP’s move earlier this year to tell Black men and women to avoid the state like the plague.

But the biggest stain on Missouri’s present reputation has less to do with rogue cops and police misconduct and more with the low quality of its public education systems. Especially in St. Louis, where the (often state-controlled) districts within the city and county have become infamous for overusing harsh school discipline, providing few opportunities for high quality education, criminalizing the lives of youth, and restricting the ability of poor and minority children to escape the failure mills that litter the landscape. But as a Dropout Nation analysis shows, St. Louis merely mirrors the woeful lack of opportunities for the kind of college-preparatory courses children need for lifelong success.

Just 13.7 percent of the 292,558 children attending Missouri’s high schools took calculus, trigonometry and other forms of advanced mathematics in 2013-2104, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The woeful levels cut across nearly all socioeconomic backgrounds. Black children suffered the worst with just one out of every 10 taking calculus and advanced math that year. But White children did little better, with only 13.9 percent taking college-level mathematics; a mere 11.4 percent of Latino students, 13.5 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native peers, and 33.6 percent of Asian children taking those courses in the year surveyed.

The Show Me State does even worse in providing Advanced Placement courses that help prepare children for the rigors of higher education. Just 10.5 percent of all Missouri high-schoolers took AP courses in 2013-2104. This includes a mere 8.7 percent of Black students, 9.6 percent of Native peers, 10.3 percent of Latino high schoolers, and 10.4 percent of White students. Only Asian students were provided AP courses at high levels, with 26.7 percent of them taking those college-level classes that year. [Just six-tenths of one percent of all Show Me State high school students took International Baccalaureate courses, the other college preparatory coursework of choice for America’s students.]

Things get little better when it comes to physics, a science course that helps children gain preparation to take on higher ed classes that lead to high-paying careers in science and technology. Just 8.9 percent of high school students in Missouri took physics in 2013-2014. This is one area in which White students do worse than their minority counterparts. Just 7.8 percent of White high schoolers took physics versus 9.5 percent of Native students, 12 percent of Latino peers, 12.1 percent of Black students, and 17.4 percent of Asian peers.

The rationing of opportunity, of course begins long before children reach high school and can be seen in the middle school years in the numbers taking Algebra 1, a key course for college preparation. Just 11.8 percent of all Show Me State middle schoolers took Algebra 1 in 2013-2014. Again, Black children are failed miserably, with just 9.9 percent taking Algebra 1. But children from other backgrounds do little better. Only 10.4 percent of Latino middle school students, 11 percent of Native peers, 11.8 percent of White students, and 22.3 percent of Asian peers took Algebra 1 that year.

The path to denying opportunity begins in Missouri’s elementary schools, where children  (especially those from poor and minority households) are denied by teachers and guidance counselors into the gateways into what traditional districts consider to be higher levels of teaching and curricula.

Just 4.4 percent of Show Me State students are taking gifted-and-talented course. Certainly gifted-and-talented programs are questionable in their quality (as well as being a legacy of ability tracking, IQ testing frauds, and the other forms of racialism that began in the 20th century as a result of the belief that only some children are capable of learning at high levels). But they are also one of the few avenues children have for getting some semblance of high-quality education.

Oddly enough, Black children are twice as likely to gain entry into gifted-and-talented programs than White peers, with 10.4 percent of Black children in such pathways in 2013-2014 compared to just 4.6 percent of White students. This may be a result of the fact that Missouri’s rural and small town districts, which serve the bulk of the state’s White children, don’t provide such gateways. Meanwhile, just 34 percent of Latino students, 4.7 percent of Native peers, and 22.9 percent of Asian students were in gifted-and-talented programs.

An even bigger problem: That far too many children are far more likely to be condemned by districts into special ed ghettos. Thirteen-point-seven percent of Show Me State students are condemned to special ed in 2013-2014, all but guaranteeing that they will not get high-quality teaching and curricula. Black and White children are particularly prone to being condemned to special ed ghettos, with, respectively 14.7 percent and 14.5 percent being placed there compared to 3.3 percent of Asian students, five percent of Native peers, and 8.7 percent of Latino children.

There are plenty of reasons for people in St. Louis and the rest of Missouri to protest. Police brutality is one. Educational abuse is the other.

Put simply: Children in Missouri are far more-likely to end up in special ed than taking gifted-and-talented programs or any other opportunity for high-quality education. Latino and White children, for example are respectively, two and three times more likely to end up in special ed than in gifted-and-talented gateways.

One of the underlying culprits lie with the Show Me State’s failure to adequately finance college-preparatory opportunities within traditional districts. While the states provides some funds for offering AP courses, it is dwarfed by the sums spent on special education. In 2015-2016, for example, the state spent a mere $415,875 on AP (as well as dual enrollment) courses, while spending $411.5 million on special ed. An additional complication will come in the next few years thanks to the federal government’s move two years to consolidate funds used to finance AP courses for poor and minority students into a block grant, effectively making it harder for districts to offer high-quality opportunities to their most-vulnerable children.

Meanwhile the state has done little to expand the number of public charter schools serving children of all backgrounds. Just 52 charters operate in the Show Me State in 2015-2016, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, all of them in St. Louis and Kansas City because of their status as failure mills. Given that Missouri children attending charter schools gain an additional 22 days of learning in math and 14 additional days of learning in reading (according to Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes), the lack of high-quality charters hurts both children in big city and rural communities who need help. The efforts to

Making things even worse was the state’s decision three years ago to ditch Common Core’s reading and math standards. This move, a result of opposition from movement conservatives in the Show Me State, denied all children (including those who are poor and White as well as Black and Latino) the comprehensive knowledge they need to be prepared for college-preparatory coursework, and ultimately, for the rigors of coursework in the traditional colleges, technical schools, and apprenticeships that make up American higher education.

The Show Me State’s political and educational leaders — including current Gov. Eric Greitens and his predecessor, Jay Nixon — deserve to bow their heads in shame for the educational abuse and neglect they are perpetrating on all of the children in the state’s public education systems. More importantly, these officials need to expand opportunities for all of those children to gain the knowledge critical to their future success as well as that of the state. Until then, the rogue policing tolerated in Missouri will be merely its most-public embarrassment.

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Bad Schools Alabama

There’s a lot for Alabama to be ashamed about these days — and we’re not just talking about a history of state-sanctioned bigotry that reached its apex under the infamous…

There’s a lot for Alabama to be ashamed about these days — and we’re not just talking about a history of state-sanctioned bigotry that reached its apex under the infamous George Wallace. From the presence of disgraced jurist-turned-senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General under the Trump regime, to the current occupant of the White House’s race-baiting against Black athletes for their protests against police brutality to the cheers of a crowd at an event in Huntsville, to Tuesday’s election of the twice-remove jurist Roy Moore, an avowed bigot against Muslims and gay people, as the Republican nominee for Session’s former senate seat, there is little about which citizens of the Yellowhammer State can take any pride.

But Alabama’s biggest shame lies with its public education systems. Already among the worst-performing among the generally low-performing super-clusters within American public education, Alabama’s districts seem bent on suspending and arresting as many Black children as possible. That’s the only conclusion that can be reached from a Dropout Nation analysis of data submitted by the state to the U.S. Department of Education.

Black children account for six out of every 10 children arrested or referred to juvenile justice systems by traditional districts in Alabama in 2013-2014, according to data from the Civil Rights Data Collection. This is in spite of the fact that Black children make up just 33.4 percent of the statewide student population. White children account for a mere three out of every 10 kids arrested (29.7 percent) that year, even though they account for 57 percent of children attending Alabama schools.

One thousand five hundred eighty-five Black children were either arrested at school or referred to juvenile justice systems in 2013-2014, according to data in the Civil Rights Data Collection. While that equates out to six-tenths of one percent of all Black children attending school in the state, that percentage four times higher than the one-tenth of one percent rate of arrest and referrals for their White schoolmates (of which a mere 750 were either arrested or referred to courts that year).

Disgraced jurist-turned-Republican senatorial nominee Roy Moore is just the most-prominent disgrace for the Yellowhammer State. Its schools do even worse.

Being arrested or referred to courts, of course, are just two of the consequences poor and minority children can face as a result of adults in schools over-disciplining children. Most children are subjected to other harsh forms of punishment, often for behavior that can be addressed through other means, especially by addressing illiteracy and other learning issues.

Districts and other school operators in Alabama meted one or more out-of-school suspensions to 32,706 Black children in 2013-2014. That equals out to 13.2 percent of all Black children attending school that year. That rate is double the 6.9 percent statewide average, and the 3.8 percent out-of-school suspension rate meted out to White peers. Again, Black children account for six out of every 10 children suspended from school despite making up barely a third of the state school population, while White peers account for only three out of every 10 children suspended.

Districts mete out corporal punishment — yes, spankings — to 6,055 Black children in 2013-2014. Put simply, 2.4 percent of Black children were given the kinds of harsh punishments normally reserved for parents (who researchers argue also shouldn’t spank children, either). That’s just slightly higher than the 2.2 percent rate for all children in the state, and the 2.2 percent rate for White peers. Corporal punishment is one of the few areas in which White children are more-likely to suffer more; they made up seven out of every 10 children spanked that year, versus four out of every ten Black peers. Altogether, 16,223 children in regular classrooms were spanked in 2013-3014, making Alabama the third most-permissive state (after Mississippi and Arkansas) in that category.

An even harsher punishment meted out by Alabama districts comes in the form of restraints (children being tied up) and seclusion (also known to prison inmates as solitary confinement). Both practices are used by districts in their discipline of children condemned to special ed ghettos. But even Alabama children in regular classrooms get subjected to this harsh discipline. Especially if they are Black.

Black children accounted for three out of every four children in regular classrooms restrained and secluded by districts in 2013-2014; that’s 76 percent of the 648 children restrained and sent into solitary confinement that year. Again, this despite the fact that they account for a mere 33 percent of all children in schools statewide. White children account for just one out of every five kids (20 percent) restrained and secluded.

Districts subjected 490 Black children in regular classrooms to restraints and seclusion in 2013-2014. That’s two tenths of one percent of all Black kids in the state. But that rate is higher than the 87-hundredths of one percent rate for all children statewide and the three-hundredths of one percent rate for White peers.

Put simply and succinctly: When a child is disciplined in an Alabama school, it is usually the descendant of enslaved Black people.

Certainly given the political climate of the state, none of the results are shocking. But the issues go beyond politicians who have tangential relationships to public schools.

Little has changed educationally for Black children in Alabama since the day of Bull Connor and the Birmingham Campaign.

Two years ago, a federal court judge ruled that Birmingham’s traditional district, along with the city’s police department, were unconstitutionally using pepper spray and other so-called nonlethal weapons on children who posed no threat of violence. Some 110 incidents of pepper-spraying (involving 300 children) occurred in the district since 2006, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in that lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of eight students sprayed with Freeze +P. [The tort is under appeal.]

Another district, Dothan City Schools, was forced to overhaul its discipline policies last year after it was revealed that Black children accounted for all of its expulsions in 2015-2016, and 85 percent of those suspended and disciplined through other means. Half of all out-of-school suspensions in the district were meted out at three predominantly-black elementary schools. In one particular incident mentioned in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education, the district meted out a month-long out-of-school suspension to a seven-year-old Black boy with medical issues with his bladder and no previous history of misbehavior after wetting his pants; his teacher wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom and threatened to lower his grade because of frequent trips to the restroom.

Meanwhile Alabama’s districts has been on the national radar for its overuse of harsh school discipline. It was ranked fourth in the nation for meting out high levels of out-of-school suspensions on young Black men and boys (based on 2011-2012 data), according to the Civil Rights Project at UCLA; young Black men made up 36 percent of all boys and young men suspended  one or more times by Yellowhammer State districts despite making up far less of the student population; white men and boys only made up 12 percent of those suspended one or more times. Alabama also ranked fifth in the nation for suspending young Black women; they made up 23 percent of all young women suspended versus a mere six percent of white female counterparts.

One of the problems lies with the fact that Alabama is one of 15 states that explicitly allows teachers and school leaders to spank and otherwise administer corporal punishment on children. Such leeway essentially means that adults who are charged with the care of children often end up spanking kids as a tool to keep them in line. This despite decades of evidence that corporal punishment is more-likely to make children misbehave than help them manage themselves and their behavior.

Another problem lies with the state’s school discipline code. Seclusion was long prohibited by the state. But by 2011, districts were allowed to put children in solitary confinement so long as the space was unlocked “appropriately lighted,” “appropriately ventilated”, and an adult is there to monitor the child. While the state officially bars mechanical restraints, districts still manage to violate those prohibitions, with nearly all of them being Black.

Meanwhile districts in Alabama have a tendency to focus on minor incidents of student misbehavior that can be addressed through other means. Disruptive behavior, defiance, disorderly conduct, profanity and “disruptive demonstrations” account for 57 percent of incidents reported by Autauga County’s traditional district in 2013-2014, according to Dropout Nation‘s analysis of data from the state’s department of education. Such focus on minor incidents is particularly troublesome for Black children because data shows that they are more-likely to be suspended in such cases than their White peers. As John Wallace of the University of Pittsburgh showed in his  2008 study on referrals to dean’s offices, young black men in 10th grade are 30 percent more-likely to be sent to dean’s offices for punishment than their white male peers — and 330 percent more-likely to be suspended afterwards than white counterparts.

But this isn’t shocking. At the heart of the overuse of harsh school discipline in Alabama (as well as in the rest of America) is the belief that only some children are worthy of receiving high-quality education. This can be seen in other indicators — including the fact that only 7.5 percent of Black seventh- and eighth-graders in the Yellowhammer State receive Algebra 1 courses needed for success in college and career, a rate far lower than the already abysmal 10.3 percent rate for the state as a whole (and the 11.7 percent for White peers). The use of harsh school discipline is less about the children than about the adults making the decisions. And in nearly all cases, school operators in Alabama use harsh school discipline as ways to excuse themselves from dealing with the learning issues of the children they are supposed to serve.

When districts are suspending and disciplining 16 percent of Black children year after year, they are guaranteeing that those children will not learn, will fall behind academically, and will end up in poverty and prison. When the adults working in those districts are treating Black children in their care like criminals, they also teach adults outside of schools to do the same. What is clear in Alabama is that many teachers and school leaders think Black children aren’t supposed to learn. Which is sadly reflective of the bigotry the politicians in that state believe of anyone who isn’t White or Christian.

There are plenty of solutions to this problem, many of which have been outlined in previous essays and analyses on these pages. Given the resistance of the Trump Administration to advancing reform of school discipline, it will take reformers on the ground as well as advocates on the national to address these issues. Most importantly, though, ending this form of educational abuse requires changing the hearts and minds of those who work in the schools that serve Alabama’s Black children. That is a long-term fight that we must do. Especially in Alabama.

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St. Louis Fails Black Kids

On Friday, Black and Brown children in St. Louis learned, thanks to Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson, that a police officer can get away with murder and planting evidence even…

On Friday, Black and Brown children in St. Louis learned, thanks to Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson, that a police officer can get away with murder and planting evidence even if he is caught and admits to doing both. More importantly, they learned that their own lives, and that of their parents, don’t matter at all.

That day, they were told about the other murders of young Black men and others by rogue cops that have happened in America. Including the 2014 slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson by now-former police officer Darren Wilson, for which justice will never come. They learned that justice doesn’t happen for people like them.

Then during the weekend, they saw their parents and other caring adults (including an elderly woman) arrested, tear-gassed, and assaulted by cops because of their protests against the verdict, which allowed former police officer Jason Stockley to get away with his 2011 murder of Anthony Lamar Smith.

They heard cops say “Whose streets? Our streets” as they arrested citizens who pay their salaries. They listened to acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole declare with pride that “Police owned tonight”. They learned that Mike Faulk of the Post-Dispatch was arrested, tear-gassed, with a foot on his head, because he did his job.

For Black children at Kirkwood High and other schools in the St. Louis area, protests aren’t just for the murder of young Black men by cops on city streets. [Photo courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio.]

They learned that as far as their local and state governments are concerned, their constitutional rights to free speech, assembly, and protest are meaningless. Because they are Black and Brown.

They found out that the protection of rogue policing is more-important than the lives of the people who are supposed to protected and served by law enforcement. Again, because they are Black and Brown.

They now realize that they must stand up and advocate as earlier generations have to ensure that the promises of liberty and freedom granted by the Founding Fathers are continuously extended to them and their kin. These lessons, by the way, are being learned by Black and other minority children elsewhere in America.

Which is why we must be gladdened by the news yesterday that teens at three local high schools — Kirkwood, Webster Groves and University City — walked out of their schools to protest the Stockley verdict.

But they were also protesting because of what has long been happening in the traditional districts they attend. Facts that can be seen in the most-recent statistics submitted by districts in the St. Louis area to the U.S. Department of Education.

As reformers, we must be as fierce for children in St. Louis as the men and women who have taken on rogue policing this week.

There’s the fact that in 2011-2012, the most-recent year available, the St. Louis District meted out one or more out-of-school suspensions to 31.9 percent of Black children under its care. [Your editor says most-recent because St. Louis never submitted its 2013-2014 Office for Civil Rights data to the federal government.] This rate is higher than the 28.3 percent of all children suspended district-wide, and the atrocious 15.1 percent of their White peers. Even worse, seven Black children were referred to law enforcement (and thus, put on the path to juvenile justice systems) by the district, a punitive step that wasn’t done to children from other backgrounds.

Black children in St. Louis are less-likely to be provided the college-preparatory courses they need for lifelong success.

Just 9.1 percent of Black high schoolers in the district took Advanced Placement Courses in 2011-2012. This is lower than the 13 percent rate district-wide and the 26.7 percent rate for White high school students. Just 3.6 percent of Black high school students took calculus, trigonometry, elementary analysis, analytic geometry, statistics, pre-calculus and other advanced mathematics that year. This is lower than the awful five percent average for the district as a whole and the low 10.5 percent rate for White classmates in the district.

What the St. Louis district is doing to children is unacceptable and immoral. But it isn’t the only one committing educational abuse and condemning Black children to the school-to-prison pipeline.

In the Kirkwood district, the epicenter of yesterday’s protest, officials meted out-of-school suspensions to 7.3 percent of Black children in the district. That’s three times the district-wide average of 2.3 percent and seven times the mere one percent of White students suspended. Just 22.1 percent of Black children took calculus and other advanced mathematics, a rate lower than the 26.8 percent district-wide average, and the 28.3 percent rate for White peers. Just 12.3 percent of Black high school students took AP courses, lower than the 26.9 percent rate district-wide and the 31 percent rate for White high schoolers.

The University City district meted out-of-school suspensions to 17.6 percent of Black children in 2011-2012. That is higher than the 15.6 percent average for the district, and the 4.5 percent rate for White students. Just 14 percent of Black high schoolers took advanced math, lower than the 17.7 percent rate district-wide and the 42 percent rate for White high school students. Just 5.1 percent of Black high schoolers — 37 of them — took AP courses, lower than the awfully low 9.2 percent district-wide average and the rate of 38.6 percent for White high schoolers.

Meanwhile the Webster Groves district meted out-of-school suspensions to 7.2 percent of Black students. That’s three times higher than the 2.5 percent average for the district overall, and the 1.3 percent suspension rate for White students. -[The district arrested or had referred to juvenile court equal numbers of Black and White kids that year. Twelve altogether.]  A mere 6.8 percent of Black high school students (23 Black children) took calculus and other advanced math courses, a rate far lower than the 20.5 percent rate district-wide and the rate of 25 percent for White high schoolers. Only 5.6 percent of Black high schoolers (19 teenagers) took AP courses, three times lower than the district-wide rate of 17.9 percent and the rate of 21.6 percent for White high school students.

These numbers aren’t shocking. As Dropout Nation reported just after the Ferguson protests three years ago, the Ferguson-Florissant district is also notorious for shortchanging Black children of high-quality education, overusing harsh traditional forms of school discipline, and turning schools into police zones. This includes arresting or referring to juvenile court two percent of its students — 268 children — in 2011-2012, as well as meting out-of-school suspensions to 13.3 percent of all students (including 15 percent of Black children) in the district.

Another awful district is the one in Normandy, whose academic malpractice has essentially made it something other than an educational going concern, meted out-of-school suspensions to 28.6 percent of children (including 28.9 percent of Black students) left in its care in 2011-2012. Just 12 high school students, all but two of them Black, took AP courses that year (that’s eight-tenths of one percent of the district’s high schoolers); another 52 students (including 46 Black children) took calculus, trigonometry and other advanced math that year, which means only 3.5 percent took those courses.

The good news, at least for some Black children and others, is that there are some high-quality charter schools from which they can flee the worst traditional public education in the district offers. But with only 52 open in the entire state, there aren’t enough for children to flee. Expanding school choice should be on the list for Missouri’s state leaders to do on the education front. This doesn’t just include adding charters or even launching a voucher program. Ending the gatekeeping of high-quality education within districts, which starts with teachers and guidance counselors keeping poor and minority children out of gifted-and-talented programs, would go a long way to increase the learning they need and deserve. Reformers nationally can support efforts in St. Louis and other communities to make these opportunities a reality.

Even with a massive expansion of high-quality choice, the need to address the overuses of harsh school discipline would remain. That is a problem. What happens in our schools ends up in our streets. When districts overuse harsh school discipline, they teach law enforcement outside schools that poor and minority children are only criminals. The lawlessness of police departments in the St. Louis area — and the evil they have shown toward the black people who live their and pay their wages — is mirrored by the unwillingness of those working within its schools to provide all kids with high-quality education. With the Trump Administration all but abandoning the previous administration’s efforts to end overuse of harsh discipline, reformers in St. Louis are teaming up with Black Lives Matter activists to push for better alternatives. Reformers in the rest of the nation should do the same — and even give allies in St. Louis a helping hand.

Our children in St. Louis deserve better lessons than the ones taught by courts and cops over the past few days. They also deserve high-quality education and to be able to go to school without worrying targeted as miscreants in the places that are their second homes.

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Maryland’s Educational Shame

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, this publication has long taken the Old Line State’s political and educational leaders to task for continually and deliberately deceiving everyone about its…

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, this publication has long taken the Old Line State’s political and educational leaders to task for continually and deliberately deceiving everyone about its educational malpractice. This has including catching them excluding children with Limited English Proficiency and those condemned to special education ghettos from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in order to burnish the Old Line State’s Lake Woebegone reputation; as well as condemning the state legislature earlier this year for effectively eviscerating accountability in order to keep Gov. Larry Hogan and his appointees on the state board of education from actually holding districts and schools accountable for educational abuse.

But one of Maryland’s worst sins when it comes to educating children is one that is quite familiar in other parts of the nation: The rationing of college-preparatory learning, especially higher-level mathematics, that children need in order to succeed in higher education and in their adult lives. As an analysis of data reported by the state to the U.S. Department of Education reveals, the Land of Crab Cakes continuously shortchanges youth, especially those from poor and minority households.

Just 29.7 percent of Maryland’s high schoolers — a mere 75,126 children — took calculus, pre-calculus, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, and elementary analysis in 2013-2014, according to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights data collection. Put simply, only three in 10 high schoolers in the Old Line State were provided with the advanced mathematics necessary for graduation from the traditional colleges, technical schools and apprenticeship programs that make up American higher education.

The good news, in theory, is that the numbers are higher than the 23.8 percent of high schoolers taking advanced mathematics in 2011-2012. But as you would expect, those numbers get even worse — and the inequities more stark — once you break the numbers down by demographics.

Black children in high schools are shortchanged the worst. Just 17.9 percent of them — that’s little more than one in eight students — took calculus and other advanced mathematics in 2013-2014, far below the statewide average, though higher than the 15.3 percent of Black high schoolers taking such coursework two years earlier.  Latinos fared little better, with just 21.7 percent (or one out of every five) taking advanced math. This is still better than the 17.4 percent who took advanced math in the same period two years earlier.

Asian children fared the best in getting college-preparatory math, with 54.7 percent (one out of every two) students taking advanced math; that’s far better than the 47 percent who took advanced math in 2011-2012. One out of every three White children — 37.5 percent — took advanced math that year; that’s better than 30.7 percent two years past.

The problem extends beyond those classes to participation in Advanced Placement courses which have proven to be crucial in helping children, especially those from poor and minority households, prepare for success in higher education and beyond.

Twenty seven-point-two percent of Maryland’s high school students — one out of every four — took AP courses in 2013-2014. That’s just 69,085 students that year. The good news is that this is slightly more than the 25 percent of high schoolers taking AP in 2011-2012.

The shortchanging also looms large when you break things down by race and ethnicity. Just 16 percent of the state’s Black high-schoolers (one in eight) took AP courses that year; this is a nine-tenths of one percent drop over levels two years earlier. A mere 21.1 percent of Latino peers took AP; that’s an eight-tenths of one percent increase over the previous period. Both numbers are abysmally low compared to other peers. Some 51.7 percent of Asian students took AP courses in 2013-2014, a five-tenths of one percent increase over 2011-2012; while 34.4 percent of White students taking AP coursework, a four percentage point increase in the same period.

What about Algebra 1 course-taking at the middle school level, a key way of helping children get ready for the rigors of higher education down the road? As you already expect, Maryland’s public education systems are also falling behind on that front.

Just 22.7 percent of the state’s seventh- and eighth-graders took Algebra 1 in 2013-2014. That’s a seven percentage point drop from levels two years earlier. Sixteen-point-four of Black middle-schoolers took Algebra 1 that year, a 10 percentage point drop from levels two years before; while only 19 percent of Latino peers took the coursework, a six percentage point drop over that period. Black and Latino children aren’t the only ones being shortchanged. Some 37 percent of Asian middle-school students took Algebra 1, a 15 percentage point increase, while 26.5 percent of White peers took the math course, a 1.3 percentage point decline over levels two years ago.

The Maryland General Assembly has continuously proven to be opposed to any kind of systemic reform on behalf of poor and minority children.

No wonder why a mere 13 percent of Black and 32 percent of Latino children in the state’s Class of 2017 met ACT’s benchmarks for college-readiness versus 64 percent of Asian and 58 percent of White peers.

What we have in Maryland is what Contributing Editor Michael Holzman calls an educational caste system, one that reflects the legacies of slavery, nativism, and Jim Crow segregation that is at the heart of America’s Original Sin. But it isn’t simply about the past. The Old Line State’s political and educational leaders are making decisions in real time that essentially deny opportunities for all children to gain the knowledge they need to succeed once they reach adulthood.

Nothing in the state’s proposed plan for meeting federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act mentions how it will work to increase access to advanced math and AP courses, especially to Black and Latino children. The state is also silent on how it will require districts and other school operators to help children gain entry into those courses through high-quality curricula and teaching in the elementary grades or how it will end the gatekeeping of gifted-and-talented programs that often keep out poor and minority children.

That the Democrat-controlled state legislature has weakened the ability of the state education department to hold districts accountable for how they serve children, a move done as much to please the National Education Association’s Old Line State affiliate as to weaken the Republican Hogan’s control over education policy, now means that another generation of Black and Brown kids will end up on the path to poverty and prison. That the legislature’s Black caucus was complicit in this move (as were state board leaders through their unwillingness to call up Black reformers in the state who could have helped them out) is especially shameful.

Meanwhile the continued opposition to expanding public charter schools and other forms of choice, which could open up high-quality opportunities for Black and Latino children served poorly by traditional districts, remains the norm. While Maryland has made some progress on that front two years ago by passing a law creating the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students (which now serves 1,900 children from poor households), the state has all but stifled the expansion of charters.

Another way to expand opportunity for poor-and-minority kids also remains untapped: Providing them with free access to AP courses. Particularly for poor families, the $15 cost for each AP course taken is a roadblock to the opportunities their children can access to move out of economic destitution. But neither the legislature nor Gov. Hogan have addressed this problem when they can clearly do so. Districts could also find ways to provide AP to the children in its care — as well as use advice from the Education Trust on how to support them (as well as teachers and school leaders) in achieving success. There is little interest in doing so.

It is high time for Maryland’s political and educational leaders to stop shortchanging children of the college-preparatory education they need for their success as well as that of the state as a whole. There’s no reason why this is happening — and it must stop.

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Virginia Fails Black Kids

It was seemingly appropriate that White Supremacists marched down on the campus of the University of Virginia last Friday as part of the mayhem and terror they would eventually wage…

It was seemingly appropriate that White Supremacists marched down on the campus of the University of Virginia last Friday as part of the mayhem and terror they would eventually wage against Black people and other minorities. The long march for equality and democracy in America goes through the schoolhouse door in Virginia as much as in any other state.

While Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state legislative leaders can condemn the bigotry of the Unite the Right participants (as well as the words of the current President of the United States), neither they nor us should forget that there is a reason why they came to Virginia in the first place. It isn’t just because of some statue of Robert E. Lee. The last gasp of legal Jim Crow took place in Virginia, when that state’s government replied to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown with “massive resistance” to school integration. The Old Dominion’s politicians of the time were so opposed to providing equal education (as understood at the time) to Black children that they shut down entire school districts.

The good news is that some things have changed. The bad news? Some things have remained pretty much the same.

Virginia’s Department of Education publishes “School Quality Profiles” on the Internet, easily searchable by school or “division” (district).  These profiles include the percentage of students tested as achieving proficiency in reading, math, science and social studies.  The results are impressive – if you take them on face value.

For example, the Virginia Department of Education judges that 76 percent of eighth grade students are proficient or advanced in reading.  The state broke this down to 84 percent of White, non-Hispanic, students reaching the proficient or advanced level in grade 8 reading during the 2016-17 school year, as did 59 percent of Black students. The 25-percentage-point gap is troubling, but it is nonetheless encouraging that the state’s public schools teach more than half of its Black students to read at the level expected for middle school students.

Decades after Harry Byrd Sr. and his cohorts fought integration and Brown v. Board of Education, the Old Dominion engages in a new form of massive resistance against educating Black children.

But do they?

We can perform a direct comparison at the state level between student learning as assessed and reported by the Department of Education of Virginia and the National Assessment of Educational Progress results for eighth grade reading for the state. NAEP is widely considered “the gold standard” of student assessments.  If there is a difference between assessments, NAEP is to be preferred.

NAEP’s most recent report on grade eight reading for Virginia show that by its standard 44 percent of White students are proficient and above as are 16 percent of Black students.  This indicates that Virginia’s assessments at grade eight for proficiency in reading for White, non-Hispanic, students should be divided in half, those for Black students should be divided by nearly four.

We might, at this point, observe that inflating student learning achievement in this manner is not useful for the students, who are being given the impression that they have skills that half or three-quarters of them do not in fact possess; nor for educators, who look to these assessments for guidance for their efforts; nor for the state legislature and governor, who might wish to use these assessments in their budgetary and other planning.

As a result of these distortions, students may have false expectations for their futures; teachers may base their lesson plans on an incorrect understanding of the tasks to be accomplished; and district administrations and boards of education, as well as the state government, may not appropriate and allocate resources effectively.

Prince Edward County, once an epicenter of Virginia’s opposition to integration, now primarily educates Black children. Badly.

As a matter of fact, in regard to how scarce resources are allocated, Virginia ranks 29th among the states in per pupil expenditures on education and 42nd on expenditures in relation to personal income. These are indications of the state’s commitment, or lack of commitment, to education. Virginia shows a similar lack of investment in the provision of preschool education, for which, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, it ranks 29th for both access and spending

As far as educational opportunity is concerned, many schools in Virginia distribute opportunities quite inequitably to their students, basing them first on race, then in accordance with family income.  In regards to race, White students are nearly three times as likely to be taught to read proficiently in Virginia’s middle schools as are Black students.

But, it is not enough in Virginia for a student to be White to secure a good education.  It is necessary also to belong to a family that is not poor.  Using the NAEP standards, we find that White students from Virginia families living in or near poverty, and therefore eligible for the National Lunch Program, read at grade level at eighth grade just 20 percent of the time, while other White students, from more prosperous families, read at grade level more than twice as often: 51 percent of the time.

These inequities are compounded for Virginia’s Black students: only 12 percent of those eligible for the National Lunch Program read at or above the proficient level, while twice as many, 25 percent, of those from more prosperous families do so.

The decision by White Supremacists to protest in Charlottesville had less to do with a statue and more with the reminder of Virginia’s legacy of perpetuating the racism they prefer.

A White student from a comparatively prosperous family in Virginia is more than four times as likely to be brought to grade level in eighth grade reading than a Black student from a lower-income family.  A Black student from a comparatively prosperous family in Virginia is more likely to read at or above grade level at eighth grade than a White student eligible for the National Lunch Program. And even an above-average family income is not sufficient to secure three-quarters of affluent Black students the opportunity to read proficiently in middle school.

Virginia has undergone enormous, and accelerating, changes in the decades since Brown and the state’s “massive resistance” to desegregation and educational equity.  It has changed from a uniformly, nearly feudal society, steeped in the heritage of slavery, to one that is highly varied, in parts still agricultural, in others technology-based with a majority of residents who have relocated from the Northeast of the United States.

Educational opportunities are as variable across the state as this picture would indicate. Prince Edward County, in the south-central part of the state, closed its public schools after Brown rather than desegregate them.  The state reports that now 43 percent of the reopened school district’s Black students (who are 57 percent of enrollment) read proficiently in grade 8, which would be 11 percent or 12 percent on the NAEP scale.  The state assessment is of 59 percent for White, non-Hispanic, students, that is, about 30 percent on the NAEP scale.

On the other hand, Fairfax County, in the northern part of the state, a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C., reports 69 percent of Black students (who are just 10 percent of its enrollment) read proficiently by state standards, which would be 19 percent on NAEP, and 81 percent of White, non-Hispanic, which would be 40 percent on NAEP, read at grade level.

Seven decades after Massive Resistance, Virginia still does poorly in providing high quality education to Black children.

In Richmond, the state capitol (and former capitol of the Confederacy), the state reports that 37 percent of Black students (who are 71 percent of enrollment there) and 85 percent of White, non-Hispanic, students read a the proficient or advanced levels, which translate by national standards to 10 percent of Black students and 43 percent of White, non-Hispanic, students: and to 90 percent of Black students who don’t.

It is, then, not unusual in Virginia for a district to fail to bring nearly 90 percent of its Black students to grade level proficiency in middle school by national standards, while succeeding in this fundamental task for 40 percent of its White, non-Hispanic, students. And it is not now unknown for schools in those parts of the state where old times are nearly forgotten to triple learning opportunities for Black students from the level where the traditions of Jim Crow survive.

Black students moving from Prince Edward County or Richmond to Fairfax would nearly double their opportunity to learn to read proficiently. Moving to a suburban Virginia school system would increase the likelihood of learning to read proficiently for a middle class Black student to 30 percent.

Disparate educational outcomes in Virginia are facilitated by two overlapping types of segregation:  racial and income.  Public schools in Richmond, for example, have a Brown University Index of Dissimilarity of 69 on a scale where 60 or above is considered very highly segregated. The average Black student attends a school in which 77 percent of the students come from poor families and 87 percent are Black.  On the other hand, the Fairfax County Public Schools Dissimilarity Index is just 47 and Black students typically attend schools where just 38 percent of their students from poor families.  A reasonable hypothesis would be that differing educational opportunities for Black students between these districts follow from these differences in the intensity of racial and income segregation.

What must now be done in Virginia is ensure that all children are provided high-quality education.

But why is it that the quality of education available to a student varies with that student’s race and family income?  Part of the answer is that expenditure on that student’s education varies with location and the degrees of segregation found there.

Schools in Virginia, as most elsewhere in the United States, are funded by a locally-based tripartite system of revenue from local, state and federal sources.  In Virginia, state funding is higher for districts with lower amounts of local funding (and, as elsewhere, federal funding varies with poverty levels and other special needs).

In Prince Edward County, per pupil expenditure totals $11,300 per year, more than half of which comes from the state, partially compensating for the very low $3,800 per year from local resources.  In Fairfax County, per pupil expenditure totals $14,200 per year, more than 25 percent higher than that provided to Prince Edward County students.  $10,400 of this comes from local sources (close to the total of Prince Edward County’s expenditure), with just $3,200 from state sources and a negligible amount from federal sources.  Almost 60 percent of Prince Edward County’s students are Black, compared to 10 percent of students in Fairfax County’s schools.

Investment in a Black student’s education increases by a quarter if that student moves from Prince Edward County to Fairfax County, both racial and income segregation dramatically decrease and, according to Raj Chetty’s Equality of Opportunity Project, that student’s chances of reaching the top 20 percent of income distribution, given parents in the bottom 20 percent, doubles.

It is high time for Virginia’s politicians, especially outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his successor, to do better by Black children and other vulnerable youth.

Why should total investments in a student’s education, in this increasingly wealthy state, vary with the amount of local taxation revenues? Equalizing per student expenditures across the state to at least the level of Fairfax County would be a major step toward improving educational achievement for Virginia’s students who are the descendants of enslaved Africans, many of whom would have been brought from Africa and sold into slavery by Virginia-based slave traders.

Another factor restricting educational opportunities for Black students in Virginia is the racial attitudes of some school staff.  This can be seen in school discipline data.  Research has convincingly shown that disciplinary actions by school-level staff, such as out-of-school suspensions, are much more dependent on the racial attitudes of teachers and school administrators than on the activities of students.  The latest year for which state-level school discipline data is available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is 2011-12.

In that year, five percent of White students and three times that proportion, 14 percent, of Black students in Virginia and were given at least one out-of-school suspension.  (This is quite close to the 16 percent figure for Black adults in Virginia who have not completed high school and, perhaps coincidentally, the 16 percent percentage of African-Americans in Virginia who live in poverty.) Throwing a student out of class often begins the process by which that student is prevented from completing their education.

Unequal educational opportunities in elementary and secondary schooling in Virginia culminate in large numbers of Black students being denied high school diplomas.  The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate reported by the state for the 2014-15 school year was 79 percent for Black students, but 90 percent for White students. [The graduation rate of Black students in the Richmond schools is 69 percent, that of White students 90 percent. In Fairfax those rates are 82 percent and 95 percent, respectively.] This

This includes more Black children in robotics as well as in other science and technology classes.

Given that only 16 percent of Black students and 44 percent of White students were reading at grade level in 2011, when they were in eighth grade, it appears that 61-63 percent of graduating Black students in Virginia and about half of graduating White students received their diplomas while having serious deficiencies in their reading skills. This is borne out by the fact that just 17 percent of those African-American students who took the SAT in 2015—and only college-bound students would take that test—met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark.

[This is before we consider the lack of opportunities for Black children in the Old Dominion to gain college-preparatory education, the subject of previous Dropout Nation analyses.]

It is not “natural” that the allocation of resources should vary from district to district within Virginia—or any other state—depending on local tax revenues.  More equitable systems are not beyond the keen of human intelligence.  Nor is it “natural”—must one say this?—that educational opportunities should be greater for middle class White students than for Black students from lower income families.

It is good that one or two Virginia school districts and some suburbs offer greater educational opportunities for African-American students than are offered elsewhere in the state, even if these are simply the by-products for relatively small minorities of Black students of increased investments in the educations of upper-middle class White children.

It is good to take symbolic steps to erase the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow.  However, a decision by the governor of Virginia, and its legislature, is needed to change the state’s education system, root and branch, so that educational opportunities are not determined by the color of a student’s skin, by the size of a student’s parents’ bank account, by the location of that student’s school.

Until McAuliffe, his eventual successor, and the state legislature do these things, the responsibility for the lack of educational opportunities for the descendants of enslaved Africans in Virginia remains theirs.

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