Despite some signs of progress in lifting minority elementary and middle school student achievement levels, a recent report is comparing the math and reading skills of African-American and Latino high school seniors to 13-year-old white students.
The study, Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps Between Groups: Lessons from Schools and Districts on the Performance Frontier, was conducted by Washington-based non-profit Education Trust. According to the researchers, African-American and Latino students have made little to no progress in 12th grade reading scores since 1994. In addition, the math achievement gap between white and Black students continues to widen.
“Education is supposed to level the playing field,” says Amy Wilkins, vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust. “And it does the opposite … While many people are celebrating our post-racial society ... there is still a significant hangover in our schools.”
The organization cites the following causes for the disparity in performance:
• Lower expectations for students of color
• Growing income inequality and lack of resources in low-income school districts
• Unequal access to experienced teachers
• An increased number of “out of field” teachers instructing minority students in subjects outside their area of expertise
• “Unconscious bias” by teachers and administrators.
School advocates say students of color are less likely to be given advanced-level coursework and are frequently met with lowered expectations from teachers and administrators. According to the study, students in low-income schools are more likely to be given an “A” for work that would receive a “C” in a more affluent school. The research from Education Trust also asserts that more white high school graduates were enrolled in college prep courses than were their African-American, Latino and Native American counterparts.
“African-Americans and Hispanics have been denied access to the more rigorous courses,” John Capozzi, principal of Elmont (N.Y.) Memorial Junior-Senior High School, told New America Media. All students “should be thrown into vigorous classes” and set on a path to academic and career success, he said.
Capozzi, whose school is majority African-American and Latino, said he believes providing minority students a more challenging academic environment is a civil rights issue.
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