A new report appeared earlier this week that shows stark disparities along racial and ethnic lines in our country’s public schools. The new report from the Department of Education includes data from the 2009-2010 school year.
The New York Times reported from the study:
Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions.
One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Overall, black, students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers.
Over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or law enforcement referrals were Hispanic or black.
Additionally, the data showed all kinds of disparities in areas other than discipline. For example, schools with higher numbers of black and Hispanic students had fewer advanced academic offerings, lower average teacher pay, and teachers with less average experience.
Given these statistics, what must we do?
1. Improve teacher preparation and effectiveness
2. Build a durable bridge between parents, community and school
3. Select teachers for their ability to love and connect with all children
4. Devise incentives for best teachers to work in the schools that need them most
5. Give parents and children incentives to love learning and school
PUSH Excel has an excellent program of family engagement in public schools. More than 200,000 parents have taken the pledge to get to know their child’s teacher before there is a problem and to communicate frequently, honestly and openly with schools. Children tend to perform and behave up to parental expectations.
My parents were school teachers. They loved their work. They loved their pupils, who were all black and mostly low-income. Our study of this issue should not focus on child-centered factors such as poverty, family composition, race, ethnicity, to the extent that we ignore or exclude the other half of the equation. What characteristics do the most effective teachers share? What does it take to be culturally competent to teach all children? How does unconscious bias manifest itself? In order to solve this problem, we must solve on both sides of the equation – children and their teachers.