Thursday, July 10, 2014
The Education Trust has released The State of Education for African American Students for 2014. It finds widespread opportunity gaps deprive African Americans of many of the school resources and experiences that contribute to academic success. This gap causes African American students’ performance to continue to fall far behind that of white students. The issue manifests itself not only in the lack of courses and experiences available to African American students (fifteen percent of African American high school student attend schools that do not offer any AP courses in the math, English, science, or social studies), but also in the disproportionate way such opportunities are taken away. For instance, African American students are far more likely to be removed from the classroom for extended periods through suspension and expulsion. The report also notes variances across jurisdictions. While “[n]o state is performing as well as it should be African American students . . . wide variations in performance across states show that what states do matters.” Even within states, the variations between different school districts can be drastic, with certain schools “educating African American students to high levels of achievement” and other districts falling short.
The report is not all bad news. It acknowledges progress. In the last twenty years, the number ofAfrican American students who lacked basic proficiency in math and reading has fallen drastically, while “the percentage of students performing at a proficient or advanced level more than doubled in fourth-grade reading and has increased sevenfold in eighth-grade math. These improvements, however, do not change the fundamental reality of inequality. African Americans are still “about two and a half times as likely as white students to lack basic skills and only about one-third as likely to be proficient or advanced.” Likewise, although the percentage of students taking the ACT, SAT and AP exams has risen, their performance continues to lag far behind that of their white peers. Only five percent of African American students pass their AP exams or meet the ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks as compared with the sixty-one percent of white students who pass AP exams and a third meeting college-readiness standards.