Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Study: Minority, Low-Income Students Lack Adequate Access to Educational Opportunities

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Study: Minority, Low-Income Students Lack Adequate Access to Educational Opportunities

Article excerpt

Low-income, African-American and Hispanic students continue to face significant disparities in access to quality educational opportunities and resources at the K-12 level - including access to services critical for college success, new data from the U.S. Department of Education show.

The study sample of 7,000 school districts and more than 72,000 schools in the Civil Rights Data Collection says many students have uneven or poor access to rigorous courses at many schools.

"Despite the best efforts of America's educators to bring greater equity to our schools, too many children--especially low-income and minority children--are still denied the educational opportunities they need to succeed," Russlynn Ali, U.S. assistant secretary of education for civil rights, says in a news statement.

Daria Hall, K-12 policy director for The Education Trust, says the data are important even if they are not surprising. "It provides more actionable information on the ground," she says. "It's a tool to empower parents and advocates and a strong vehicle to force conversations."

"The evidence is clear. The single greatest predictor of college success is success in rigorous high school courses," Hall says. She contends that the issue is not only access but success. "Just putting kids in courses with the right title isn't enough. There must be highly trained teachers and school plans to promote success."

The data examine the extent of high-level, college- and career-ready math and science courses at schools as well as the number of school counselors, the number of first- and second-year teachers in schools, availability of pre-kindergarten programs, and the extent of written policies prohibiting harassment and bullying. Among the findings:

Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have teachers with less experience--just one or two years in the profession--compared with schools in the same district that primarily serve White students.

While limited English proficient children are only 6 percent of high school students, they represent 15 percent of those for whom Algebra 1 is the highest-level math course taken in high school. In addition, 3,000 schools serving nearly 500,000 students offer no classes in Algebra 2, a key component of the SAT and other indicators of college readiness.

Only 22 percent of local districts reported offering pre-kindergarten or other early learning programs for low-income children.

Only 2 percent of students with disabilities are taking at least one Advanced Placement course.

With education funding potentially in jeopardy in budget-reduction discussions in Washington, D.C., one leading Democrat said the new study provides a sober reminder of the important federal role in ensuring equal educational opportunity for all students. …

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