Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?

While the credibility of challenges leveled at the current education reform agenda—such as commitments to Common Core or the rise of “no excuses” charter schools—is often called into question throughout social and mainstream media, I see little to no questioning of political mantras of education crisis, utopian expectations for schools, and the consistent refrain of education reform being the civil rights issue of our time.

In fact, even reports coming from the USDOE show that if education reform is the civil rights issue of our time, the policies are certainly not doing what is needed to combat the demonstrable failures of the public school system.

Problem #1: Discipline in schools remains incredibly inequitable by race:

Disparate Discipline Rates and Arrests and Referrals to Law Enforcement

Disparate Discipline Rates and Arrests and Referrals to Law Enforcement

[click to enlarge]

Problem #2: Discipline in schools is inequitable by gender, complicating inequity by race:

Discipline Boys vs. Girls and A Look at Race and Gender: Out-of-School Suspensions

Discipline Boys vs. Girls and A Look at Race and Gender: Out-of-School Suspensions

[click to enlarge]

Problem #3: Access to advanced courses and retention rates are inequitable by race:

GandT.suspension

Access to Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Programs and Retention Rates

[click to enlarge]

Problem #4: Teacher assignment and compensation are inequitable by race:

Teacher Assignments: First and Second Year Teachers and Teacher Salary Differences

Teacher Assignments: First and Second Year Teachers and Teacher Salary Differences

[click to enlarge]

Problem #5: School discipline policies such as zero tolerance policies are racially inequitable and parallel to the current era of mass incarceration disproportionately impacting African American males:

There is abundant evidence that zero tolerance policies disproportionately affect youth of color. Nationally, black and Latino students are suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white students. Among middle school students, black youth are suspended nearly four times more often than white youth, and Latino youth are roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled than white youth. And because boys are twice as likely as girls to receive these punishments, the proportion of black and Latino boys who are suspended or expelled is especially large.  Nationally, nearly a third (31 percent) of black boys in middle school were suspended at least once during the 2009–10 school year. Part of this dynamic is that under-resourced urban schools with higher populations of black and Latino students are generally more likely to respond harshly to misbehavior. (p. 3)

As I have stated before, if education reform is the civil rights issue of our time, federal and state reform agendas would end zero tolerance policies, eradicate “no excuses” ideologies, and stop retention practices—as well as address the measurable inequities by race, class, and gender marring public schools in the U.S.

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18 thoughts on “Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?

  1. You have made clear a very real problem with discipline in schools. I am a second year teacher with a classroom made up of black/Hispanic/Asian. The information you have presented will allow me to look at the overall discipline in my school, but also my own practices as a teacher in which students are being disciplined most often and why.

    The problem with having newer teachers in schools like mine is that the very. Students who need experienced teachers don’t get them because of the pressure in teachers to produce numbers. These students of mine are not able to produce their knowledge on standardized tests for multiple reasons. Teachers will leave this situation for others without the discipline problems as soon as they can- or will not be renewed.

    I see the intelligence of my students, but if I cannot reach them because of behavior, absence, attitude, very little learning can take place. I am willing to work with my students, but I can see how burnout quickly becomes a factor, and it might be easier to send troublemakers out instead of working to find out why the students is seeking so much attention in the first place.
    Thanks for the stats. Well-presented and clear. I will follow your further writings.

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