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

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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

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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

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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

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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.