5 striking facts from new civil rights education data


Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk to preschoolers Dylan Hunt (2nd from right) and Khalil Robinson (R) while they pretend to play doctors in their class at J.O. Wilson Elementry School in Washington D.C. on Friday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

New data released by the federal government on Friday from the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection shows  a lot of what we already know — many minorities don’t have access to high school courses they need for college, for example, and there aren’t enough school counselors — but perhaps the most striking is that black 4 year olds represent 18 percent of the students enrolled in preschool but 48 percent of those who are suspended more than once.

The data was from the 2011-12 school year, and was from schools representing nearly all of the nation’s public school children. Here from the Education Department’s Web site are five striking new facts from the data collection:

*  Access to preschool is not a reality for much of the country. About 40 percent of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.

* Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of preschool students suspended once, and 48 percent of the preschool students suspended more than once.

*Access to courses necessary for college is inequitably distributed. Eighty-one percent of Asian-American high school students and 71 percent of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, fewer than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high schools. Black students (57 percent), Latino students (67 percent), students with disabilities (63 percent), and English learner students (65 percent) also have diminished access to the full range of courses.

*Access to college counselors is uneven. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor.

* Disparities in high school retention. Twelve percent of black students are retained in grade nine – about double the rate that all students are retained (six percent). Additionally, students with disabilities served by IDEA and English learners make up 12 percent and five percent of high school enrollment, respectively, but 19 percent and 11 percent of students held back or retained a year, respectively.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | March 21