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The Atlantic has an excellent piece on the divisive nature of education and socio-economic/racial disparity. If you recall, Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been tasked with fixing our education system. Few changes have been made. In New York’s elite Stuyvesant High School, only 1% of the students identify as African-American. This is in New York City, one of the most diverse areas in the United States. Only 1% identify, whereas nearly 17% of students nationally are identified as being African-American.
Clearly, Ms. DeVos has not taken her role seriously. Students are being segregated, not only by color, but primarily by academic ability. As the Atlantic makes clear:
But more troubling, and often less discussed, is the modern-day form of segregation that occurs within the same school through academic tracking, which selects certain students for gifted and talented education (GATE) programs. These programs are tasked with challenging presumably smart students with acceleration and extra enrichment activities. Other students are kept in grade-level classes, or tracked into remedial courses that are tasked with catching students up to academic baselines.
Students who do not score highly enough to be in Gifted and Talented Education are being demoted and tossed into grade-level classes. In cases where they cannot meet grade-level requirements, they are even being tracked into remedial courses! What does DeVos say about this? Nothing.
This institutionalized racism has also tracked students into these lower-capability classes. Instead of putting students of color into advanced placement classes at a racially proportionate rate, they are instead being placed based on achievement. Children of diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds are being disproportionately tracked into standard general education, rather than college-prep or advanced placement.
Black students are regularly excluded from schools’ conceptions of what it means to be gifted, talented, or advanced. There are real, systemic factors that fuel the disparity in access to gifted and specialized education. A history of racist policies, such as housing segregation and unequal funding, means that schools with a high proportion of black students often have resource constraints for specialized programs. Teachers’ biases against black students limit their chances for selective advanced opportunities. Admissions into gifted programs and specialized schools are based on a singular standardized test that often ignores qualifications aligned with a student’s training and does not capture black students’ potential. Minority students, particularly black students, are also often over-policed, which can affect their educational opportunities.
These children are being diverted into these lower-levels of education at an alarming rate due to the locations of their homes. They are being educated according to the resources available at their district; this does not meet the vast resources provided to elite schools where the populations are significantly more melanin-challenged. Additionally, testing does not take into account the unique cultural expressions and needs of minority students. The objective exam does not allow for consideration of extra-curriculars, popularity with authority figures, or ethnic descent. Economic privilege also imparts certain knowledge via experience of the parents. If a parent is well educated, as is often the case in a higher socioeconomic class, the child may advance from the knowledge. An extension could be discussed, rather than a parent saying that a deadline is a deadline and should be adhered to at all costs. This is patently unfair to students from undereducated ethnic minority groups who do not have the privilege to know to ask for an extension or for disciplinary action to be dismissed.
Furthermore, parents of higher-achieving students may actually advocate for their children; they may attend meetings, read school emails, and insist upon interaction with the administration of the school. Perhaps more concerningly, they will advocate for their children even to the detriment of others! This socioeconomic and racial privilege cannot be allowed to continue!
As was so well said:
Despite knowing that doing the best for their children often means leaving other children, often low-income students or students of color, with fewer opportunities, the knowledge doesn’t change their behavior.
These parents will not even change their behaviors! They will continue to do what is best for their own children.
Where does it end?