(Oakland, CA) According to a report released today by the Applied Research Center, students of color are subjected to racist policies that limit their opportunity to learn and ability to succeed in life. Racial Profiling and Punishment in U.S. Public Schools, outlines how high-stakes testing and excessive security measures subvert academic excellence and racial equity in for students of color in US public schools.
The report is released in conjunction with today’s National Day of Action for Racial Justice in Schools. Eighteen community groups across the country are releasing local reports and engaging in civic action which highlight the need to redirect education policy to proven reforms. Some of the groups involved include the Southwest Organizing Project – Albuquerque, NM; Direct Action for Rights and Equality – Providence, RI; Latinos Unidos Siempre – Salem, OR; Generation Y – Chicago, IL; Californians for Justice – Long Beach, San Diego, and San Jose, CA; and the Colorado Progressive Coalition and Padres Unidos – Denver, CO.
The report calls for the elimination of state exit exams, the repeal of expanded zero tolerance policies, and a new focus on solutions proven to increase the academic achievement of all students, such as small schools and a top-notch teaching corps. The report also recommends that all school districts be required to annually collect and publish key education statistics, disaggregated by race.
"Many school districts and state boards of education either fail to collect or refuse to divulge data broken down by race to parents and advocates," says Tammy Johnson, a co-author of the report. "In order to address racial inequities in education, we need decision makers to be forthright about what is really going on in the classroom."
One example of misplaced funding priorities lies in overcrowded classrooms. At the national level, schools with a majority of students of color are 3.7 times more likely to be severely overcrowded than schools with less than 5 percent students of color. Araceli Huerta, a student leader with Generation Y of Chicago, Illinois, has first hand experience with this.
"My school is very overcrowded. It gets to the point where we have two or three classes going on in the auditorium at one time. We have classes in the hallways. My sophomore year we had 60 students and two teachers in one room."
While classes of Black and Latino students are overflowing and are in need of space and more teachers, the Chicago Public Schools spent over 35 million dollars on school security in the 2000-01 school year.
The assertion that these policies fail to address the needs of students of color is supported in the report by essays from notable academics such as Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford University), Beverly Cross (University of Wisconsin), Michelle Fine and Linda Powell (City University of New York), Russ Skiba (Indiana University) and Peter Leone (University of Maryland) and Linda Mizell (Tufts University). The essays address issues such as teacher quality, small schools, discipline and security measures, and high-stakes testing.
"Fair treatment, full access, and equal opportunity are still rights denied to many students of color in public schools." Says Johnson. "All that’s missing is the political will to prioritize proven reforms such as top-notch teaching and a dedication to creating conducive learning environments though smaller schools and class sizes."
The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.