This story comes to us from NBC Latino.
Latino and black students are punished more harshly and are suspended at much higher rates than other groups, while having less access to challenging classes and more experienced teachers, according to new first-of-its-kind data released today by the Department of Education.
The Department of Education studied more than 70,000 schools which serve 85 percent of the nation’s students. The report found Latino and black students were 45 percent of the students in districts with “zero-tolerance” expulsion policies, but made up 56 percent of the students who were expelled. Latino students with disabilities were only 21 percent of the students, but they made up 42 percent of the students who were placed in seclusion.
Dr. Pedro Noguera, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University, has been studying for decades how these practices are counterproductive to keeping more Latino teens engaged, educated and in school.
“Too often, we punish the neediest students by denying them learning time,” Dr. Noguera says, adding “the recent data remind us that gaps in student achievement often mirror and are frequently exacerbated by punitive discipline policies.” Dr. Noguera says we must find ways to address underlying issues that cause discipline problems while providing more academic and social support to the nation’s Latino and African American students.
Discipline and punishment, though, were not the only areas where the Department of Education found racial or ethnic differences in the majority of the nation’s schools. The report found disturbing differences in the quality of instruction Latinos and black students received.
Less than 30 percent of schools with large minority populations, for example, offered calculus. Yet calculus was offered in 55 percent of the schools with a largely white population.
And while recent studies have shown the lifelong positive effects of an outstanding teacher, the report found teachers in Philadelphia high-minority neighborhoods made $14,000 less than in predominantly white neighborhoods. In general, the report also found teachers in high-minority neighborhoods were not as experienced.
English-language learners, many of them Latino, made up 6 percent of the students in the districts studied by the Department of Education. Yet 12 percent of students who were retained (made to repeat a school year) were ELL students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said education is the number one civil rights issue of our time, and this report was a “wake up call.” But he also said the real power of this information is not what the numbers show, “but the impact it can have when married with the courage and the will to change” these findings.
Sandra Lilley is a staff reporter with NBC Latino.
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