Bringing Educational Equity to the Suburbs
“It’s ironic how the one job of a security guard is to keep people safe yet he did the exact opposite for me.” and “I had to fight to make it into Honors and AP courses because no one at the school was looking out for me.”
These are very troubling words from Black and Hispanic students attending some of the most prestigious suburban public schools. Their experiences are echoed in the findings of the latest PCCY report, No More Dreams Deferred: Building an Education System that Works for Black and Hispanic Students in the Philadelphia Suburbs.
The exhaustive research summarized in this report shed a bright light on the longstanding practices that confound the achievement of these young people. The expansive reliance on school security officers results in students of color being disproportionately suspended compared to their White classmates which in turn denies them access to classroom learning. Meanwhile Black and Hispanic students regularly experience roadblocks to enrolling in Honors and Advanced Placement classes and the data bears that out.
The data also illuminates the subtle racial bias in how our schools are funded. The more diverse a school is, the less money it has to educate its students. The difference in funding between the least and most diverse districts amounts to $35,430 per classroom. Shortchanging the most diverse classrooms means they are least likely to have the extra supports that students need to succeed.
These conditions are the reason that there is a persistent and pervasive racial achievement gap in the suburbs. Among the districts, the Math achievement gap between White and Hispanic student performance is 19 percentage points and the difference between Black and White students is an alarming 27 percentage points.
The news isn’t all bad. The racial achievement gap among students enrolled in career and technical education programs was much less pronounced. And, where schools had more funding, Black and Hispanic students performed at higher levels. These two takeaways are evidence that this problem is solvable.
The crux of the report is the recommendations which build on these positive examples and provide a clear pathway for progress.
Yesterday, hundreds of people tuned in as PCCY introduced the report findings. Our partners from the ACLU, NAACP, Black Clergy of Philadelphia, ACLAMO, the Urban League, Black Lives Matters in School, and a cross-section of suburban superintendents and students spoke clearly to what must be done to deliver on the dream of a quality education for every child.
Breaking from the past, the chair of the State Board of Education, declared the racial equity is something that must be addressed in PA. “These are truly statewide problems and they’re happening in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The State Board is in a strategic seat to help address many of the concerns surfaced in this report,” said Karen Farmer White.
You can hear their comments here and read the report and recommendations here.