New federal data, collected by ED’s Office of Civil
Rights (OCR) and then analyzed by ProPublica, find that low-income and minority
students in America’s schools have unequal access to experienced teachers,
early education, school counselors, and rigorous courses. OCR surveyed 72,000
schools in 7,000 decent-sized districts, grabbing information on AP, science,
and math course offerings and enrollments; ability grouping and tracking;
teacher experience and quality; student demographics; etc. There’s much
important—if sobering—content within this dataset (and the corresponding ProPublica
dataset, which links the OCR data to income). Focusing specifically on access
to rigorous courses, jurisdictions like Maryland, Kansas, and Oklahoma offer
particularly unequal access for wealthy and low-income students. Florida, on
the other hand, enrolls roughly the same percentages of students in AP courses
in its high- and low-income districts. Ohio lands in the middle of the pack.
While its wealthy districts boast AP enrollment around 40 percent, Akron,
Dayton, and Columbus only enroll 7 percent of their students in APs. Questions
of how these data can and will be used by both OCR and others still loom. If
they move from transparency to jawboning and then to enforcement, a backlash
will inevitably follow. But right-thinking people will find these data eye-opening
and, we hope, worth trying to alter.
States Still Leave Low-Income Students Behind; Others Make Surprising Gains,”
by Sharona Coutts and Jennifer LaFleur, ProPublica, June 30, 2011.
Data Shed Light on Education Disparities,” by Nirvi Shah, Education Week, July 1, 2011.
Rights Data Collection, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil
The Opportunity Gap: Is Your State
Providing Equal Access to Education,
ProPublica, June 2011.