March 21, 2014: The report released today from the U.S. Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights -- detailing data collected from the 2011-2012 school year gathered from all public schools and school districts, contains [emphases ours, see also) what the DOE terms "five striking new facts":
- Access to preschool is not a reality for much of the country. About 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
- Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of preschool students suspended once, and 48% of the preschool students suspended more than once.
- Access to courses necessary for college is inequitably distributed. 81% of Asian-American high school students and 71% of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, fewer than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan* high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high schools. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English learner students (65%) also have diminished access to the full range of courses.
On EdWeek's Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuk pulled a 6th contender for this list: In one startling finding, nearly 7% percent of black students attended schools where more than 20% of teachers hadn't yet met all state certification requirements. That figure was more than four times higher than for white students (1.5%) and more than twice as high than for Latino students (3%).
- Access to college counselors is uneven. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor. (As Caitlin Emma calculates in Politico's Morning Education, that's "700,000 students without support.")
- Disparities in high school retention. 12% of black students are retained in grade nine – about double the rate that all students are retained (6%). Additionally, students with disabilities served by IDEA and English learners make up 12% and 5% of high school enrollment, respectively, but 19% and 11% of students held back or retained a year, respectively.
*Geographic realities also exist in many regions of the country. For example, as Caitlin Emma reported on Politico's Morning Education:
[While only 56% of Alaskan high schools offered algebra]... a state department of education spokesman pointed out that Alaska has many tiny rural schools with just one or two teachers serving kindergartners through high school seniors. “It’s not surprising you’re not going to get calculus,” Eric Fry said. He said schools were beginning to offer online courses to fill those gaps.
Another critique came from Georgia.
The federal report found that barely half of Georgia’s high schools offered geometry; just 66 percent offered Algebra I.
Those data are just plain wrong, said Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the Department of Education. The state requires Algebra I, geometry and Algebra II for graduation, so all high schools have to offer the content — but they typically integrate the material into courses titled Math 1, 2, 3 and 4, Cardoza said. He surmised that some districts checked “no” on the survey because their course titles didn’t match the federal labels, even if the content did.