This week has been both overwhelming and electrifying at the same time. For starters, I traveled to four different US states, and I celebrated a birthday. I also had the opportunity to attend the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts’ annual convention in St. Louis. Actually, I did not just attend, I presented, learned a great deal, and I made some amazing connections. All of that seems like a great time (outside of the hours spent traveling), so what has me pissed off? Neither of those things, the trips or the conference, addressed my frustration. However, during my travels I was reminded of the racial disparities within schools during a meeting with educational leader at a conference. The group was brought together to discuss diversity related topics and the conversation quickly lead to the current, “Shame of the Nation,” the disparities in traditional schooling and the lack of cultural responsiveness in classrooms.
What’s the Problem?
Educators and school-based mental health professionals alike have thoroughly researched racial disparities within the education system. Historically, educators have discussed the “Achievement gap,” the discrepancy between Black and White student’s scores on standardized tests. There is also a discipline gap in this nation, meaning school systems punish Black and Latino children at a higher rate than White children. Black and Latino children also receive harsher punishments than White children for the same behaviors. Lastly, there is the disproportionality within Special Education.
Show me the data.
Below are just some of the data on the disadvantages of various components within education:
—According to the National Education Association, in 2013, 34% percent of Black students performed below ‘basic’ on national standardized tests when compared to 9% of White students.
—The highest suspension rates typically are for Black males, followed closely by Black females and/or Latino males.
The racial disparities are not a reflection on Black and Latino children, they are a reflection of the Education system. As scholars have said, the discipline gap is not a student behavior problem, it’s an adult behavior problem. Schools are educating all children the same way, even though all children do not learn the same way.
What I am doing to solve the problem?
What can you do to solve the problem?
You can also be a change agent. You can educate others on the racial disparities in education, stand up for injustice when you see or hear it, and you can be a culturally responsive educator.