Answering Questions of Fundamental Fairness

Earlier today, Secretary Duncan released new data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that reveal unfortunate truths about our nation’s schools. The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) is a first-of-its kind national data tool that highlights schools that are making real progress in closing opportunity gaps, as well as educational inequities around teacher experience, discipline and high school rigor.

Key findings of the new data released today include:

Disparate Discipline Rates

Disparate Discipline Rates

African-American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.  Black students make up 18% of the students in the sample, but 35% of the students suspended once, and 39% of the students expelled.

Students with Disabilities

Disabilities Graphic

Nationally, students with disabilities are also more than twice as likely to be suspended as students without disabilities.

Unequal Access to Rigor

Calculus Graphic

Just over a quarter of high-minority high schools offered Calculus, while over half of schools with the lowest black and Hispanic enrollment offered the course.

Teacher Equity

Teacher Salary Graphic

Teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues in other schools.

Duncan noted that the Department is not alleging overt discrimination in some or all of these instances, but that “these are long-held patterns of behavior and until the data is tracked and evaluated, many educators may not even be aware of the discrepancies.”

Read more about the new data released today, and visit the Office for Civil Right’s new and improved CRDC website that contains data from both phases of the 2009-10 CRDC.

Cameron Brenchley is Director of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education

21 Comments

  1. Fundamental fairness would mean that your department would stop creating “grant opportunities” that private businesses take advantage of through their various nonprofit umbrellas to destroy public education in the first place. You’ve just given an amazing portion of federal educational funding to Teach for America – an organization that does not provide credentialed teachers in specialized learning that is needed for our moderate to severely disabled student population. Charter school operators get a big gift as well and they have historically discriminated against students with disabilities, English Language Learners and Foster Youth. Why are you handing out our meager federal education funding to organizations and groups that will not teach or take all children as our regular public schools do?

    You are creating more discrimination by allowing private business organizations to buy up our public school property. First they close a “low performing school” because the charters have already taken the “easy” kids and only ELL and Special needs students are left to lower test scores enough for a “take-over”. Then they “reconvert” it to a charter and refuse to enroll the very students that were left behind to lower the public school scores. Are they to be warehoused in the Arne Duncan plan? It surely seems so. Eli Broad’s Administrator academy has links to advise on “how to close a school”. Shame on them. Why can’t we make the existing schools work without handing over control to private business folks who only see our children as dollar signs? I’m so disgusted with Arne Duncan’s “leadership”. He’s been a patsy for developers and big money men who are sucking public education dry for their own private profit. This is not the American school system that I had envisioned. If we do not invest in public education (not make it a “competition for grants”, but REAL investment) then we will lose as a society. Our children can’t have a “do-over”. They only get one chance at an education. Let’s do it right and for the children, not for big business.

    Time for a class-action law suit regarding special education services. I live in Los Angeles and lack of oversight and compliance is rampant. Even with the Stimulus boost earlier, Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts across the nation were allowed to just “take” 50% of the special education funding IF THEY WERE COMPLIANT with IDEA. They haven’t been for years, yet were allowed to do so against families’ wishes. We’ve been under a consent decree in LAUSD and the claims of progress made under it cannot be said now. If anything we’re going backward and seeing more and more schools out of compliance. The funding for our special needs students was stolen for the general fund and we’ve lost even more ground. Tax some of our successful California companies like Facebook & Apple – ya know, those really huge corporations that are making uncomprehending sums of money.

    There… is much wealth in this state, and our nation – it’s just going into the wrong pockets for the wrong reasons. This state used to be the educational model for the nation. Now our legislators have pushed public education under the bus because they’ve been drinking the charter “kool-aid” and received funding from big business backing those charter foundations. big business is sucking our public education funding away for their private benefit and we all just sit back and watch the destruction, wondering how it all happened when we could’ve stopped it years ago.
    As I stated in a similar posting, “All these business people see public education as a money-machine. Don’t even think it’s public good – it’s greed, plain and simple.”

    links here” http://thebroadreport.blogspot.com/p/parent-guide.html
    http://dailycensored.com/2009/10/05/say-you-want-a-revolution-parents-revolution-astro-turf-organizations-and-the-privatization-of-public-schools/
    http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/11/parent-trigger-charlatan-ben-austin.html
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005059.htm
    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/jeb-bush-digitial-learning-public-schools

  2. Educational fairness requires that all children have a climate in the classroom and in schools that allows them to learn. While disabilities should and must be accommodated, a structured learning environment with consistent behavior expectations is essential for the majority of students to have good educational outcomes. I hope this study is not used as an excuse to dummy down behavior expectations for any students regardless of background.

    I understand some students’ homes have environments that are not conducive to promoting outstanding academic outcomes; however, I fully expect the school environment to have a climate that promotes student learning.

    Adding more physical activities early in the day for all students regardless of grade level would help reduce behavior problems. So would catching students who cannot read at all or well early and providing intensive instruction. It is difficult to behave in class when you can’t understand what is going on. I would also add that brighter students may be misbehaving because the curriculum has become weak (lots of reading material and assignments, particularly in language arts, below grade level). This needs to change. I see some students who are capable of much more wondering why they should work because parts of the curriculum are weak and they are held back due to the inability of others to work at grade level.

  3. These statistics speak very loudly, and show that something needs to be done to try to eliminate discrimination as much as possible. In particular though, I think that this data could be displayed in a manner to take into account more aspects of why children of certain groups are being disciplined.

    For example, the first chart shows that African-American students are more likely to be suspended from school. Looking at this chart, you may think that all schools are mixed with the same amount of different ethnicities, and that the African-Americans are being targeted for suspension. However, we know that schools across the nation have different demographic make-ups, and that based on the data on this chart, we can conclude that more students are suspended or expelled at schools with more African Americans.

    There are numerous factors that could contribute to this problem: It is possible that higher African American population schools are in lower income neighborhoods have parents that work long hours and may not be able to be as involved in raising their children, resulting in less disciplined children. Schools in areas with higher crime and gang rates could contribute to the suspensions of children as well.

    In the end, I believe this issue is more than an education and discrimination (by race) issue, bur could also involve law-enforcement, social services, and alternative education, such as after school programs and tutoring. The charts and data shown in this study are absolutely correct and show that this is a problem area we need to tackle, but I feel like breaking the issue down into more specific areas and solving the problem from the root could be more effective. I am very curious to see what Secretary Duncan’s next move will be in attempt to bring fundamental fairness to all children.

    • Emmy – thanks for your thoughtful response.

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  4. I could have saved you a lot of money, and told you this stuff has been going on. The fact of the matter is simple, when students, communities, etc. are disadvantaged, they get the shorter end of the stick.
    Yeah, I know the DOE may be shocked by all of the, but wake up and smell Reality!
    I work in a district that’s overt about it’s desire to eliminate certain veteran teachers of color, all in the name of providing students with the best possible education. Much of this is a discriminatory effort to save money, but it’s a disguise.
    Sirs and madams, in closing all I can say racism in alive and well in our school systems. Some just work harder to keep it under wraps.

  5. Sec Duncan,
    This survey only substanciates what I hear many parents complain about everyday. Unless parents utilize the complaint process offered through OCR or the Department of Justice these schools are going to continue as usual. I applaud the department of Ed for conducting the survey however your own study shows that there is a breakdown. If a parent files a complaint of discrimination all the school is going to do is provide the investigator with a few records of non-minority who did receive similar discipline and the case will be closed dismissed in the school favor. You simply cannot prove discrimination against an institution unless it is overt. They have all of the resources at their disposal and are familiar enough with the laws to provide a non-discriminatory reason (whether applicable or true) sufficient enough to satisfy a investigator.
    Unless the department of Ed and many other offices that investigate discrimination, continue to use processess that were useed almost as far back as when the civil rights act was created. These officials have learned how to subvert the system enough to conduct business exactly as they want to without any fear or regard to OCR.

    My question to you and the Dept is, now that you have this Data what are you going to do with the information to help correct the problems that are shown in these trends?

    Thats my opinion

  6. I am a white mother of an African-American male teenager. Two white teens in his high school were caught smoking K2 in the restroom. One of them said my son supplied it. (He eventually changed his story.) The other boy made a point of saying my son was not involved at all. However, the school searched my son and he had a soda can that was used to smoke marijuana (outside of school a few days earlier) in his backpack. He was holding it for the boy who lied about him because he didn’t want that boy to get in trouble. My son was expelled with the exact same conditions as the 2 white boys who actually smoked K2 on the school grounds. Can someone explain to me why my son, who had no drugs on him just a piece of paraphernalia, gets the exact same punishment as the two boys who actually had drugs on them and used them in the school during school hours? My African-American son is obviously is being disciplined more harshly than the white students.

  7. Students are disciplined based on their behavior, should poor behavior be excused because of race, behavior rigor reduced for those of color? More meaningless bar graphs from the data heads.

    • Denton – thanks for your response. The CRDC is much more than just bar graphs. More detailed information can be found at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

    • I don’t see it that way at all. I agree, these are meaningless graphs. The viewer puts the meaning into them. I believe we should graph by socio-economic lines, not race. But, does this mean schools’ automatic excusal of rotten outcomes, or of parents’ irresponsibility? No, it may mean that money is poured into schools with money, and that these schools have more educational resources for their staff to support students appropriately, which shows in the data. We see a glimpse of a process. Let’s not assume the story of the process and base our inappropriate actions on a story we imagined. Let’s correct the outcomes. No story. No punishment. No defense. No offense. No guilt. No blame. No taking sides. No sweeping under the rug. No massaging data to relieve us. Let’s just correct the outcomes for real: for our future, for our economy, for our health and well being, for our quality of life in America, for our position as role-model. Can we do that collaboratively? I think so. Is it a different way of interaction? Yes, for most people in America taught to be competative, to capture the flag, to take market-share, to destroy competition. It is a new paradigm. It is a shift in consciousness. Can we learn to do things a different way? Yes, I believe we can.

      • Moderator:
        spelling fixes on above: competitive et al.

        Please post amended below instead. Thank you!

        I don’t see it that way at all. I agree these are meaningless graphs. The viewer puts the meaning into them. I believe we should graph by socio-economic lines, not race. But, does this mean schools’ automatic excusal of rotten outcomes, or of parents’ irresponsibility? No, it may mean that money is poured into schools with money, and that these schools have more educational resources for their staff to support students appropriately, which shows in the data. We see a glimpse of a process. Let’s not assume the story of the process and base our inappropriate actions on a story we imagined. Let’s correct the outcomes. No story. No punishment. No defense. No offense. No guilt. No blame. No taking sides. No sweeping under the rug. No massaging data to relieve us. Let’s just correct the outcomes for real: for our future, for our economy, for our health and well being, for our quality of life in America, for our position as role-model. Can we do that collaboratively? I think so. Is it a different way of interaction? Yes, for most people in America taught to be competitive, to capture the flag, to take market-share, to destroy competition. It is a new paradigm. It is a shift in consciousness. Can we learn to do things a different way? Yes, I believe we can.

  8. The lowest percentages come from the groups who have been in Amercia the least amount of time. I see these numbers in our school district and the attitude in my college students. The White and Black students do not appreciate the classrooms like Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics. The White students come in with a sense of entitlement, which leads to disrespect of others and disregard for academics. Black students come in feeling that they don’t really belong, which leads to disrespect of others and disregard for academics. In the end, they are either suspended or expelled; academically on the college level.

  9. Asians and Pacific Islanders are disciplined 50-66% less than their numbers overall would suggest. (6% total, 2 or 3% of discipline, depending on discipline type.)
    Where’s the hullabaloo about that?
    Maybe there’s something Asian parents are doing right?
    (Along those lines, I’ve noticed that modern African immigrants and their children do much, much better in school than their African-American peers. Maybe it has something to do with the immigrant experience, and seizing the opportunities presented in the U.S.?)

    • Whites and Blacks need to stop fighting and seize opportunities that others are taking advantage of. As we take these numbers and look at just one, we miss the big picture. American students are not performing, they are acting out. Asians and Hispanics are not caught up into America’s culture wars. They are consistently making history and investing in their future.

  10. Secretary Duncan has shared clear statistics. Certain things came in front after reading this article. I have a question here. On which ground are disable students expelled? Is it fair enough from any perspective?
    I will be happy if some of you please share your views on this.
    Thanks!

    • Some students have more of a disability than others. Some who are tested to have a learning disability you wouldn’t nessicerily know meeting them on the street. For instance, dyslexia affects a students ability to read and write- however, unless you knew the signs, they might just appear as a student who refuse to read. After all, they function as well as a “normal” thinking student, but since a lot of the class work revolves around reading and writing. This makes dyslexic students very upset- they feel stupid and many times they will retaliate by disturbing class and just generally be angry. School is harder for these students and many times these are the students that disrupt or lash out at other students.

  11. I just checked my school. The data showed white students were discipline at a higher percentage per capita than black students (Atlanta suburb). As Mike mentioned, I also didn’t see any data concerning administrators. Also not in the report: data reflecting amount of behavioral issues compared to discipline.

    Is the Department of Education creating this problem so they can solve it? Because if discipline is meted out in the correct proportion to infractions, this is another example of inflammatory reporting. Not cool.

  12. If black students are more likely to be disciplined at school, one cannot assume it is due to discrimination in the disciplinary process, as is apparently assumed here.

    If black students are more likely to be suspended or expelled given the same behavior, then there is a potential discrimination issue. But if a student brings a weapon to school, or assaults a teacher, or beats up another student, or is selling drugs, then in comparable circumstances are black students more severely disciplined than white students? This is the key question. Nothing in the data presented provides any information about that at all, so conclusions are meaningless, even dangerous.

  13. Are the rates for discipline stratified “evenly” when considering the racial composition of schools’ administration. In other words, do schools with a majority of black teachers and principals refer propotionately more more black students for discipline than is the case for schools where the majority of teachers and principals are white?

  14. Happy to see someone is exposing what actually goes on in the schools. My daughter was a A+ student and on the Honor roll, not once but many times, and had a curriculum of all Honor Roll Classes….Due to her disability, no fault of her own, the school Dacula High in Georgia,refusal to work around this disability and in the end was forced out of the school system. I had a meeting with the teachers and the Vice principal who all showed no real interest to see my child obtain an education. This was very noticable. My child’s problem was sever nose bleeding, sever was an understatement. Abscent would be accompanied with Doctors notes always. The teachers would make very negative statement when her bleeding would occur..one of scorn actually. My child lost all self esteem. Dropped out of school..and now suffers from deep depression. I felt the attitude within the school system was a huge failure I wonder how many other young children of color/handicap was treated this way.

    • You should file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. Also send complaint to your state Dept of Ed Procedural Safeguards and see if the state is still taking public comment regarding their IDEA filings to the Federal Govt claiming the state is “compliant” – for they are not in your instance. California’s deadline for public comment is March 31st for the 2012 filing. I don’t know if it’s the same for all states, but check and let your concerns be put on public record. Change doesn’t happen if no one thinks anything is wrong with the system.

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