Civil rights data from public school has some eye-opening conclusions

There are some surpising statistics in the Department of Education's massive civil rights survey that bring into sharp focus some of the disparities in school districts across the country.

The survey was sent to all 95,000 public schools in America.

Washington Post:

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday released a trove of data drawn from surveys of nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. This latest installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection, from the 2013-2014 school year, offers a sobering look at the wide disparities in experience and opportunity that divide the nation’s 50 million students.

By the fall, anyone will be able to look up data on a specific school or school district online. GreatSchools, the website that provides information about school test scores and demographics, also is planning to incorporate the civil rights data into its school profiles.

Meantime, here are five eye-opening figures from the overview that the Education Department released Tuesday:

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

A growing body of research has shown that children who are chronically absent from school are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out. It makes sense: Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

High school counselors often have tough jobs. They keep track of their students’ progress toward graduation. They help students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process. They also help kids navigate their lives outside of school, which can be made complex by poverty, violence and family trouble. And because counselors often are one of the first positions to be cut when budgets get tight, there are almost never enough to go around. The national average is close to 500 students per school counselor; many student have no counselor at all.

That's a shocking number of absentees, especially in elementary school.  Finding reasons for kids skipping school is easy, but I suspect that the main reason is that most of those kids are so far behind that the effort to catch up doesn't seem worth it to them.  So they end up reading at several grades below their actual age, which pushes them further behind.

And yet most of these kids are advanced to the next grade level so they won't feel embarrassed about having to repeat a grade.  That's where schools set these kids up to be failures.

Then there's this curious statistic about "discipline":

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Activists and journalists have helped draw attention to disparities in school discipline in recent years. The Obama administration has also called attention to the gaps and pressed schools to address them. Even with all that attention, the difference in suspension rates among the youngest children are still surprising.

The assumption here is that school authorities target black kids for harsher discipline than white kids.  It goes to the mindset of racial bean-counting: "disparate impact."  More blacks are incarcerated, or are unemployed, or can't afford a house in a neighborhood, or can't get into an elite school – and racism is the cause.

It's balderdash and illogical.  But it's the law of the land.

The usefulness of this data is limited, but understanding the scope of some problems facing our public schools is certainly worth the effort it took to compile this massive amount of data.

There are some surpising statistics in the Department of Education's massive civil rights survey that bring into sharp focus some of the disparities in school districts across the country.

The survey was sent to all 95,000 public schools in America.

Washington Post:

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday released a trove of data drawn from surveys of nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. This latest installment of the Civil Rights Data Collection, from the 2013-2014 school year, offers a sobering look at the wide disparities in experience and opportunity that divide the nation’s 50 million students.

By the fall, anyone will be able to look up data on a specific school or school district online. GreatSchools, the website that provides information about school test scores and demographics, also is planning to incorporate the civil rights data into its school profiles.

Meantime, here are five eye-opening figures from the overview that the Education Department released Tuesday:

1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.

A growing body of research has shown that children who are chronically absent from school are more likely to struggle academically and eventually drop out. It makes sense: Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school.

2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.

High school counselors often have tough jobs. They keep track of their students’ progress toward graduation. They help students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process. They also help kids navigate their lives outside of school, which can be made complex by poverty, violence and family trouble. And because counselors often are one of the first positions to be cut when budgets get tight, there are almost never enough to go around. The national average is close to 500 students per school counselor; many student have no counselor at all.

That's a shocking number of absentees, especially in elementary school.  Finding reasons for kids skipping school is easy, but I suspect that the main reason is that most of those kids are so far behind that the effort to catch up doesn't seem worth it to them.  So they end up reading at several grades below their actual age, which pushes them further behind.

And yet most of these kids are advanced to the next grade level so they won't feel embarrassed about having to repeat a grade.  That's where schools set these kids up to be failures.

Then there's this curious statistic about "discipline":

5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.

Activists and journalists have helped draw attention to disparities in school discipline in recent years. The Obama administration has also called attention to the gaps and pressed schools to address them. Even with all that attention, the difference in suspension rates among the youngest children are still surprising.

The assumption here is that school authorities target black kids for harsher discipline than white kids.  It goes to the mindset of racial bean-counting: "disparate impact."  More blacks are incarcerated, or are unemployed, or can't afford a house in a neighborhood, or can't get into an elite school – and racism is the cause.

It's balderdash and illogical.  But it's the law of the land.

The usefulness of this data is limited, but understanding the scope of some problems facing our public schools is certainly worth the effort it took to compile this massive amount of data.