A new report released by student advocacy group Education Trust-West is calling for an increased focus on helping black students succeed in California schools.
The 32-page report, “Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California,” takes a closer look at the differences in academic achievement and discipline that black students see in comparison to their peers from preschool through college. A number of programs are mentioned that could be used as models to help close the achievement and “opportunity” gaps, and 36 recommendations are meant to decrease inequities for the benefit of state lawmakers and education leaders.
“Although we’ve made some progress, black students continue to face an education system that squanders their talent,” said Ryan Smith, executive director of Ed Trust–West, in a prepared statement. “The deaths of unarmed youth by law enforcement across the country tell black youth that their lives matter less than other lives. Similarly the decisions made within our education systems tell black students that their minds and futures matter less as well.”
According to data from the state Department of Education, California is home to the 5th largest African-American population in the US, including about 900,000 youth under the age of 25. Of the student population in the state, around 6% are black, with the highest amount of black students located in just five counties: San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, Sacramento, and Solano. Between 10% and 16% of the student population in these counties are African-American, reports Theresa Harrington for EdSource.
Smith said that although people are quick to blame students and their families for the lower academic success of black students, data discovered that in fact, decisions made within the education system are the real cause. Researchers found black students to have less access to the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, college preparatory courses, and effective teachers. In addition, these students were found to be more likely to be suspended, expelled, and put into remedial classes.
The report also found that black students were less likely to complete high school within four years and to get a high school degree. Report authors went on to make a push for state and education leaders to address the issues, in part through initiatives found to work throughout the state.
The Transitional Kindergarten program in use throughout California was praised by the report as a “step in the right direction” as an expansion of the early childhood education program. However, it adds that it does not replace traditional preschool, as children receive more adult interaction through a smaller child-to-adult ratio.