US Dept of Ed Civil Rights Survey Shows Opportunity Gaps Remain

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has released new data from the 2013-14 school year showing that increasingly large gaps still exist in a number of areas that affect the educational equity and opportunity for students.

According to the data, gaps can still be found in key areas, including disciplinary incidents, restraint and seclusion, access to courses and programs that in turn aid in college and career readiness, teacher equity, rates of retention, and access to early learning.  US Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said that although work has been done in these areas by districts throughout the country, the continuing gaps noted in the Civil Rights Data Collection show there is still a need for a focus to be placed on educational equity, especially pertaining to the implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

For the first time, data on student absenteeism was collected by the CRDC.  Findings show 6.5 million students, or 13% of all students, were chronically absent from schools in the 2013-14 school year.

Although the data still shows a high percentage of student discipline, it did include a 20% decrease in out-of-school suspensions since the 2011-12 school year as alternative methods to handling non-violent student behavior are explored by districts.  However, this statistic does not apply to all student groups, as students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities were typically found to still hold a higher rate of discipline than their peers.

“The CRDC data are more than numbers and charts – they illustrate in powerful and troubling ways disparities in opportunities and experiences that different groups of students have in our schools,” said King.  “This is one of the reasons I am excited by the opportunity offered by the new Every Student Succeeds Act. It makes clear the obligation our schools and states have to ensure that all students have access to an excellent education that prepares them to succeed in college and careers. It also makes clear that ESSA’s Title I funds are to be used to provide the additional support needed to make that happen.”

The department collected data pertaining to a number of topics for the first time for this release, which includes access to educational programs in justice facilities, availability of distance learning like online courses, the amount of sworn law enforcement is located on school grounds including school resource officers, the availability of either partially or fully-subsidized preschools, and whether or not the district has a civil rights coordinator.

Early learning programs are also measured by the CDRC.  According to federal law, schools are required to offer special education and related services to students with disabilities in preschool programs.  While over 85% of districts are offering those services to families at no cost, the rest of the districts are putting a burden on low and middle-income families by requiring they pay for such services.

Data for the collection came from all public schools and school districts across the nation during the 2013-14 school year.  Collected data is released every two years in an effort to create transparency pertaining to the educational opportunities and experiences of millions of public school children across the nation.  In all, over 50 million students enrolled in every public school and district in the United States are included in the CDRC.