African-American Girls Face Obstacles in School, Says Report

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A new report from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Women’s Law Center has delved into the unique educational and economic disadvantages faced by African-American girls.

The report, “Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls,” looks into the obstacles these girls face — access to adequate education and freedom from unfair treatment — while trying to obtain an education due to racial/gender discrimination and stereotyping.  The report suggests policy modifications to help end the current inequalities found today.

Young African-American females are “faring worse than the national average for girls on almost every measure of academic achievement” due to “pervasive, systemic barriers in education rooted in racial and gender bias and stereotypes,” according to the report.

The report suggests that African-American children of both genders are subjected to a lesser education at a higher rate because they are more likely to attend schools that lack credentialed teachers, rigorous course offerings and extracurricular activities.  These educational barriers have a greater effect on girls “due to the intersection of gender and race stereotypes.”

However, African-American girls are more likely to see less access to after-school sports and other programs; fewer college preparation courses; higher discrimination due to pregnancy and teenage motherhood; and a higher number of minor infractions at school that result in disproportionate punishments excluding them from school, such as dress code violations.

The report found these girls more likely to be held back a grade than any other group of girls.  Statistics show 34% of African-American female students not graduating from high school in 2010 compared to 18% of white female students and 22% of all females that same year.

The study also discovered African-American girls having less access to high-level academic courses.  Many of the girls reported “being discouraged by teachers from pursuing STEM classes.”

As a consequence of these issues, girls find themselves with a limited supply of job opportunities and lower total earnings over a lifetime, all of which result in lower economic standing.  The report notes that in 2013, 43% of African-American women who did not have a high school diploma were living in poverty, and 9% of African-American women with a college degree also living in poverty.

Suggested solutions include eliminating the disciplinary practices used in some schools that single students out, offering more support to pregnant and single parent students, and offering more access to after-school programs and sports.  The report also suggests investing more in early childhood education, increasing access to STEM courses, and training staff to recognize signs of bullying and offer suggestions for stepping in.

“We urge educators, school leaders, community leaders and members, advocates, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations to take action to advance the success of African American girls, complementing the important ongoing work to improve educational outcomes for boys and men of color,” the report reads. “Our entire nation has a stake in ensuring the academic and professional success of all children.”