The Education Dept.’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) publishes new data showing gaps that still remain too wide in key areas affecting educational equity, student discipline, access to courses and programs that lead to college and career readiness.
Despite significant work from districts across the country, the persistent disparities shown in the new Civil Rights Data Collection—which collected data from all public schools and school districts nationwide for the 2013-14 school year. The report highlights the need for a continued focus on educational equity, especially in the implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act, said Education Secy. John King.
“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. “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.”
The CRDC, which collected student absenteeism rates for the first time, revealed that 6.5 million students—13% of all students—were chronically absent from schools in 2013-14.
In addition to chronic student absenteeism, the 2013-2014 CRDC collected data on several new topics for the first time, including access to educational programs in justice facilities; availability of distance education; and whether the district has a civil rights coordinator.
The CRDC measures access to early learning programs. Schools are required under federal law to provide special education and related services for preschool-age children with disabilities. About half of school districts are offering preschool above and beyond what is required. More than 85% of those school districts are providing those services at no cost to families. Unfortunately, the remaining school districts are charging families to attend, which is a burden to low-and middle-income families.
Key data points:
- Black preschool children are 3.6 times as likely to be suspended as are white preschool students.
- Nationwide, 2.8 million K-12 students received one or more out-of-school suspensions—which is a nearly 20% decrease from the number of out-of-school suspensions reported two years ago.
- In kindergarten through the 12th grade, black students are nearly four times as likely to be suspended as are white students. Black students also are nearly twice as likely to be expelled—removed from school with no services—as are white students.
- Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely as students without disabilities to be suspended in K-12 settings. They also represent two-thirds of students who are secluded from their classmates or restrained to prevent them from moving—even though they are only 12% of the overall student population.
- More than 20% of high schools lack any school counselor.
- 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school counselor.
The administration has made reforming school discipline one of its top priorities, King said. The DoEd’s #RethinkDiscipline campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the long-term damage suspensions can cause, King said.