A Snapshot of the Nation's Education Inequities

That disparities exist in access to educational resources isn't news for advocates and organizers in the education debate. But sometimes it's worth revisiting the data or exploring new aspects of it to get a bigger, sharper picture of the issues so many parents, students and teachers are working to improve. 

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights released a large swath of data last month detailing the stark inequalities in our nation's public schools. This data is particularly important because it's drawn from all of the nation's 97,000 public schools, making it the most complete snapshot of educational opportunity in America.

From the Dept. of Education's press release, some of the key findings include: 

  • "Access to preschool. About 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
  • Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once.
  • Access to advanced courses. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Asian-American high school students and 71% of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English language learner students (65%) also have less access to the full range of courses.
  • Access to college counselors. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor; in Florida and Minnesota, more than two in five students lack access to a school counselor.
  • Retention of English learners in high school. English learners make up 5% of high school enrollment but 11% of high school students held back each year."

The importance of this data can't be emphasized enough and it will be valuable material for every advocate and organizers to use in arguing for better supports for all students. Be sure to explore the full data set (available here). You can also check out some PDF "snapshot" reports (attached below) on specific issues including school discipline, early learning, college and career readiness, and teacher equity. 

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