Is there racial inequality at your school?
October 19, 2018 11:16 AM   Subscribe

A ProPublica developer uses Illinois as an example of the data on racial disparities in education that can be easily viewed using the new Miseducation online tool. A recent story uses some of the same data (and a great deal of individual reporting) to explore education disparities in Charlottesville.
posted by eotvos (18 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I just looked up my hometown on the tool.

I remember my high school as being pretty....racially homogenous (we had to drastically alter some of our plays in high school because we simply didn't have enough non-white kids to cast non-white characters as non-white). There has always been a Latinx population in my home town, specifically Puerto Rican, and going by the pictures in my class yearbook they were a minority.

So it's no surprise that Latinx students are now 75% of the school population in my town; what surprises me only is that it happened within my lifetime.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on October 19, 2018

My wife taught elementary school in a predominantly African-American school in Charlottesville. I'll have to get her take on this article, but I doubt anything in it will surprise her.
posted by 4ster at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2018

Whoah! Broughton High in Raleigh, y'all got some explainin to do
posted by NoMich at 12:40 PM on October 19, 2018

This is fascinating. I just checked out the school where Mrs. 4ster teaches now. Very interesting. This is a great post.
posted by 4ster at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2018

I'm not surprised about the school system I went to, as it is in an affluent suburb of Long Island and probably a prime example of real estate redlining. When I was in HS there were I want to say there were fewer than 10 Black students in a population of ~1200.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2018

Minor quibble:
I wish they would have used a consistent base (white), or rewrite the below text to make these more clear. Or just throw up an approximate dot map like they do for 'school composition'.

White students are 2.5 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students.

White students are 2.2 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Hispanic students.

Asian, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian students are 1.7 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as White students.

posted by The_Vegetables at 1:27 PM on October 19, 2018

Looking at my high school, I got real freaked out by the “black and multiracial students are 20x more likely to be suspended” section but that turns out to be out of... 14 students suspended, total? So that’s still bad, but I am not good enough at math to tell you how bad.
posted by nonasuch at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2018

Well, looks like the school I went to has shed even its last hardcore leftist family white kids and is now 100% students of color (97% black). No real comparisons possible in that environment.

But, yeah, a lot of the school-by-school breakdowns will be with respect to such small numbers that they probably shouldn't be taken too seriously at that level (as opposed to district level).
posted by praemunire at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2018

My high school graduating class was 7% white in the 80s. The same school is now 1% white. I think it reflects the town demographics, 80% Hispanic and 15 % Asian (specifically pacific islander) is definitely what you see in the neighborhood; it's 7 miles from Tijuana.

The reason I remember the % from my own class is that I tried to transfer to a magnet school for math and science, which was actually much closer to the border in an even lower-income area. I was accepted but my home-school 'declined to release' me because I was an 'underrepresented minority,' and five years later denied my sister's request to go to the school for performing arts with that same excuse. Our family was sure the real reason was they wanted our grades/test scores - I ended up being the first National Merit recipient the school ever had so I guess that paid off for them.

They did let our younger brother go to the school for performing arts. He is just as white as us girls, but strangely that was not raised as a concern. Might have something to do with his frequent detentions, suspensions, and other behavior issues.
posted by buildmyworld at 3:15 PM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

That Miseducation link is incorrect. I teach an AP class to high school students at a school they have in their database, which says that there are 0% high school students taking an AP class. Bad data. Bad journalism. Boooo. And there are TONS of AP classes offered and taken.
posted by Snowishberlin at 4:09 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

You know what? I keep reading about my school:

We are graduating our first class of seniors this year. A local university (Campbell) has already offered over $500,000 in scholarships to admitted seniors, yet it says "0% students taking the SAT or ACT." 0% enrolled in Physics? Nope, we have AP Physics. 0% enrolled in Calculus? We have AP AB and BC. 0 social workers, psychologists, or counselors? We do have less than 1,000 students but we DO HAVE social workers and counselors. PLURAL. I can attest to the 0 arrests, 0 referrals to law enforcement, but somehow I think their data collection is flawed there, too.
posted by Snowishberlin at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2018

Charlottesville’s racial inequities mirror college towns across the country, from Berkeley, California, to Evanston, Illinois....

About a third of the 25 districts with the widest achievement disparities between white and black students are in or near college towns, according to a review of data compiled by researchers at Stanford University. That may be because affluent families in university towns invest a large proportion of their resources in their children’s education....

Atkins said that it’s unfair to compare black students with white classmates who attended the best preschools and have traveled abroad....

Still, socioeconomics don’t fully explain the gap.

One of the things about Evanston at least (it may be true elsewhere, but it's Evanston I know), is that the achievement gap persists despite considerable and longstanding efforts to try to close it. For example, Evanston bussed elementary kids for many years to reduce racial segregation caused by districting, until using race as the primary selection criterion was ruled illegal. The single high school has also been making sincere, and often quite strenuous if possibly ineffectual, efforts to fight inequality for well over twenty years.

There are problems with pulling the bottom up without pushing the top down (they have quietly tried to do a bit of that too, though that hasn't worked very well either), not least as noted in the quote because the educated and affluent will go to considerable trouble to give their children advantages (being read to, taken to museums, given music lessons, tutoring and test prep and on and on) whatever the school district does. It's generally a nice liberal place but very few people will fail to help their own children just so others do better comparatively.

The efforts to reduce racial inequality in schools of course focus on the schools themselves, but while those efforts may be necessary, I become more and more convinced that the real problem lies outside and that you can't fix the schools without fixing the society and changing both black and white culture.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:37 PM on October 19, 2018

"but somehow I think their data collection is flawed there, too."

Their data collection seems to be from federal reports, which largely comes from state reports, so I think the problems are with the state reports or the lag in putting together the federal reports. I think the SAT/ACT may be coming from a first-semester data collection, where not all of your kids will have taken the tests yet. I was noodling around Illinois schools I know well (and I know the various Illinois reports and how they work), and their discipline data is pretty good, but the SAT/ACT in particular is incomplete, which is why I think they have first-semester numbers. Schools where north of 90% of kids take the college tests are showing up with 30-40% having taken it, which is what you'd see with first semester reports. I think the AP classes are semesterly reports as well, and a lot of schools offer particular APs only once a year (fall or spring), or every other year, which is showing lower numbers than the "true" numbers.

"We are graduating our first class of seniors this year. "

This one in particular may be because the reports typically lag a couple of years behind the school, so if you have your first class of seniors this year, you'd show very few APs, nobody taking the SAT/ACT, etc., because these numbers would probably be from when your current students were sophomores and you had no juniors or seniors yet. I'm unclear on where they get the numbers for social workers -- it may be by certificate classifications at each school, but that would be a pretty blunt instrument.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Agree that bad data on one essentially brand new school is not great evidence that the whole thing is borked, though it is concerning.

Also concerning is the schooling situation in lots of places.

I compared at a glance the conservative suburban district where my niblings go to school to the small liberal college city where my kid might go.

Theirs is 88% white, but has less white/black opportunity inequality, whereas mine is 35% black 37% white and has more.

I’m not sure what to conclude, but one angle is that it’s harder to see the statistical imbalance when you have 10 black kids at a large mostly white high school, compared to the imbalances revealed by 300 black kids at a fairly evenly diverse school (35% black 37% white 10% Asian 7% multiracial).
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:07 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

"I’m not sure what to conclude,"

My guess would be the black families in the conservative suburb are pretty wealthy, since suburban schools automatically select for wealth by being small geographical cachement areas. Whereas more racially diverse districts overall tend to be urban and have more income inequality, which tends to reinforce racial inequalities.

This is also why it's helpful to look at a bunch of districts in an area -- one district overpunishing black students may be an anomaly, but when it appears in basically every district and school you look at, it's clear that it's a systematic problem -- and why when you're working to solve problems at a particular school or district, you want to see the data over 5 years (or more), to smooth out the yearly anomalies a bit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:43 PM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Half of children expelled in Seattle Public Schools are black. The other half are Hispanic. 16% of children in SPS are Black. 12% are Hispanic.
posted by k8t at 6:46 PM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

k8t: the data does reflect that; sort of. The suspension rate would give a better picture of the racial disparities in the Seattle school district: 38% black, 17% hispanic, 23% white, 9% asian/pacific islander/hawaiian, 10% two or more races, 2% native american.

I say this because the suspension rate is based on a data-set of 2,017 incidents (uncertain if they can count the same student twice if they were suspended twice), whereas the expelled number is based on 8 students. I'm pretty impression actually that a school district with 53,800 students only had 8 expelled (and I wonder what they did).

The data for Seattle school district.

Don't get me wrong, the suspension rate numbers aren't good, but looking at the racial makeup of 8 students out of 58,000+ doesn't seem like useful data.
posted by el io at 10:57 PM on October 19, 2018

When I attended my high school in the early 90s, it was 60% white, 40% black, representing the local demographics, but also representing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' commitment (under the Swann court order) to integration of all their schools. Almost all schools were around 60/40 then because they were balanced by busing. My high school was I think the only one in the county where busing was not needed to meet those numbers--our area just happened to be fairly integrated due to historic reasons (it served North Charlotte, a heavily agricultural area, and 3 mill towns, all of which were integrated for different reasons).

Since then, NC has seen a huge increase in the Latinx population, the closing of the textile mills, and the transformation of many agricultural areas into suburbs, but it has also (like all public schools in the US) seen an end to court ordered integration. The current demographics are very very different, reflecting the white flight to what I can only call "white" schools (they have no official designation, but they were intentionally built to zone an area that is nearly all white) as well as to charter and private schools.

However, by the numbers, they are doing much better on POC participation in AP classes (I had 2-4 black classmates in most of my AP classes), although still with the now small white population having disproportionate AP enrollment. The discipline discrepancy in how POC are treated is still huge, as it was 25 years ago, maintaining the school to prison pipeline. But still, my majority minority high school has an 82% graduation rate, which speaks well of my friends who are now educators there and the work still being done in spite of the increasingly social pressure back towards school segregation.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:19 AM on October 22, 2018

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