The Education Department released new data last week showing that educational disparities are still very much a reality, despite the best efforts of policymakers and school administrators. Here are some of the findings:
• About 3,000 schools serving nearly 500,000 high school students offer no algebra II classes.
• Some 7,300 schools serving more than 2 million students have no access to calculus classes.
• Schools serving mostly African-American students are twice as likely to have teachers with just one or two years of experience.
• Students with limited English proficiency make up 6 percent of the high school population, but are 15 percent of the students for whom algebra is the highest-level math course taken.
• Only 2 percent of students with disabilities are taking at least one Advanced Placement class.
The data is part of a massive new effort by the Education Department to identify where the gaps are in education achievement and access. It covers a multitude of topics such as access to guidance counselors, bullying policies, prevalence of math and science courses, and where the best (and worst) teachers are clustered.
The results may be depressing, especially for those who have been working for years on making sure all kids get the schooling they need. But they also provide crucial information that could suggest where education policy should go from here. "This new information reiterates that the federal government's role in ensuring an equal education for all students is just as critical as ever," said House Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member George Miller, D-Calif.
How can data on education disparities help national policymakers? How can local school districts benefit from a database that reflects education access across the entire country? Should people in the education community be surprised that disparities continue, despite 10 years of No Child Left Behind? What goals should policymakers set in light of the new data? Is the civil rights aspect of education more or less salient now than it was after the passage of No Child Left Behind?