The media is buzzing about the recently released findings from the U.S. Department of Educations' 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection survey. Based on the results, it appears that not only are minority students more likely to be expelled/suspended than their general market counterparts, but are also more prone to receive inexperienced and less dedicated teachers. While this news is not at all shocking to me, it still remains disheartening.
The battle of equality in education is one that has been being fought since the beginning of time. I of course won't go into details about the many high profile instances in which we all are very aware of or the little-known untold stories of which I've become more well versed on in my line of work. I will however, throw in my two cents based on my own perception and experiences of the situation at hand.
As a mother, I've gone back and forth about whether or not my child will attend a public, private or charter school. With her only being two years old, most may say that I have more than enough time to figure that out. On one hand, I have myself, and many others near and dear to me who attended public schools and have grown to be quite successful in adulthood. Yet on the flip side of that, I know first-hand what it's like to feel as though you've been prepared for the next phase of education, only to learn that you truly weren't.
I recall being in gifted programs and/or performing above grade level throughout elementary school. I stood proudly on eighth grade graduation day as one of the top ten students in our graduating class at Brian Piccolo Middle School on the west side of Chicago. Unlike many of the others, I wasn't heading to the neighborhood high school where I'd receive a comparable education experience. Instead, I opted to head downtown to what I like to call the melting pot of high schools in the city. I say this because, Jones-in my opinion-pulled together the best of the best students from all areas, ethnicities and walks of life. Being that it wasn't-and isn't- a district school, students from across the city were able to attend, just as long as they tested at the required level.
Going to Jones, was a bit of a culture shock for me, not because of the diversity of color, but because I went from being in the top ten of my class, to mere average. I still continued to perform above grade level on standardized tests throughout high school, but that was pretty much the story of most, if not all of my peers. The grading scale at Jones was also completely different than anything I'd seen in elementary school, and also higher than that of the neighborhood high schools many of my middle school peers attended. It wasn't until adulthood that I truly realized that although my neighborhood schools didn't fail me, they also didn't necessarily position me for success.
Post high school, I went on to undegraduate school where I basically did what I needed to do to attain my degree. I didn't initally intend on going to graduate school, so I honestly put in enough effort to make the grade in some cases, yet performed well in areas where I have the most interest such as writing, communications and sociology. Fast forward to graduate school, and of course, I worked much harder to make the grade, and actually performed quite well graduating with a 3.7 or 8 grade point average, I can't quite recall.
My main point is this, although research and reality point to the fact that minority students may not necessarily be receiving a comparable educational experience in public schools, it doesn't mean that these students can't rise above it all and acquire academic success. I've never personally been suspended or expelled, I may have received a detention or two in high school for being tardy or out-of-uniform, but that's about it.
I have heard a lot lately about elementary school students receiving bad grades for one missed assignment or being given detentions for trivial matters (i.e. chewing gum, wearing colorful shoes.) I think some of the rules these young children are asked to adhere to make absolutely no sense. Children shouldn't be held accountable for matters beyond their control, but I can't be certain that the rules and regulations aren't just as harsh in non-urban communities.
As far as the teachers being less dedicated, I believe some of them may honestly be frustrated with school conditions or just dealing with the type of parents in some of these communities. That's no excuse for not giving your all to your students, but I can't blame a teacher for being a little annoyed from constantly dealing with unruly children and their parents who make matters worse more often than better. While CPS, and the U.S. Department of Education as a whole have a lot more work to do in order to bridge the gap as it relates to educational equality, it also our job to assure that our children are as prepared as possible.