Making data pro-public
New federal data, collected by ED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and then analyzed by ProPublica, find that low-income and minority students in America’s schools have unequal access to experienced teachers, early education, school counselors, and rigorous courses. OCR surveyed 72,000 schools in 7,000 decent-sized districts, grabbing information on AP, science, and math course offerings and enrollments; ability grouping and tracking; teacher experience and quality; student demographics; etc. There’s much important—if sobering—content within this dataset (and the corresponding ProPublica dataset, which links the OCR data to income). Focusing specifically on access to rigorous courses, jurisdictions like Maryland, Kansas, and Oklahoma offer particularly unequal access for wealthy and low-income students. Florida, on the other hand, enrolls roughly the same percentages of students in AP courses in its high- and low-income districts. Ohio lands in the middle of the pack. While its wealthy districts boast AP enrollment around 40 percent, Akron, Dayton, and Columbus only enroll 7 percent of their students in APs. Questions of how these data can and will be used by both OCR and others still loom. If they move from transparency to jawboning and then to enforcement, a backlash will inevitably follow. But right-thinking people will find these data eye-opening and, we hope, worth trying to alter.
“Some States Still Leave Low-Income Students Behind; Others Make Surprising Gains,” by Sharona Coutts and Jennifer LaFleur, ProPublica, June 30, 2011.
“Federal Data Shed Light on Education Disparities,” by Nirvi Shah, Education Week, July 1, 2011.
Civil Rights Data Collection, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, 2009-10.
The Opportunity Gap: Is Your State Providing Equal Access to Education, ProPublica, June 2011.
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