Educational Inequity: A Social Justice Concern That Cannot Be Ignored
By Jim Wambach
Perspectives Article by Jim Wambach, Executive Director
Are we failing low-income Black and Latino students in our community?
Recent standardized testing results indicate that not only are we in the midst of an education crisis, the problem is most acutely felt in schools serving our most vulnerable students. The educational inequity in our community is a social justice concern that simply cannot be ignored.
The need and urgency for interventional math and reading tutoring is significant. We know that when we support vulnerable children at critical times in their young lives, we nurture hope, the courage to dream, and the opportunity to thrive. We also know that opportunity is not shared equitably across all schools in Oakland. All six schools currently supported by our numeracy program and 14 of the 18 schools supported by our literacy program (and eventually our numeracy program) are located in high poverty neighborhoods. The vast majority of students in these schools are children of color, primarily African American and Latino.
The problem of educational inequity becomes far more stark and urgent when isolating of elementary school children of color attending schools located in high poverty neighborhoods…
During this past spring (2019), 1,916 African-American and Latino 3rd grade children across Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) took the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) standardized math testing for the first time. Across all schools within the OUSD, 1,225 (64%) of these children scored below grade-level with 977 (51%) of these children scoring substantially below grade level.
While those numbers are troubling, the problem becomes far more stark and urgent when isolating the scores of elementary school children of color (specifically blacks and latinos) attending schools located in high poverty neighborhoods as they are assessed for grade-level math ability (numeracy).
This month, GO Public Schools Oakland, an education advocacy nonprofit, published the following data for grade-level numeracy achievement – for black and latino elementary school children from these schools. The results were based on the most recent (2019) SBAC scores for these children.
Below is a summary of the numeracy results from that report:
Black Elementary School Children (from 27 schools in high poverty neighborhoods)
- 14 schools had 90-100% of their Black children scoring below grade level
- 10 schools had 80 – 89% of their Black children scoring below grade level
- 3 schools had 70% of their Black children scoring below grade level
Latino Elementary School Children ( from 33 schools in high poverty neighborhoods)
- 7 schools had 90-100% of their Latino children scoring below grade level
- 13 schools had 80-89% of their Latino children scoring below grade level
- 13 schools had 50-75% of their Latino children scoring below grade level
The results for reading literacy were very similar.
Clearly, the vast majority of the children from these schools are struggling and not receiving the academic support they require. Many are performing 2+ grade levels behind.
The children in these schools will NOT have the numeracy skills required to learn and grow if they are not provided personal attention during their early elementary school years. These children simply will NOT have a fair chance of achieving success in middle school, high school and beyond. Tragically, the achievement and opportunity gaps continue unabated in low-income areas for people of color. It’s simply not fair or equitable.
The good news? The solution – and the opportunity – to address this issue is simple (but not easy). One-on-one tutors meeting with students each week, nurturing hope, the courage to dream, and the opportunity to thrive can make a generational impact in our community, one precious child at a time.