Educational Inequity: A Social Justice Concern That Cannot Be Ignored

By Jim Wambach | January 24, 2020

Perspectives Article by Jim Wambach, Executive Director

Are we able to close the achievement gap – one precious child at a time?

Are we failing low-income African-American and Latino students in our community?

Tragically, we are continuing to fail the majority of low-income African-American and Latino children in our community. Recent standardized testing results indicate educational inequity abounds in our schools serving low-income neighborhoods.

Recent standardized testing results indicate that not only are we in the midst of an education crisis, the problem is most acutely felt in our schools serving our most vulnerable students. The educational inequity in our community is a social justice concern that we simply cannot ignore. However, the opportunity to address this issue for these children is simple, but not easy.

The need for interventional math and reading tutoring for early elementary school-age children is urgent. 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 see it very day! All six schools currently supported by our numeracy (the ability to understand and work with numbers) tutoring, and 14 of the 18 schools supported by our literacy tutoring (and eventually our numeracy tutoring), 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 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 for grade-level math ability (numeracy) in elementary school children of color (specifically blacks and latinos) attending schools located in high poverty neighborhoods.

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 numeracy (math skills) 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

Unfortunately, the results for literacy were very similar.

Learning to read empowers children to succeed in elementary school

Learning to read and developing foundational math skills empowers children to succeed in elementary school, middle school, and beyond.

Clearly, the vast majority of the children from these schools are struggling and not receiving the level of academic support they require. Many are performing 2+ grade levels behind.

The children in these schools will NOT have the opportunity to develop the foundational grade-level 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 are nurturing hope, the courage to dream, and the opportunity to thrive – and can make a generational impact in our community, one precious child at a time.

YES, I CAN help a vulnerable child SOAR to their God-given potential.

 I want to visit a math or reading clinic to see if it is right for me!

 I want help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year.