Several conclusions have been brought to the public view to why students specifically in DC public schools are dropping out. This problem has become an obvious and almost unavoidable factor mainly in the districts public highs schools. The issue is disturbing and draws the attention of almost everyone, some who wish the crisis would fade, but perhaps the approach is what needs to be changed. Many have chosen elementary tactics to “handle” the problem, playing the blame
game, directing their attacks strictly to students and their guardians. While this may be true for some situations, not every case can be labeled as student or parent neglect. Many factors play a role in why students are being pushed away from educational institutions that have not yet been accounted for.
In order to correctly explain the problem the first thing that needs to be pointed out is that the statistics concerning dropout and suspension/expulsion rates, “disproportionately target students of color” (http://www.pbs.org). Based on studies from The Advancement Project, a human rights and civil rights organization, the ratio of black students’ likelihood of being suspended is 1:4 while the likelihood of their white counterparts being suspended is 1:20 (http://theadvancementproject.org). These rates create concerns surrounding what actually goes on in our school systems and what is causing mainly students of color to dropout. Some have credited this crisis to racial discrimination and there is evidence that supports that position. Standardized testing, suspensions for minor offenses and lack of interest on the schools behalf are some of the practices that reaffirm these claims. These practices cause a lack of community, creating an uncomfortable environment for students to engage in while weakening their chances of securing a safe and successful future for themselves.
A common term associated with discrimination within schools is the School to Prison Pipeline (STPP). The STPP is a system that pushes students away from school, into the many troubles of the world and eventually into jail. This has been an unsettled problem that has received little recognition therefore inadequate solutions for years. Our government puts a bigger investment in sending students to jail rather than sending them to school, spending almost four times as much money building new prisons to incarcerate our youth. The reason behind some of these suspensions, expulsions and arrests include playing music on phones, talking back to teachers, throwing temper tantrums and hugging friends (http://safequalityschools.org). Teachers and faculty are giving students of color student punishments that do not match the level of the offense. The repeat in suspensions and expulsions only take students out of the classroom leaving them further behind in their work. This creates a pattern. As teachers continue to suspend and expel students, they aren’t given the time to learn the material they missed in the classroom preventing them from being able to properly do their work. This also aggravates them, eventually pushing them out of school and into the streets.
DC action for children has provided their reasons for why some students are excelling while others fail within a singular and supposedly equal learning system. They have contributed these achievement differences to “socioeconomic differences” or the gap between high and low-income families. (http://dcactionforchildren.org). Specifically regarding education, these socioeconomic differences determine the quality of education based on location and who attends the school. This plays into how money is dispersed throughout the several wards in the district and the schools in these neighborhoods. Students in wards 2 and 3 have much higher test scores than students in in wards 7 and 8, a reflection of the educational differences in these areas. High poverty neighborhoods, such as wards 7 and 8, are more likely to have under resourced schools contributing to the performance of the students that attend these schools. The “lack” of resources in schools, ranging from empty libraries to limited textbooks, makes it hard and sometimes impossible for students to maintain their studies causing them to feel school is a waste of time.
In addition to under funding and unjust punishments, students of color are also being pushed out of schools to maintain the reputation of standardized test scores. This goes against the second, sixth, seventh and twenty-sixth human right laws that secure equality despite skin color, the right to be treated equally by the law and the right to go to school (http://state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2008/108544.htm). Over the years different publications such as the New York Post and Teacher Revised have done research regarding the SAT and other official exams and how they are being portrayed as discriminatory. These assessments have been nicknamed “white preference tests.” According to the previously listed sources, the verbal section in the SAT is geared towards white middle class families, using experiences and vocabulary associated with that class. This makes it difficult for blacks and other minorities to relate to the passages or even know what the vocabulary used means. The SAT tests on subjects students have “a pre-existing knowledge” of, but if you are not a white middle class student, this information is not applicable. An example of these questions are typically found in the reading comprehension section says Jesse Scaccia of Teacher Revised. In this section you may find a passage or question with the word “equestrian”, horseback riding, something inner city youth have limited to no access to. Teacher revised faintly jokes at these unfair advantages in the SAT by providing alternate questions on topics like “reggeaton, the Yankees, what’s the hottest show on BET”, subjects a city kid could find relatable (teacherrevised.org).
Blacks have been required to reach a lower goal in taking standardized tests. Time Online newspaper has made note of Washington D.C’s announcement saying that while 68% of Whites and 82% of Asians must pass standardized math tests in order to secure the schools stability, only 45% of Black students were required to do the same. These numbers mean that while the bar is pushed higher for Whites and Asians, it is lowered for Blacks under circumstances that schools are fearful they will not reach the same level of academic success. Noliwe Rooks of Time says that these low standards will also become a factor in the education of black students “pushing them further behind” decreasing their level of intellect putting them at an unfair disadvantage from their schoolmates. This follows students into their adulthood as they begin to apply for jobs and find they don’t meet certain standards because of a lack of knowledge that was denied to them while in school. Decreasing the level of success required for certain students continues to show how unconcerned schools are with actually teaching and making sure each student reaches their full potential.
The discrimination in our school systems must be stopped to ensure each student is granted an equal opportunity to succeed within and beyond school walls. There is an absence of involvement and community within schools that is primarily disrupting the education of inner city students of color. This reduces how highly students may have seen themselves, making them feel that their appearance in school is optional and undervalued. The heads of schools must recognize the problems students of color face in school and choose to address them rather than ignore them or set rules and punishments that further cripple the student. As the problem grows we will find more students moving away from education entirely and minimizing their potential due to the lack of efforts of their educators. Racial discrimination in education is a growing epidemic that has effected and continues to affect the future of DCPS.