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Racism In Education: what we know and where we go from here

by Javed Pasha
Racism In Education

Racism In Education

Racism in education describes unfairness and discrimination against people belonging to certain racial or ethnic categories in enjoying full educational opportunities.

This article will discuss what we know about racism in education and what you can do to help eliminate it from our society and our schools.


Understanding Racism

A Short Primer on Racism – Although racism is often viewed as a system of advantages for whites, that’s only half of it. True, white people as a group possess many unearned privileges — such as not being followed around in stores — but racism has an ugly flip side too.

In fact, among its many costs to society, racism can exact an enormous toll on those who are regularly subjected to discrimination.

Researchers have found that African Americans who experience prejudice at work and school typically get sick more often than other employees or students; that they live shorter lives; and that they earn less money throughout their lifetimes compared with equally qualified individuals who aren’t perceived to be black.


Racism Starts At School

The research is unequivocal. Children of color are disciplined, suspended, or expelled at higher rates than their white peers. More alarming is evidence that those disparities begin early and increase over time — even when controlling for economic status, behavior, or prior offenses. 


Racism In Classrooms

The form of racism that most affects young people is peer-to-peer bullying, which accounts for 78 percent of reported cases. Teachers say they see it all too often, with children making racist jokes or taunting other kids about their skin color or heritage.

In April, a school bus monitor in upstate New York was suspended after a video of her harassing two black children went viral. Educators need to make it clear that these acts will not be tolerated—but they also must make their schools safe spaces for students to share their feelings about racism.

If you notice any behavior that may be racist or discriminatory against your students, reach out to parents and/or teachers who can intervene in a way that’s appropriate for age level.

Racism In Education


Racism In Marks

A new study has found that racism is a factor at schools for students of color. The report, published by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, revealed that black students are disproportionately punished compared to their white peers.

The best evidence of racism at schools is shown by huge gaps in student test scores. High-poverty black and Hispanic students are, on average, far behind their higher-income white peers.

The racial achievement gap doesn’t just exist at individual schools; it exists across school districts. Nationwide, black 12th graders have a mean score of 262 on the reading section of NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Progress), compared to 288 for white 12th graders.

That 18-point gap exists even though affluent blacks are more likely than affluent whites to grow up with parents who graduated from college—the single best predictor of academic success for children today.


Racism In Colleges

While it may seem like a new trend, racism on college campuses is not a new phenomenon. From segregationist policies that blocked black enrollment to racist Greek organizations and race-based crimes today, colleges have long played a role in perpetuating racial inequalities.

In addition to overt discrimination, structural inequalities affect students of color at every stage of their educational experience—from preschool all the way through grad school.

These issues are complex and often intertwined, which is why there’s never been a comprehensive study about these problems facing college students today.

Currently, there’s just not enough research to understand exactly how prevalent incidents of racism are on different campuses around the country—but as part of its Campus Climate Initiatives program launched last year, The American Association of Colleges & Universities is trying to find out.


Racism In University

In 2014, The Guardian conducted a study on racism at universities in England. This study found that 55% of those who had attended an institution for higher learning felt that discrimination was either frequent or common. Additionally, 51% reported that they had seen someone be treated differently based on their skin color.

18% of individuals said they personally had experienced some form of racism while studying abroad. If a university student feels like racism has been practiced against them, they may take their complaint to The Office for Students or to another agency such as Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).


Racism By Teachers

Black students are punished more often, more harshly, and earlier than white students; these patterns of unequal treatment also extend to suspension. Black schoolchildren are twice as likely to be suspended than white students for similar misbehavior.

According to a study conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension. The U.S.

Department of Education reports that black boys are suspended and expelled at rates three times greater than white boys. (Friedrichs & Kropf).


Racism By Students

In a 2015 survey of more than 17,000 students, researchers found that black and Hispanic students reported experiencing racial discrimination or harassment at a rate three times higher than their white peers.

The reasons behind these discrepancies aren’t always clear—they might be due to overt racism or implicit bias on behalf of other students—but they have real consequences.

For example, a study published earlier this year showed that black children with high levels of self-esteem are much less likely to internalize stereotypes about academic ability.

This means kids who feel like they belong are better able to participate in class without being distracted by racist remarks or actions by other students. And research shows those students can benefit greatly from an environment without those negative influences.


Racism In Education In Rural Areas

according to a 2015 report by an educational advocacy group called Ed Trust, it’s easier for rural schools to practice segregation because of their more limited enrollment. The majority of minority students who live in cities attend schools that are less than 10 percent white.

In rural areas, nearly 20 percent of white students go to school with less than one percent black or Hispanic students. These numbers can be explained by two factors: a lack of minority families living near rural schools and inequitable school funding which leads to fewer resources for at-risk children.


Racism In Education In Urban Areas

Although ethnic minorities are only a quarter of students nationally, more than half of those attending high-poverty schools are minorities. In cities such as Boston, Detroit, New York City, Newark and Washington D.C., blacks or Hispanics account for 90 percent or more of public school students.

These schools tend to have higher dropout rates; fewer experienced teachers; lower levels of parental involvement; fewer college preparatory classes; and fewer resources like libraries and labs.

The culture created by these problems is often described as abandonment by school officials—this means no one believes that education is worthwhile for poor minority children so it doesn’t matter if they attend school or not.


Racism In Education In Developing Countries

In many developing countries, there is a disparity between national average scores for tests such as PISA and achievement tests of upper income school districts.

In some cases, when dis aggregated by ethnicity, there may be no clear relationship between students’ socioeconomic status (SES) and their performance on international or domestic assessments.

In low-performing nations like Mozambique, Bulgaria, Cambodia or Venezuela—and even in high-performing ones like South Korea—students in wealthy school districts outperform national averages.

It has been suggested that these discrepancies are at least partly due to implicit bias among teachers who evaluate students based on race.


Racism In Education In Developed Countries

Unfortunately, it’s not just a problem of a lack of funding. Racism in education is a factor as well. This can be seen by examining under-representation of non-white students at high-ranked universities.

In 2003, black students made up 3% of college freshmen, yet they only made up 1% of those admitted to Ivy League schools. Only 11% of African American students receive bachelor’s degrees by age 24; that number jumps to 30% for Asian Americans and 53% for whites.

Education, like most institutions in developed countries, has been historically segregated by race. Until just a few decades ago, schools of all kinds were largely racially segregated to varying degrees. Some schools were only white or black while others had significant non-white populations.

Although overt racism is no longer condoned by society as a whole and overt discrimination has been mostly eliminated (to varying degrees), there are still many vestiges of institutionalized racism that can be seen throughout public schooling systems around the world today.

Also, schools have been disproportionately affected by poverty which often have an adverse effect on students’ ability to achieve at high levels regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

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