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Why Do Some Students Perform Better Than Others In School?11:04Download

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Marshawnda Overstreet, 9, points to the chalkboard during a lesson on reading Thursday, May 27, 2004, at B.C. Charles Elementary School in Newport News, Va. (Jason Hirschfeld/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Marshawnda Overstreet, 9, points to the chalkboard during a lesson on reading Thursday, May 27, 2004, at B.C. Charles Elementary School in Newport News, Va. (Jason Hirschfeld/AP)

This week Here & Now is examining K-12 education in the United States.

Today, we’re talking about inequality and the achievement gap that persists between white, middle class students and poor, minority students in this country — and what might help to narrow it.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA.

Interview Highlights: Daniel Losen

On the current status of education inequality in the U.S.

"That depends on how your measure inequality. If you're looking at who has access to effective teachers, you see profound differences along lines of race and class. If you look at who's being kicked out of school, for even minor offenses of the school discipline code, you see really shockingly disparate rates for black students, girls and boys, but also students with disabilities, English learners and other subgroups.

If you're looking at where schools are getting adequate resources, you find that we still have entrench patterns of racial and socioeconomic isolation, especially in urban areas. And there are often times underfunded..."

On patterns of inequality

"In terms of patterns of segregation and racial isolation, they’re actually getting worse. In terms of school discipline, there's been a greater awareness that kicking kids out of school is actually counterproductive. If we're looking at who has access to effective teachers — I don't have the historical data — but it's still a very, very entrenched pattern. And these things are often times connected. You see the access-to-teacher issue more pronounced in racially isolated districts, as well as higher suspension rates. So it's not like these are isolated problems."

"What we're finding from research is that getting suspended out of school is one of the leading predictors of whether students drop out of school eventually."

Daniel Losen

On the impact of suspension and implicit bias

"What we're finding from research is that getting suspended out of school is one of the leading predictors of whether students drop out of school eventually. It also, obviously, denies access to instruction, and we know from research… that even missing three days of school in one year at the fourth grade, after controlling for other factors, predicted a lower reading level by a full grade level. So it's really important in terms of, closing the achievement gap is related to closing the discipline gap…

And it also reflects a problem in terms of inequality that… this concept of implicit bias. So that's often times confused with intentional discrimination. Implicit bias is really the way stereotypes affect our perceptions and judgments about what we're seeing and how to respond to it."

On ways to narrow the gap

"One suggestion has been to not make school resources based on property taxes. The only caution there is that, in many of the wealthier and whiter suburbs, there's actually adequate resources. So we don't want to, by leveling the playing field, also lower the level of resources. So we would have to have a strong commitment to providing adequate resources for children wherever they're located.

But I also think it is important to connect this with housing. There's a legacy of housing discrimination and redlining, and other barriers to have integrated communities. And we often times, when we talk about equity in education, we leave diversity off the table, when it’s really centrally important for making the kinds of big structural changes that are gonna be needed to get to a real fair and just system of public education in the United States."

Guest

Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, an initiative at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. He tweets @losendan.

This segment aired on October 12, 2016.

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