Those numbers alone are daunting, but they also disproportionately affect children of color. Currently, white and Asian students are more than twice as likely to be proficient in math and English as their black and Hispanic peers. In fact, 90 of the city’s schools failed to pass even a single student of color on a state test. And results show a persistent (and growing) achievement gap: On the 2014 state tests, black and Hispanic students improved their scores by 1.5 percentage points (while white students improved 2.8 percentage points). If that trend continued for a decade, still less than 40 percent of black and Hispanic students would be proficient.
- Expand access to high-quality preschool. Doing so would give students of color a better foundation when entering elementary school and thus, a better chance to keep up with their peers. The U.S. Department of Education will award $250 million in preschool development grants later this year to help states develop high-quality preschool programs for low-income families in high-need communities.
- Offer greater incentives for working in impoverished areas. Perks like higher pay and increased student loan forgiveness would allow poorer communities to attract and retain skilled teachers, rather than see them leave for more affluent schools. Low-income students, who are disproportionately students of color, tend to have teachers with less experience and fewer credentials, as well as higher rates of teacher turnover.
- Expand high-quality charter schools and encourage greater collaboration with district schools. Charters often serve large proportions of students of color, and many do so in innovative ways. Of nearly 1,000 high-poverty schools analyzed in A Tale of Two Schools, only 46 had average proficiency rates over 50 percent; 23 were charter schools. Expanding those schools and learning from their successes could help improve the performance of students of color at both charter and district schools.
But it’s not only New York that struggles with a persistent achievement gap. Across the board, students of color performed far worse than their white peers on the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. The proficiency rate for Hispanic students was less than half of that of white students in both math and reading. For black students, those gaps were even greater.
Phillip Burgoyne-Allen is a legislative assistant at an education law firm. Reach him via email or Twitter.