Racial inequalities in education are more devastating than ever, especially given the importance of education for basic survival and economic success. A 20-year-old’s chance of a good job is now one out of two; a youngster who doesn’t graduate from high school has only one chance out of three. And the consequences of dropping out are even more severe for young people of color.
The issue of educational inequity can be traced to the beginnings of public education in the United States. In the Reconstruction Era, newly emancipated African-Americans founded more than 3,000 schools in the former Confederate states, paving the way for national systems of public education. They also inspired laws to guarantee free public education to all citizens. During this time, the issue of segregation was rampant in the South, preventing Blacks from achieving the same quality of education as white students. As a result, they received inadequate funding, untrained teachers, and poor facilities in many public schools.
Despite the challenges, efforts to improve access to education for minority students have made a significant impact. In the 1960s, African-American and Latino students were mostly taught in segregated schools and were excluded from many higher education institutions. However, efforts to equalize funding and improve access have significantly improved student achievement, as evidenced by significant increases in scores on major national tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, between 1970 and 1994.
Although educational inequities have decreased over the years, racial discrimination is still a problem. Disparities in education affect long-term learning outcomes. Racial inequities are also detrimental to the health and political participation of minority groups. As a result, a lack of equal educational opportunity is a recipe for poverty and discontent.
Studies indicate that curriculum and teacher quality makes the biggest difference in educational outcomes for minority students. Furthermore, the lack of access to challenging courses and programs accounts for much of the achievement gap between minority and white students. In addition, studies of High School and Beyond surveys show that there is a significant correlation between course-taking and achievement scores.
A lack of financial resources and education access also make the situation even worse. With the continued growth of remote learning and school closings, the racial gap in educational outcomes will only widen. Further, a lack of adequate resources will limit parental support for online education. It is imperative that Congress appropriate funds to implement the necessary changes.
One way to improve educational quality is to hire more qualified teachers. This is especially important in areas where a large percentage of minority population lives. Many teachers in urban schools are not certified, and many of them lack the proper education to teach students. It is crucial to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers. Moreover, a qualified teacher will ensure that the student is taught in an environment that is conducive to their learning.
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