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The Issue of Racial Segregation in Schools

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Black people make up 13.2% of the United States population 42% of black children are educated in high poverty schools

Make it noticeable to everyone. About 69 percent of public high schools offer Advanced Placement classes or the International Baccalaureate program, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And 82 percent of schools offer a dual credit program—often a partnership with a local college—that allows students to earn college and high school credit at the same time. Yet the students who actually take college-prep courses and pass them are disproportionately affluent, white, or Asian. Black and Latino students make up 37 percent of high school students but only 27 percent of students taking an AP class and 18 percent of students passing AP exams, according to the Education Department.

In the class of 2012, there were 300,000 students whose Preliminary SAT test scores indicated they were ready for advanced placement courses, according to the College Board. But in general, white and Asian students were more likely to go on to take AP courses. Sixty percent of Asian students with strong math skills took AP math, compared with 30 percent of black students with strong math skills, “You can … look in a classroom and know whether it’s an upper level class or a lower level class based on the racial composition of the classroom”

One New Jersey parent, Walter Fields, describes watching the effect of tracking first hand with his own African-American daughter, when she was denied entry to an advanced freshman math class. She had the middle school grades and standardized test scores to take the higher-level math class, Fields says, but she didn’t get the required recommendation from a teacher to take the class. That didn’t change until Fields and his wife petitioned the principal to allow their daughter to take the higher-level class.

Fields is part of a complaint that the American Civil Liberties Union and the The Civil Rights Project at UCLA filed against the South Orange Maplewood School District, alleging that tracking unfairly holds back African-American and Latino students. “Now we arrive at the point—in 2014—where you can literally walk down a hallway in Columbia High School and look in a classroom and know whether it’s an upper-level class or a lower-level class based on the racial composition of the classroom,” Fields tells Quartz. Fields, the editor of the website North Star News, says that tracking is a racial issue, not just one of class—there are plenty of middle-class black students, like his own daughter, who find themselves tracked into lower level classes. South Orange Maplewood does have a racial disparity issue in its upper-level classes, its board of education president, Beth Daugherty, acknowledged in an interview with Quartz.

The diverse district, within commutable distance to New York City, has a well-educated and upper-middle-class population, including professors, lawyers, and journalists, she says, but about a fourth of the high school also receives free and reduced lunch, pointing to its socioeconomic diversity. The district had 6,622 students—38% of them black and 49% white—as of June 2013. But at every level where students are tracked, black students are underrepresented in higher-level classes, from fourth grade through high school. “You see kids entering the building through the same door,” Fields says “but the second door they enter is racially stratified.”

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The Issue of Racial Segregation in Schools. (2018, October 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
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