By Derek Black
April 11, 2016
"Two-thirds of African Americans (66 percent) reject the notion that students in their communities receive as good an education as White students do."
The Leadership Conference Education Fund (the non-profit, non-partisan arm of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights) has released a new study analyzing the attitudes of families of students of color regarding education. The study refers to families of color as the "new majority," as recent reports have demonstrated that racial minorities (African-American, Latino/a, Asian, and others) are now the majority demographic population in our nation's schools.
The results of the study, although not necessarily surprising, are very troubling.
They reveal that families of color do not believe their public schools provide equal opportunity, nor that they are committed to the success of their children. Even if opportunities were equal, these perceptions themselves could provide another barrier to success.
The report's major findings include:
- New majority parents and family members overwhelmingly see racial disparities in school funding. More than four-out-of-five African Americans (83 percent) and 61 percent of Latinos reject the notion that their communities receive as much funding as schools in White communities.
- Racial inequality is seen in the quality of education as well, particularly among African Americans. Two-thirds of African Americans (66 percent) reject the notion that students in their communities receive as good an education as White students do. Although this sentiment is not quite as strong among Latinos, parents and family members in this community are as likely to believe that Latino students do not receive as good an education as Whites do (45 percent) as they are to believe that they do (45 percent). Among both communities, those with children in schools that are mostly low-income are even more likely to see racial disparities in the quality of education.
- The lack of funding is seen as the biggest driver of racial inequities in American schools, but racism and a lack of quality teachers are also cited as factors. Among those who see racial disparities in education quality, both communities cite a lack of funding as the biggest cause. Low quality teachers and racism are seen as the next biggest culprits, especially among African Americans.
- These disparities lead a majority of African-American parents and family members to rate U.S. schools negatively when it comes to educating Black children. By an 11-point margin, African Americans believe U.S. schools do not do a good job preparing Black students for the future (42 percent positive / 53 percent negative) and are nearly four times as likely to say that schools do a poor job (22 percent) than an excellent one (5 percent). A third of African-American parents and family members (33 percent) are especially critical, and believe that U.S. schools are not even “really trying to educate Black students.”
- New majority parents and families see quality teachers as the most important element of a great school. In response to an open-ended question about the most important characteristic of a great school, majorities of both African Americans and Latinos volunteer teacher quality. No other element exceeded even 16 percent.
- School qualities related to academics are prioritized.
- New majority parents and families overwhelmingly believe that students should be challenged more in school. Nine-out-of-ten African Americans and 84 percent of Latinos disagree that students today work hard enough and instead believe that students should be challenged more to help ensure they are successful later in life.
- Both communities believe that when low-income students succeed in school it is much more likely due to support from family than from school. When asked to choose the most important factor to a low-income student’s success from three options: support from family, education from school or the student’s own hard work, both African Americans and Latinos are most likely to cite support from home as the key factor.
- Black and Latino parents recognize their power to help change schools in the U.S.
- But they also believe that government at all levels needs to step up to address funding and other inequities that hold Black and Latino students back.