New US Dept. of Education Civil Rights Data Released

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights today released data about education equality in America’s schools that show disparities in rates of retention and discipline. The data was gathered from 6,800 districts that enroll 85% of the country’s K-12 population–about 42 million students. The survey, performed every 2 years since 1968, was completed during the 2009-10 academic year and for the first time includes data on grade retention (repeating a grade). The full data set is expected to be made public soon at For now, here’s a roundup of top-line results from an Office for Civil Rights summary:

  • Black students represent 18% of students in the data, but 46% of those suspended more than once and 39% of those expelled.
  • Black and Hispanic students represented more than 70% of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement.
  • Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions.
  • Nearly 1 million students, or 2.3%, were retained across K-12. Black students represent 16% of middle school students in the data but 42% of the middle school students who had to repeat a grade. English-language learners make up 6% of high school enrollment but 12% of students retained.

Retention in grade is a strong predictor of on-time high school graduation. In our evaluation, we found that City Connects students have significantly lower rates of retention than comparison students. The chart below shows that from kindergarten through grade 9, City Connects students identified as the most at-risk have lower probabilities of retention in every grade. The beneficial effect of City Connects persists after students leave the intervention in grade 5 and moved into middle school and beyond.

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Three Massachusetts Groups Awarded “Promise Neighborhood” Planning Grants

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded 21 “Promise Neighborhood” planning grants to nonprofit organizations and universities across the country, three of which are based in Massachusetts. The one-year grants of up to $500,000 are designed to help these groups create plans to provide comprehensive “cradle to career” services for children.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”

The Massachusetts winners are Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc. in Lawrence, the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston.

As reported in the Boston Globe, “the $500,000 grant to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-based organization, represents a major milestone in replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone locally. For years, different groups of city leaders, philanthropists, and community activists have toured the Harlem program, returning each time to Boston energized, but unable to sustain the momentum.”

One of City Connects’ schools, Orchard Gardens, is located in Dudley Street’s target neighborhood of Roxbury, which is also part of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’sCircle of Promise,” a 5-square-mile area in where the Mayor and Boston Public Schools have been trying to set up a coalition to provide wraparound services for children. Dudley Street will partner with the City of Boston, nonprofit groups, philanthropists, after-school providers, religious leaders, and universities to advance this agenda.

Next year, the President has requested $210 million in his budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.

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