Report: Local Black, Hispanic children face ‘chronic lack of access’ to quality education

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Black and Hispanic children in Marion County face a “chronic lack of access” to high-quality education from the time they’re in preschool to when they’re preparing for college, according to a new report.

Commissioned by the Indianapolis-based Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the report compiled the obstacles that Black and Hispanic children face to quality education, such as access to a high-performing school, and disproportionate discipline in the classroom.

It includes recommendations for addressing the inequities, like automatically enrolling all qualifying students in advanced classes.

The foundation commissioned the report in the wake of anti-racism demonstrations last year, when superintendents in all 11 Marion County school districts promised to “ensure all students are provided with the conditions necessary to succeed,” according to the report.

Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the foundation, said the report is meant to provide information for these initiatives. The foundation, a nonprofit providing grants to health, education, and civic research, does not pursue legislative efforts, she added.

And while the recommendations do not include cost estimates, Fiddian-Green said the goals were worth prioritizing.

“It’s a lot that we ask. However, the data are really clear that Black and Hispanic students in Marion County are likely to experience a chronic lack of access to educational opportunities,” Fiddian-Green said.

“So if we are serious about addressing what is really a crisis for Black and Hispanic students, then we need to make this a priority and dedicate the time and resources needed.”

The disparities begin with early childhood education, where 65% of Black children are enrolled in high-quality programs, compared with 76% of white children, according to the report, which recommends that the state develop a better data system for tracking early learning.

“We know some students show up in kindergarten not being ready for kindergarten,” Fiddian-Green said. “That sets off their journey needing support.”

The inequities persist in K-12 education, where high-performing schools are clustered in majority-white neighborhoods, according to the report. And they’ve been made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic: From 2019 to 2021, the percentage of Black and Hispanic students enrolled in low-performing schools increased by double digits.

To address this, the report recommends replicating high-quality schools in neighborhoods without them, and deploying federal emergency funds to provide tutoring, extended learning time, or more teachers to students whose academic performance suffered during COVID-19.

The report’s recommendations came from research into practices tested by schools around the country, said the report’s author, Ben Kleban, while the data came from public records requests to the Department of Education, the Commission for Higher Education, and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. ·

Some recommendations wouldn’t result in a huge financial burden, Kleban said, such as ensuring that schools and districts are reporting discipline records to their boards.

Others, like making filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) a graduation requirement, are “relatively low-hanging fruit” that could make a major impact on high school completion rates, Kleban said.

According to the report, college enrollment rates nearly double for those students who complete the FAFSA, and rise 4 percentage points for every $1,000 in aid provided per student.

“With a FAFSA completion rate in Marion County of only 41.5%, there is tremendous opportunity to improve FAFSA completion and ultimately college enrollment for all students, ultimately elevating their economic opportunities later in life,” the report says.

Kleban also said the report intentionally focused on the disparities in access to high-quality education, rather than the resulting achievement gaps that have received much public attention in the past.

“That’s why we have achievement gaps, because we have opportunity gaps to begin with,” Kleban said.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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11 thoughts on “Report: Local Black, Hispanic children face ‘chronic lack of access’ to quality education

    1. It’s not a racist article, by any means. However, the report itself is not exactly informative. In order to increase the availability of a “quality education” to poor minority children, the report advocates that we replicate the few, relatively good public schools that exist in Indianapolis, by creating versions of those good schools in poorer neighborhoods populated primarily by minority children. And, to make more advanced courses available to all who qualify for them (I thought that was already the case, but, whatever). A reasonable proposition, don’t you think? But, they do not in any way quantify how such replication will come about. And, spoiler alert: that’s because they really can’t. What makes a good school are engaged parents who demand a quality education, and provide their children with the environment and the upbringing in which getting a quality education is an absolute expectation.And if their neighborhood school doesn’t address their concerns and provide a quality education? They go to a different school that does. How do you think that the few “good” elementary schools in Indy came to be located in white neighborhoods? They didn’t magically fall from the sky from the good school fairy. The people in those neighborhoods created them – not only through their engagement, but primarily through their upbringing of their children and by preparing their children to learn.

    2. It’s 100% racist, which is ok when it supports a Democrat agenda. as you point out yourself, parenting (or lack thereof) plays a huge role. Is Chalkbeat and IBJ ready to print a headline: “Black and Hispanic parents do a horrible job getting their children educated”? Of course not. That would be RACIST!! and they would be crucified. 21 below makes a far more elegant case, but as always, when it comes to personal accountability, Democrats have none and there has to be a boogie man. Their favorite card is RACISM!!

  1. High performing schools are function of the quality of the students, and vice versa for bad ones. We are not supposed to note that because it implicitly means the failure is primarily a function of parenting and the kids themselves, and our current political moment is all about avoiding embarrassing facts about differences in group behavior in our society, or ascribing them to nebulous forces like white supremacy, inequity, and so on.

    Also, encouraging all students to fill out a form that will allow them to take on student loans with no consideration of whether the student in question is actually equipped to succeed in college is insanity. Most students are not in fact college material, and our current student loan debt crisis has been fueled by the myth that higher education is a desirable path for the majority of the population. However, it does support administrative bloat and what this is really about is getting as many bodies in the door to avoid painful staffing cuts in make-work positions in colleges and universities that have nothing to do with actually delivering useful knowledge.

    1. Should also add that the data on school discipline is dishonest as well – when you control for past behavioral issues, the supposed ‘gap’ in discipline between different racial groups disappears. In other words, the higher rate of suspensions is due to black and to a lesser extent Latino students exhibiting much more frequent behavioral issues in school. Students who are first time offenders are have similar suspension rates across all racial groups.

  2. The presence or lack thereof of parental involvement in their students’ education is by far the most likely predictor of student success or not. It’s of course easier to blame the schools if some people won’t admit that and blame their failure on someone else.

  3. Wow, what an eye opener :-)) These fools refuse to acknowledge school choice which every child be able to access. Still refuse to stop pushing failing government schools which are a disgrace to nearly every community in the country. It’s really not all that complicated; create competition for the school dollar and you get better schools and better education experiences for the children. I would NEVER send my children to these failed government schools, many of which are becoming Marxist indoctrination centers. These government schools may not be very good at teaching, but they are great at brainwashing now.

  4. Of course nobody in the article or comments want to bring attention to the elephant sucking the air out of the room . Yes I’m talking teacher unions. Good Night.

  5. Wow. Glad I came here to see all the uniformed people use a lot of words to make logically fallacious arguments about an issue on which they obviously have no firsthand (or even secondhand) experience.

  6. Do folks in the comments understand that their narrow minded right wing talking points do absolutely nothing but make them look like idiots? I wish they’d show up to school board meetings so we could yell at them.