Time Running Short to End Disparities Among Minorities

 

Sandré Swanson

By Kathryn Baron, EdSource California’s future economic prosperity may lie in implementing a dozen recommendations for helping African American, Latino, and Southeast Asian boys succeed in school, according to the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, which released its findings recently in Sacramento along with testimony from an all-star panel of education, health, and workforce experts. “There is no time to waste,” said Oakland Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, chair of the select committee. “In the face of demographic and social realities, California must lead the way in understanding and improving opportunities for Latino, Black, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native American youth,” he said. “Addressing racial disparities and the systemic barriers that limit the success of Californians is not merely a matter of fairness and equality—it is essential to the economic strength and competitiveness of the state,” said the committee’s report. Committee members spent the last year and a half holding hearings across the state to gather personal stories, research, and examples of successful reforms. What they learned filled 19 bills that are currently before the Legislature. Nearly half those bills address the disproportionately high rates of school suspensions and expulsions meted out to boys of color. According to the panel, while more than 70 percent of Californians under 25 are not white, they continue to face extensive economic, educational, and health barriers that prevent them, and eventually the state, from thriving. As early as third grade, Latino and African American students are half as likely as white and Asian students to score at the proficient or advanced levels on standardized tests in language arts. Breaking it down further, Black and Latino girls do better than Black and Latino boys. The committee’ recommendations include identifying students at risk of failing the high school exit exam and providing tutoring several years before they have to take the test and building out the student database, known as CALPADS, to provide a more accurate picture of the factors and school programs that impede or improve academic performance.
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