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All of the children left behind

Let’s talk about all of the children left behind with the No Child Left Behind Act, the policy that had intention to assist and ensure that all students are meeting high academic achievement and standards. The year is 2018, and we are still living among racially segregated schools as policies are still centered on academic achievement and accountability.

Specifically, segregation recurred with residential segregation that separates individuals in poverty, who we know are predominately people of color, from individuals in the middle to upper class, who are predominately white. As we discuss the children left behind in the No Child Left Behind Act, the matter of segregation is critical to be aware of as it relates to decision-making around reporting the higher scores within homogeneous white groups and not reporting schools with segregation to bring attention to the disparities between white students and minority students.

In past decades, there has been a constant stream of attention focused on the “achievement gap,” which identifies a disparity in standardized testing scores between white students and students of color. At what point do we owe all of our students access to equality? If government officials, school administrators, and educators truly believe that this is an “achievement gap” issue among races, then they are sorely mistaken. Consider Stiefel, Schwartz, and Chellman’s (2007) study’s findings when they stated, “Second, the socioeconomic characteristics of schools held accountable for subgroups differ from those that will be exempted from such accountability.”

Large, urban schools that are more racially and ethnically integrated will bear a disproportionate accountability burden, whereas rural schools, and to a lesser degree upstate suburban schools, that are less integrated will be disproportionately exempt. Put differently, racial subgroup accountability may in practice affect an atypical set of schools: disproportionately urban, Hispanic or Asian, and large rather than rural or suburban, White, and small. To a larger extent, these results reflect the continuing legacy of residential and school racial segregation in New York State (Stiefel, Schwartz, & Chellman, 2007). Is this truly a policy of equity or a policy that benefits schools with less racial integration?

The true name of the “achievement gap” is the educational debt and inequalities of access to equal education. I suppose we could refer to this reality as ripping the Band-Aid off. Access to educational expenditures are public knowledge and allow experts to dive into the numbers. The data to focus on is the amount spent per pupil. There is an astounding difference of staggering amounts based on race. No, the announcement of it being based on race is not readily available. However, without having an economic background, it was relatively common knowledge to read between the lines when predominately white schools averaged $10,000 or more per pupil versus schools that had predominately African-Americans or Hispanic populations.

With the knowledge of what is truly occurring within our public school systems, there needs to be a policy that does not ignore the racial disparities and inequities occurring across the country. Title I funding is not enough to ensure that all students are receiving an equitable education. Stiefel et al., (2007) reported, “Perhaps more disturbing is the possibility that the desire to avoid the pressure of subgroup accountability may serve to discourage school integration, if districts (or schools) are able to manipulate enrollment or test-taking behavior to drop below subgroup reporting thresholds designed to ensure statistically valid performance measures” (Stiefel, Schwartz, & Chellman, 2007).

Let’s stop calling it the “achievement gap” and implement a policy that doesn’t allow schools to benefit from segregation.

Stiefel, L., Schwartz, A. E., & Chellman, C. C. (2007). So many children left behind: Segregation and the impact of subgroup reporting in No Child Left Behind on the racial test score gap. Journal of Educational Policy, 21(3), 527-550.

Whitney Robertson

Whitney Robertson is an experienced Clinical Supervisor with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization management industry. Whitney is skilled in nonprofit Organizations, crisis Management, crisis intervention, case management, and learning disabilities. She works as a healthcare services professional with a special interest in social justice and is pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) focused in Counseling and Counselor Education from North Carolina State University.