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NEW EDUCATION MAJORITY: African American and Latino Parents Express Concerns About American Education System’s Ability to Educate Their Children

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"We cannot continue to sustain two separate and unequal education systems—one that educates white and middle-class children fairly well and one that absolutely fails children of color—and hope to maintain our status as the most powerful and diverse economy in the world," writes Henderson.

Approximately one-third of African Americans and one-quarter of Latinos believe that schools in the United States are not really trying to educate African American and Latino children, according to results from a new poll from the Leadership Conference Education Fund (Education Fund)—the education and research arm of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The poll’s results are captured in New Education Majority: Attitudes and Aspirations of Parents and Families of Color, a report that recognizes that students of color now make up the majority in the nation’s public schools. It shares the opinions that African American and Latino parents and families have about the education of their children, referred to in the report as the “new education majority,” as well as the American education system as a whole.

“In our work in communities, we have found that the education debates conducted inside the Beltway—from testing and No Child Left Behind to Common Core and the appropriate role of the federal government—don’t resonate with new education majority parents or reflect the priorities they have for their own families,” writes Wade Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the Education Fund, in the introduction to the report. “The truth is, these debates have simply failed them. New education majority parents and families know what schools are and are not doing for their children, and they have very clear beliefs about what should be done.”

The report includes four key takeaways, finding that new education majority parents and families

  • are well aware of the impact that racial inequities in education have on children of color;
  • want a public education system that provides academic rigor, safety, and great teachers above all;
  • want schools to set high expectations for African American and Latino students, and want expectations for students from low-income families to be just as high; and
  • believe they have a great deal of power to change the education system and are willing to do their part, but they also believe that all levels of government must step up to address funding and other disparities that harm African American and Latino students.

Poll results show that 66 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Latinos believe that students in their communities do not receive as good an education as white students do—this sentiment is even higher among African American and Latinos whose children attend mostly low-income schools. Among those who see racial disparities in education, 60 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Latinos say that a lack of funding and limited access to resources and technology is a culprit. Lower teacher quality, racism or racial bias, and a lack of parental involvement were also cited by both communities as culprits, as shown in the image below taken from the report.

Education Poll Results

When it comes to rigor, 90 percent of African Americans and 84 percent of Latinos say that students “should be challenged more to help ensure they are successful later in life.” Additionally, 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos believe that expectations for students from low-income families should be the same or even higher than those of other students.

“[The Every Student Succeeds Act] creates new opportunities and incentives to fully and adequately address the failure of our schools to educate all children, but only if we can build the public and political will to do so,” Henderson writes. “We cannot continue to sustain two separate and unequal education systems—one that educates white and middle-class children fairly well and one that absolutely fails children of color—and hope to maintain our status as the most powerful and diverse economy in the world. We believe that education policy in the twenty-first century must vigorously drive toward equity. Decisionmakers have to recognize that policy must reflect the perceptions, needs, desires, and beliefs of communities of color to be able to effectively address the actual educational needs of the majority of students.”

The report offers recommendations for how education policymakers and advocates can better account for the perspectives of parents of students of color, which consist of

  • meaningfully engaging them in education policy discussion, debate, and practice to ensure that policy truly reflects the needs of new education majority students and the expectations of communities of color; and
  • developing policy that meaningfully addresses the concerns that new education majority parents and families have about the quality of their children’s school and teachers, the inequitable distribution of resources, and the expectations that the school has of their children’s capacity to excel.

New Education Majority: Attitudes and Aspirations of Parents and Families of Color is based on the results of a national survey conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research on behalf of the Education Fund representing 400 African American and 400 Latino or Hispanic parents or family members actively involved in the upbringing of a child between five and eighteen years old. New Education Majority: Attitudes and Aspirations of Parents and Families of Color is available at http://NewEducationMajority.org.

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