When the Status Quo Is Not Good Enough

Show Me the Numbers: Challenging current academic standards can ensure black achievement in schools.

Getty Images/The Washington Post
Getty Images/The Washington Post

As a minimum standard, in CTSQ we recommend PREPS (public reciprocity for education for postsecondary success). In other words, every high school should offer a curriculum that, at a minimum, meets the admissions requirements for the most competitive public university of the state.

The widespread practice of public schools omitting classes required for public college admissions should be a violation of federal law. Immediately, individual schools and their governing school districts should provide a disclosure statement to students’ parents and guardians that specifies any courses required for admissions to the most competitive public universities of the state that are not available in their curriculum. The disclosure statement should also provide educational options for students to access the necessary courses within the school district.

3.0 collective GPA: The mean grade point average of all students, regardless of race and gender, is a 3.0, according to the High School Transcript Study. In my research for the report Breaking Barriers, I’ve found that a school’s collective GPA is a good measure of a myriad of positive outcomes, including reduced violence and increased college enrollment. Many schools with the worst problems have a composite GPA that is closer to a 2.0, and the students in their 90th percentile barely have a 3.0.

Many school leaders do not regularly monitor their collective GPA because, unlike with standardized test scores, it is not required by law. Every school should publish their composite GPA and make 3.0 or better a benchmark of success. If the school has a composite GPA that is less than 3.0, that school should have specific strategies to raise standards.

One strategy could be the “lifting tides” approach, whereby a school gathers all students in the top quartile and challenges them to raise the bar. At the same time, schools could provide learning supports and curriculum enhancement to other students.

Twenty-five percent or more black students in honors classes: Nationwide, 25 percent of high school students are enrolled in honors classes, according to the High School Longitudinal Survey. Thirty-three percent of white females take those types of courses, while it’s 27 percent for white males, 22 percent for black females and 15 percent for black males. For a school to make adequate progress toward educating black children, they should offer them access to honors classes that meet or exceed honors class enrollment for all students nationally.

Six percent or less black students in special education: Nationwide, 6 percent of high school students are in special education. Our research in CTSQ demonstrates that black males are the most likely to be placed in special education, even in the absence of a learning or behavioral disorder. We also demonstrate that, in the right academic environment, even black males with disabilities can end up in honors classes. Adequate strides toward educating black children require that schools eliminate the biases related to assigning black males to special education, and make a commitment to reducing the representation of black males in special education to be at or below the national average for all students.