Call for Racial Equity & Justice: As a nation and in Kentucky, we are failing to deliver a high-quality education for Black students | Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Call for Racial Equity & Justice: As a nation and in Kentucky, we are failing to deliver a high-quality education for Black students

Tuesday, in light of recent events of police brutality giving rise to state, national and international protests, the Prichard Committee called on the state’s elected and appointed leaders to require require competency in cultural responsiveness and implicit bias for all those working, or training to work, in the public sector.

As a statewide citizen-led nonprofit working to advance education progress, we commit to doing the same with our staff, board, membership, parent leaders and student leaders beginning, with great urgency, this summer.

Following the release of our statement, we were pleased to see Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman making a similar call for implicit bias training for all public schools during Wednesday’s Kentucky Board of Education meeting, as well as call for the state department of education to double down on recruiting and retaining teachers of color across the state. Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown echoed her call in an Wednesday afternoon statement as well.

The state’s Council on Postsecondary Education also released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying they have implemented a diversity policy that requires campuses to close attainment gaps and create more inclusive climates. They also plan to develop a certification process for cultural competence.

While media reports over the past weeks have rightfully been about police brutality against Black Americans, systemic racism in our country and state goes much deeper. We must look at the deeply embedded historical injustices and identify solutions; education is a part of the solution. As a nation and in Kentucky, we have failed to deliver a high-quality education for Black students, pre-kindergarten through college.

Simply put, we let African American children fall. We let African American children fail.

The following are data points from each level of the system which must change:

  • We allow our Black students to lose ground starting in kindergarten. In 2015, 45 percent of our entering African American students were reported fully ready for kindergarten, but by 2019, we had equipped only 30 percent of them to score proficient or above in K-PREP reading.

We let African American children fall. We let African American children fail.

  • According to our 2016 report, Excellence with Equity, in Kentucky classrooms, more than 95 percent of teachers are White, while only 79 percent of students are (that percentage was unchanged in the 2019 school report data). Only 3.3% of Kentucky’s teachers are Black, and in many districts there are no Black teachers.
  • According to a national 2018 study by TNTP and our partners at The Education Trust, we have not given Black high school students the resources that research shows are necessary to boost student achievement: strong and diverse teachers, advanced courses & high-quality assignments, etc.
  • In our own analysis of Kentucky discipline data we found for every 100 Black students, we handed out 130 in-school removals. While that doesn’t mean that every Black student was removed, it does seem likely that every Black student saw someone like them removed from the classroom. In the same year, we removed just 51 White students for every 100, and just 33 Hispanic students for every 100.
  • Black students aren’t exiting high school as prepared for college as their White peers. In 2019, 70.6% of White students were deemed transition ready at the end of high school; just 38.1% of African American students met transition ready indicators. (Source: Kentucky School Report Card, 2019)
  • According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Educations recent report, Stronger by Degrees, from 2015 to 2019, Kentucky public undergraduate enrollment declined faster for African American students than for White students.

We let African American children fall. We let African American children fail.

Calling on state leaders and schools to develop cultural competency & implicit bias trainings for educators and future educators is just a start. There is much more we can do to close Kentucky’s wide achievement gap. Follow our Twitter account and blog in the coming days for more thoughts about how we move forward as we continue this crucial conversation.

We must move forward into the next decade with the courage to see the talents and capacities of Black learners – respect them, treasure them, and deliver the environment, relationships, curriculum, and instruction that will develop and celebrate their fullest potential.

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