The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights recently released a study on school discipline that reported significant racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions starting as early as the preschool level.
This disparity brings about a myriad of concerns including an opportunity gap among students and the impact out-of-school suspension can have on the children’s future at such an early stage of life. Suspensions can lead to delays in academic advancement and increase the likelihood of students dropping out and entering the juvenile justice system.
While 94 percent of school districts do not use out-of-school suspension for preschoolers, there were concerning inequalities among those that did: African American children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of students suspended once, and 48 percent of the students suspended more than once.
Conversely, white students represented 43 percent of enrollment but only 26 percent of students suspended more than once.
Attorney General Eric Holder says on the issue, "Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities."
President Obama has proposed a new initiative called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity) to address the inequalities among students. This initiative would create incentives for states and school districts to drive change in how they identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps.
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics recently released a report on indicators of children’s well-being and features statistics on children and families in the United States.
America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 is the sixteenth in an ongoing series of reports on children and family statistics. The reports look at 41 key indicators in seven domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.
The report found interesting changes in the past two years and projected outcomes for the children’s population:
- A drop in births for unmarried women. 46 births for every 1,000 unmarried women ages 15–44 in 2011, down from 48 per 1,000 in 2010.
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years with no usual source of healthcare, from 5 percent in 2010 to 4 percent in 2011.
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with two married parents, from 65 percent in 2010 to 64 percent in 2011.
- A rise in the percentage of male and female 12th graders who reported binge drinking—consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks—from 22 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2012.
- By 2050, about half of the American population ages under 17 is projected to be children who are Hispanic, Asian, or of two or more races.
- By 2050, the population of children under the age of 17 will make up 21 percent of the population.
Raise DC, a “cradle-to-career partnership” recently released a baseline report (PDF download) identifying metrics used to evaluate the success of children moving through the education system. Additionally, the the report,
[...] also establishes a baseline so that the entire community knows precisely where we are and where we want to go as we work together to continuously improve how we support success for young people in the District, from cradle to career. Most importantly, it articulates our public commitment to you, to our children, and to our city.
Raise DC’s five overarching goals are to ensure that every child can:
- Enter kindergarten meeting expected academic and developmental benchmarks,
- Graduate from high school within 4 years,
- Attain a post-secondary educational credential,
- Reconnect to education/training if they have already dropped out of school, and
- Engage in job experiences that will prepare them for a career.
According to a recent report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, investing in high-quality early care and education could reduce the likelihood that children will commit crimes and be arrested, saving state governments millions of dollars long-term. The anti-crime organization stated in its report, Pay Now or Pay Much More Later, that high-quality pre-kindergarten and other early learning programs can prevent children from ever reaching this path towards prison.
Critical years for child development are considered from birth to age five, when a child’s brain is most rapidly developing. Early investment in quality education during this period can have significant long-term effects on a child’s future, and help build safer communities. Evidence from several studies shows that this investment can reduce the likelihood that a child will be sentenced to jail or prison and increase their chances of graduating from high school.