A report released Wednesday offers an unflattering snapshot of the state of urban education. The University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education looked at school improvement and educational opportunity across all schools in 50 cities and found that performance is basically flat.
“It’s a pretty discouraging picture, if you look across all of the cities,” said Michael DeArmond, a senior research analyst at the center and one of the report’s authors.
The report found what it called “staggering” inequities for poor students and students of color. From Oakland to Houston to Newark, white students were four times as likely as black students, on average, to attend a high-performing school. Black students, meanwhile, were twice as likely to get out-of-school suspensions.
There were notable exceptions. In the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, black students were suspended at slightly lower rates than white students. In Chicago, black and Hispanic students had high rates of participation in advanced courses and college entrance exams.
When it comes to overall achievement, 40 percent of the lowest-performing schools were stuck at the bottom three years later, though some cities did manage to improve their failing schools.
“In New Orleans, the schools that started in that bottom 5 percent went to zero, so none of them stayed there for three years running,” DeArmond said. Washington, D.C., made similar gains.
The report did not draw conclusions about what’s working in those cities. DeArmond said he hopes the data will help mayors and other city leaders make their school systems work better for all students.
“We think this report is a good conversation starter,” he said.
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