NAACP Threatening States That Lack School Equity Plans
Twenty-two states may face federal civil rights complaints after failing to answer the NAACP's call for comprehensive strategies targeting the achievement gap separating African-American and white students in the nation's classrooms.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is threatening to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights against states such as Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania that did not heed the organization's call, issued late last year.
John H. Jackson, the national director of education for the NAACP, said last week that he was disappointed that nearly half the states had not answered the organization's request.
The NAACP's campaign, launched in November, asked every state to submit an Education Equity Partnership Plan by May 10 that identified efforts to decrease racial disparities in their K-12 schools. The NAACP wants to cut those differences in half by 2007.
In its "Call for Action in Education" report, the Baltimore-based civil rights organization identified areas in which racial disparities persist in education. It noted, for example, differences in the quality of teachers instructing black students and the underrepresentation of African-Americans in courses for gifted students.
The equity plans, Mr. Jackson said, would serve as a tool to make sure state legislators and education leaders provide districts with the resources to boost minority students' achievement.
"If we don't ensure that these components are in place on the front end, then we can't justify penalizing teachers, superintendents, and students on the tail end," he said.
The NAACP's Call for Action and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators' report on the achievement gap, also released last year, represent a heightened and coordinated effort by politicians and civil rights groups to urge state officials to address the lagging academic achievement of black students. ("Black State Lawmakers Target 'Gap,'" Dec. 5, 2001.)
Some states crafted detailed plans, while others submitted letters outlining how they would comply with the NAACP's request. Mr. Jackson said a committee of local members would recommend ways for the organization's affiliates to support the states' efforts, which could include lobbying lawmakers or offering technical help.
The NAACP found that a variety of efforts to address racial disparities already were under way in states such as South Carolina and Maryland.
South Carolina is working to implement recommendations outlined in a report by the African-American Student Achievement Committee, a state task force convened in 1999 to study achievement by black students. The report, finished last year, led to a state program for African-American student achievement.
Willie D. Frazier, an education associate with the state who runs the program, noted that South Carolina will host its first statewide achievement-gap conference in August. Also this summer, two training institutes are slated to help teachers infuse African- American culture and history in all subjects.
Woody Grant, the chief of the equity-assurance and compliance branch in the Maryland Department of Education, helped draft a letter to the NAACP on that state's efforts in closing the achievement gap. He said education officials there recently adopted more specific expectations for school districts to illustrate how different cultural perspectives are being included in the curriculum.
Meanwhile, Ohio Department of Education officials said they plan to submit a letter by the end of the month detailing efforts there to address racial inequities. This spring, for the first time, the state released student tests scores by race and ethnicity to highlight the academic disparities, said Dorothea Howe, an education department spokeswoman. "We feel that we're already headed down the path to closing the achievement gap," she said.
Vol. 21, Issue 37, Page 22