Racial Disparities and Discrimination in Education: What Do We Know, How Do We Know It, and What Do We Need to Know?
by George Farkas - 2003
This paper reviews what we have learned about racial discrepancies in education, with particular attention to those that might be attributable to discrimination. Empirical studies have found that, on average, African American, Latino, and American Indian children arrive at kindergarten or first grade with lower levels of oral language, prereading, and premathematics skills, as well as lesser general knowledge, than that possessed by White and Asian American children. African American, Latino, and American Indian children are also reported to display behaviors less well suited to the school’s learning environment. It has been estimated that at least half, and probably more, of the Black-White gap in twelfth-grade academic achievement would be eliminated if we could eliminate the Black-White performance gap at school entry. The remainder of the performance gap occurs during grades one through twelve. It is here that researchers have looked for discrimination by teachers and school administrators. In particular, they have looked for curricular track placements that, adjusting for prior performance, are disadvantageous for ethnic minority students. They have also looked for the possibility that teachers hold lower expectations for, and are less encouraging to, minority students. The evidence on these matters is mixed. It is suggested that, with the cooperation of school administrators and teachers, district-specific studies of these issues might be undertaken, using both local administrative data and participant-observational methods.
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