WASHINGTON —At a briefing today, the Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) provided recommendations for the development of common academic standards that take into account the unique needs of students of color and low-income students to ensure that all children, regardless of ZIP code, income, race, or ethnicity are taught to the same high standards.
“Even though our kids represent the fastest-growing segment of public school students, communities of color are still frequently left out of the process of defining academic success in our country,” said Michael Wotorson, executive director of CHSE. “Communities of color must be meaningful partners in the development, implementation, evaluation, and validation phases already under way in the common standards movement. If the leaders of this process fail to engage those most at risk, they may actually perpetuate educational inequities and therefore be complicit in creating a permanent underclass in America.”
According to the Alliance for Excellence Education, African American, Latino, and Native American high school students have at best a six in ten chance of graduating from high school on time with a regular diploma. And contrary to the model minority myth, many Asian Americans also face barriers in education. For example, about half of adult Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans have less than a high school education.
Setting common academic standards can be a critical step toward closing the achievement gap if they are implemented effectively and fairly. But standards that do not take the unique needs of students of color into account will miss the mark and ultimately do communities across the country a disservice, according to CHSE. In particular, the federal government, governors, and state education decision makers need to consider that:
• standards that do not account for the sovereignty of Native American tribal communities will face strong opposition;
• English language learners may need customized standards, both for learning English and for learning with their peers in other subjects;
• if standards are not accompanied by strong incentives for states and districts to align their curricula and assessments, students in low-performing schools, districts, and states will be at more of a disadvantage with high standards;
• the adoption of common standards must include a plan to hold states accountable for meeting the unique needs of students of color; and
• states must be held accountable for making sure that a set of common standards is the starting point and not the “end” for effective education for students. Students of color can benefit from rigorous, clear standards that include effective teachers, access to high-quality supports, and accountability for improved academic achievement and graduation rates for all students.
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Denise Forte, director of education policy, House Committee on Education and Labor; and David Beaulieu, Ph.D., director of the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University joined Wotorson at the briefing, advocating for common standards that set the same expectations for all students, on par with what they need to be successful in college and the modern work force.
For more information about CHSE’s perspective on common standards and its policy recommendations, visit www.highschoolequity.org.
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CHSE is a coalition of leading civil rights organizations representing communities of color that is focused on high school education reform. Members include the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, LULAC, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, Alliance for Excellent Education, National Indian Education Association, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center.
CHSE is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.