The nation cannot afford discriminatory barriers that unfairly limit or deny educational access based on factors like race, national origin, sex, or disability. Inequality in education prevents the nation from fulfilling its potential, and ensuring equal educational opportunity remains one of the civil rights movement's top priorities.
Civil Rights Groups Applaud Department of Education's Renewed Commitment to Civil Rights Enforcement
March 8, 2010 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
The Department of Education this week announced plans to step up its enforcement of federal civil rights laws that require states and school districts to provide equal educational opportunity to all American children, regardless of race, gender, or disability. Listen to Leadership Conference President and CEO Wade Henderson in a discussion of the Education Department's new civil rights enforcement policy.
November 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
This week, Higher Achievement-Baltimore held a commencement ceremony in honor of its very first class of After School Academy scholars.
Higher Achievement is a non-profit organization that provides middle school youth with academic enrichment programs and high schoool prep. It has been operating in the Washington, D.C., area for nearly 35 years and has helped thousands of school children improve their grades, test scores, school attendance, and confidence.The opening of programs in Baltimore is part of Higher Achievement's national expansion.
In this video Erin Hodge-Williams, executive director of Higher Achievement-Baltimore, and a few of the Baltimore scholars explain the importance of the program and how it works:
Visit the Higher Achievement-Baltimore website to learn more or to volunteer.
October 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, approximately 1.2 million students do not graduate from high school in four years, if at all. Most of these dropouts come from minority and low-income communities, further widening the opportunity gap.
High school dropouts are more likely to experience poverty, poor health, and incarceration during their adult lives than people who graduate from high school. The dropout crisis comes at a high economic cost for both the individual and society – resulting directly in lost wages and high government expenditures. It has been estimated that the dropouts from the class of 2008 will cost the United States almost $319 billion in lost income over their lifetime.
The Alliance suggests that the role of the federal government (PDF) should focus on developing a common set of standards for American high schools by aligning assessments and creating common definitions of proficiency and graduation rates. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of graduates and ensure that these graduates are prepared for either college or the workplace.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D. N.M., recently introduced the Graduation Promise Act (GPA), a bill aimed at minimizing the number of high school dropouts and turning around low- performing high schools.
The GPA would provide approximately $2.5 billion of federal funding in the form of competitive grants to high schools with the highest dropout rates. About $2.44 billion of that money would be used for the High School Improvement and Dropout Reduction Fund, which would encourage schools to develop partnerships with local communities.
Another $60 million would be for districts, charter schools, non-profits, and colleges for the implementation of innovative school models that help struggling students and students who have dropped out.
September 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), a bill that will make college more accessible to millions of young people. The vote was 253-171.
Student advocacy organizations like the United States Students Association and Campus Progress lauded the bill's passage, which comes at a time when colleges are becoming increasingly more unaffordable and the number of students graduating with more than $25,000 of student loan debt is multiplying.
SAFRA will improve early education through new investments in a prekindergarten grant program and funding for school facilities. The bill will also expand the federal direct lending program and keep interest rates low on need-based student loans.
The largest sum of money – $40 billion – will be used to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant, a need-based federal scholarship that helps low-income families pay for college. Another $2.55 billion will be invested in historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions to increase the number of students that graduate. More money will also be invested in community colleges across America to improve both their courses and facilities.
August 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of national civil rights organizations that includes the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, says that schools could help close the achievement gap and provide incentives for staying in school by addressing many health issues that disproportionately affect minority and low-income students.
Mandatory physical education, healthy lunches, and information about eating well would contribute to students' physical health and help them excel in school. Students should also have access to properly trained, culturally sensitive mental health professionals in school. School-based health centers, of which there are approximately 1700 in the United States, also provide their students with equal access to primary health care.
More than 23 percent of African-American children between the ages of 12 and 19 were obese in 2006, which is higher than the national average of obese children (17.6 percent). And according to the National Adolescent Health Information Center, African-American and Latino children experience higher rates of depression and suicide.
Children spend seven to eight hours a day in school, more time than they spend anywhere else. And yet only 53 percent of schools teach students about healthy eating habits and just 18 percent offer fruits and vegetables.
"In the same low-income and minority neighborhoods where most low-performing schools are concentrated, we find extreme disparities in access to quality, affordable health care," said David Goldberg, senior counsel at LCCR. "Research and common sense make it very clear that poor nutrition and health compound the problems of lower-quality education because sick kids miss more school days, and illness and poor nutrition both sap children of the ability to focus and learn while they are in school."
August 24, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
After more than 30 years in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Higher Achievement, an intensive academic after-school and summer program for motivated but underserved middle school children (grades 5-8) has opened two Achievement Centers in Baltimore, Maryland. Higher Achievement extends learning opportunities for middle school youth, guaranteeing motivated students equal access to success in both school and life.
The program has served more than 10,000 children since its founding in 1975 and 95 percent of the students who completed Higher Achievement's full four-year program having gone on to college. The opening of programs in Baltimore is part of Higher Achievement's national expansion. The Achievement Centers are located in both East and West Baltimore and began their Summer Academies in June.
"Higher Achievement has proven itself in Washington, raising students' grades and test scores, and raising their goals and expectations for academic success in high school and college," said David Goldberg, LCCR senior counsel. "The Leadership Conference, along with the Department of Education and many others, has recognized Higher Achievement as one of the nation's best academic enrichment programs and we are excited to support the opening of the Baltimore Achievement Centers."
When school starts this fall, Higher Achievement-Baltimore will launch its After School Academy and is currently recruiting mentors to work with the 5th and 6th grade students for two hours a week during the school year. For more information, visit www.higherachievement.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 410-752-7753.
August 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Public and private school enrollment has risen in New Orleans as authorities continue to repair and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city's education infrastructure four years ago.
Flood damage initially left only 20 of 120 New Orleans public schools intact after the hurricane hit in 2005, making it impossible for many students to continue their education. Since then, the city has been rebuilding schools in hard-hit areas. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, 16 new schools opened during the 2008-2009 school year, bringing the total public and private school enrollment in the city to 78 percent of pre-Katrina levels. In addition, all higher education institutions in New Orleans are now open.
The damage to the city's schools was particularly devastating to African Americans. While more than 49 percent of New Orleans school students were African American before Katrina struck, the proportion was at 39 percent as late as the spring of 2007. African-American enrollment increased to about 43 percent last school year. Hispanic enrollment has also increased.
August 5, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Education officials in 48 states are developing a set of common standards for what American students should learn during each year of their public education. The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of civil rights and education organizations that includes the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), is pushing to ensure that the common standards address the needs of communities of color and the nation's achievement gap.
Currently, each state sets its own standards, which means that students living in states with high standards are more likely to be prepared for college and work than students living in states with low standards.
"It is critical that the new standards are not only higher to raise the bar across the board, but simpler and clearer so that they can be better implemented," said David Goldberg, LCCR senior counsel. "Good implementation means access to high-quality, well-aligned curricula and assessments for all students, regardless of what state, city, school district, or neighborhood they live in."
August 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will balance California's $26.3 billion deficit by making massive cuts to public education, health care, and other public services that will have a devastating effect on low-income families in the state.
The $6.1 billion cut to public education will force school districts to fire thousands of teachers and compel the state's universities and community colleges to raise tuition by 20 percent and cut enrollment by 40,000. The additional tuition fees may put college out of reach for many low-income students. According to the National Report Card on Higher Education, low-income students already devote 40 percent of their income to pay for public four-year colleges, even after financial aid.
The new budget also contains huge cuts to Medi-Cal -- the state's Medicaid program -- and the Healthy Families Program, which currently provides low-cost health insurance to children whose families don't qualify for Medi-Cal. The cuts will eliminate health insurance for 900,000 children, bring the state total of uninsured children to 1.7 million.
June 1, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have joined an effort to develop common standards for what American students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through 12th grade, a significant step toward national education standards. Alaska and South Carolina have not yet signed onto the initiative, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
A committee of education experts are currently developing the standards, which will be "research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills," according a press release from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, who are coordinating the experts' work.
"Defining standards is only the first step, they must reach all students regardless of the state or community in which they live and the states must commit to implementing them as soon as they are ready," said LCCR Senior Counsel David Goldberg, and a founding partner in the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of 10 national civil rights and education organizations that support common standards.
States and territories will have the option of adopting the standards or incorporating them into what they are currently doing. The first set, focused on making sure high school graduates' reading and math skills prepare them for work and college, will be released in July. The second set, grade-by-grade benchmarks designed to keep students on track to meet the graduation requirements, will be completed by the end of the year.
"To make the standards meaningful for students, there will have to be new curricula and better assessments aligned to meet them. The federal government can support the states with funding to make sure they aren't done on the cheap and that there are well-designed versions for English language learners and students with disabilities," said Goldberg.
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