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Addressing Educational Disparities

by The Urban News
Parent and community involvement is extraordinarily important and can help improve education.

Buncombe County staff presented a briefing at the Feb. 7 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to update the Commission and the public on the county’s “Educated & Capable Community Strategic Plan Focus Area.”

That focus area targets improving educational achievement in schools and quality of life for all age groups.

Proficiency differentials

According to the report, profound racial disparities persist between African American and white students in both academic performance and disciplinary action taken against them. Students in third through eighth grades in Asheville City Schools showed the greatest performance gaps in reading skills: 13% of Black students were grade-proficient in end-of year tests, compared to 75% of white students—a 62% gap.

The differentials in mathematics were almost as severe, showing a 55% gap: only 11% of Black city students were grade-proficient in end-of-year tests, compared to 66% of white students.

Buncombe County students in those same age groups showed similar, though not quite as severe, gaps of 36% in reading and 40% in math. But Al Whitesides, the first Black county commissioner in history, said he was “appalled” by those numbers.

Discipline differentials

In terms of disciplinary actions taken against students, the statistics show a virtual mirror image of the achievement levels. Based on numbers from the staff study, Black students in Asheville City Schools were more than seven times as likely as white students (17.1 v. 2.29 per 1,000 students) to be referred to law enforcement. Many of those students find themselves out of the school buildings, either because the school has put them on short-term suspension—or they are being “dealt with” by law enforcement.

A similar picture emerges for county students: Buncombe County Schools referred 23.4 Black students per thousand to law enforcement, compared to…

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