‘Subgroup’ Isn’t Just a Term for Data Nerds, It’s a Key to Social Justice and Equity

Aug 10, 2016 12:00:00 AM


States across the country are working to develop their new school accountability systems as required by the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Education advocates, parents and community members should be engaging with their state leaders to develop meaningful systems to measure whether students are receiving a good education.

Big Disparities

As state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Colorado, these efforts make me reflect on the work we’ve done to help students succeed in school. But I also realize we must continue to do to more to help Latino students graduate from high school and ensure that they are prepared for college. There are 24 high schools in Colorado where more than one third of students do not graduate ( see the appendix on page 6). There are 444 high schools in the state and so 24 may not seem like a disproportionate number, but these 24 schools enroll over 32,000 students. We are losing thousands of students every year. In 2015, the graduation rate in Colorado was 77 percent, which is not great, but when we look at the rates for English-language learners (58 percent) and Latino students (66 percent), they’re dismal. Disparities continue to exist for students in Colorado. Unfortunately, the Colorado Department of Education doesn’t think my community wants to know about these disparities. It intends to allow school districts to lump the performance of all subgroups of students (including students of color, English-learners, and students with disabilities) together. Doing so would mask the performance of these students and it would keep parents and advocates from knowing whether schools are serving them well.

Here’s Why Subgroups Matter

A key piece of ESSA is a requirement that states break down educational outcomes by subgroups. Having this information is critical because it helps us hold states accountable for the learning of all students. We need more transparency and accountability, not less. Congress must ensure that states intervene when underserved students fall behind their peers. LULAC is pushing for requirements that states provide interventions when students fall behind for two consecutive years. [pullquote]We cannot address achievement gaps by pretending they do not exist.[/pullquote]

What We Can Do

At LULAC Colorado we will continue to provide Latino families with educational resources such as study guides, tutoring, and access to practice tests. We will also continue to provide families with information on the need to support higher standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, and their positive effects on Latino students in preparing them for college and careers. If we are committed to helping students graduate from high school and be prepared for what comes later, then the Colorado Department of Education and other state education agencies need to recognize that [pullquote position="right"]obscuring the performance of student subgroups is a far cry from what civil rights advocates want to see.[/pullquote] We must work to ensure that the ESSA protects our kids by demanding that states report out on all students. Grouping different students together as if they're one indistinguishable whole sends the wrong message.

Ed Post Staff

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