Campaign for High School Equity Presents Policy Priorities for High School Reform

The Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of nine leading civil rights organizations that represent African American, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian populations, such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, and education advocacy organizations, such as the Alliance for Excellent Education, held a congressional briefing on June 7, 2011 to release their “Plan for Success.” Plan for Success:  Communities of Color Define Policy Priorities for High School Reform outlines a set of policy priorities aimed at improving educational opportunities for students of color, Native students, and students from historically underserved communities.

Leaders from each organization came together to discuss the common vision of the Campaign–to increase visibility and awareness of the inequities in education among students of color and low-income students and to motivate policymakers to take action. Colin Kippen, the executive director of the National Indian Education Association, set the tone by highlighting a challenge shared by the communities that these organizations represent.  At best, only 55% of the high school population of these groups graduate on time. They face persistent disparities in experiences and outcomes and are disproportionately represented in low-performing schools and low-income communities. Furthermore, minority students make up three quarters of the students attending the nation’s 1,900 low-performing high schools where the graduation rate is less than 60%.

Representatives from the campaign’s individual organizations also shared their top priorities and concerns regarding high school education reform, specifically the importance of a properly reauthorized ESEA, strong accountability and data systems for high schools, and high quality teachers:

  • Philip Lovell, Vice President of Federal Advocacy for the Alliance for Excellent Education, argued for data-driven, comprehensive policies that place increased attention on secondary schools rather than elementary schools.   Doua Thor, the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, supported this argument, emphasizing that data must be disaggregated to allow focus on low-performing schools as well as also low-performing students in high-performing schools.  Thor used the example of the Model Minority Myth that suggests all Asian students are high-performing, when in reality several Asian groups have low graduation rates, including the Hmong population from Cambodia and Laos who have an average graduation rate of only 40%.  According to Thor, the disaggregation of these data would also allow communities, teachers and leaders to better understand their schools and utilize it to make informed decisions.
  • Dianne Piche, Senior Counsel at The Education Fund, emphasized the importance of teachers understanding their students and called for a more equitable distribution of high quality teachers who are culturally competent and can make connections with students. Hilary Shelton, Senior Vice President of the NAACP Washington Bureau, argued that secondary teachers should be trained in the field they teach and highlighted that out-of-field teachers are disproportionately concentrated in low-income schools.

By providing perspectives from their respective communities, panelists urged that all students deserve a high quality education in today’s economy, especially as minority students begin to outnumber those who have traditionally held the majority.  The benefits of addressing these issues of inequity include job and economic growth, increased tax revenue and increased human capital. Of greater importance to the coalition, however, is their belief that a high-quality education is a civil right that must be afforded to all students, regardless of backgrounds.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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