The U.S. News and World Report blog, “Data Mine,” revealed statistics this past January comparing the quality of education between white students and students of color. The data captured in the blog titled, “U.S. Education: Still Separate and Unequal,” shows that the education of African-American youth still lacks the rigor, resources, and access that the education of white students profoundly possesses. 

If you are wondering whether your child’s school possesses the rigor, resources, and access that will allow him or her to compete with students of any race, continue to read for the characteristics that make for a quality education. Then assess whether your child’s school measures up. 

Early literacy support

Young children thrive from early literacy experiences. Yet U.S. News & World Report shows that literacy activities are implemented more in homes of white families than black families. Regardless of race, literacy practices — reading to your child, having your child read to you, telling your child stories and poems, and having them read and write letters — sometimes come few and far between in the homes of full-time working parents and/or parents who were not shown such literacy practices when they were children. 

Therefore, schools that know the benefits of early literacy, support at-home literacy practices. Some schools host literacy nights, evenings where parents are invited to the school and are taught ways to help their children become better readers. Schools may also support in-home literacy practices by sending home information with literacy tips and tricks that parents can implement with their children. If you can identify resources from your child’s school that help you support reading development at home, then your child’s school recognizes the importance of early literacy, which leads to better reading. 

Academic rigor and results

Standardized test scores are often used for school quality measurement, and data shows that black students score lower than white students in reading and math in grades kindergarten, third, fifth, and eighth. However, rigorous curriculum for black students may equalize this. When schools implement curriculum that challenges students and lead to content mastery, they often have a high number of students meeting or exceeding state standards in reading, math, science, and writing. High schools with a rigorous curriculum often offer a large number of advanced placement or international baccalaureate classes. Such classes allow students to increase their higher-order thinking skills and readies them for college courses. To identify the standardized test scores and the number of college-level courses offered at your child’s school, use the Illinois Report Card website. This site has updated information regarding the schools’ academic progress, school environment, and student characteristics.

Restorative discipline

Black students, especially black boys, are served double the amount of out-of-school suspensions as Hispanic youth and nearly three times as many as white students. Such numbers shine light on the statistical prediction that 33% of black men will go to prison within their lifetime. It also highlights a need for justice in our school that rehabilitates and educates instead of kicking students out. Schools that have a restorative or rehabilitative way of handling discipline issues are the ones you want your children to attend. 

Restorative justice often includes preventive discipline strategies, such as character education and recognizing positive behavior. When children do commit offenses against school policy, consequences should lead to stopping the wrongdoing while allowing students to learn something in the process. For example, some schools require children who get into a physical altercation to work with each other to clean the school or stay after school to work on projects that address school violence. Schools may also bring together the parents of children to help resolve the conflict instead of or in addition to barring children from school for a specified amount of time.

Of course, your child’s education is not totally dependent upon his or her school. It is also your responsibility to lay the foundation and enrich your child’s knowledge by implementing learning opportunities found in this column and/or advancing your own education. Whether it is going back to school for your GED or attaining a PhD, your motivation and persistence toward lifelong learning is influential and can provide you with the resources you need to help your child gain a quality education.  

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