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Photo Credit | The Leadership Conference
By Nehemiah D. Frank
Okla. — A few weeks ago, Oklahoma teachers left the classroom to protest at the state’s capital against decades of educational funding cuts. Sadly, they were let down and only received half of their initial demand.
On Monday, educators returned to classrooms across Sooner country to the harsh reality that Oklahoma still ranks third to last in the US for education.
The epidemic of educational injustice remains Oklahoma’s number one threat to the possibility of a prosperous future for its students.
A New Direction in Accountability
The City of Tulsa, in partnership with the Community Service Council, participated in the creation of a framework that’s relative to Tulsa’s disadvantaged populations, a framework the city plans to use as evidence that equity gaps absolutely exist in the city. This incontrovertible evidence should aid all of us in holding local and state politicians accountable.
If we can measure equity through data — because unmodified numbers don’t lie —our leaders can use the results to craft target-focused policies that will begin to move the city and state in a positive direction for kids.
The framework produced equality indicators that measure and “compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities, such as racial minorities, to groups less likely to experience them, such as whites.” The results of the equality indicators in education were disheartening.
Out of a score of 100, Tulsa received a 35.22 in Education
The report measured findings within three educational categories: Impediment to Learning, Quality & Opportunity, and Student Achievement.
Impediment to Learning
The report states “Impediments to learning are instances that remove students from the classroom. “Irregular classroom time [such as truancy, illness, or in school — as well as — out of school suspensions] can have an effect on both immediate and long-term student success.”
For the City of Tulsa:
“Racial disparities exist in both suspensions and student mobility.”
“Student mobility refers to any time a student changes schools that is not related to a grade promotion, so it can be either voluntary (e.g., a move) or involuntary (e.g., expulsion from another school). In either case, there are direct effects on the student who leaves as well as disruptions to the rest of the students in the class.”
Race & Suspensions
For rate of suspension by race, the report found that elementary schools with a predominately African-American student population experience suspension rates seven times that of elementary schools that are predominately white.
For race and suspension rates measured between Black & White students:
Tulsa received an equality indicator score 12 out of 100 for rates of suspension
A lingering cultural construct that brands Black boys as “bad dudes” and Black girls as young “angry Black women” stems from the same dark ignorance that caused the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and decades of racist policies passed by state legislators and policy makers. The truth is, they were the architects for what are now today’s educational equality gaps.
Race & Student Mobility
In the Tulsa Public Schools district, primarily Black elementary schools have over five and a half times higher students mobility rates — the Tulsa equality indicators defines student mobility as “any time a student changes schools that is not related to a grade promotion, so it can be either voluntary (e.g., a move) or involuntary (e.g., expulsion from another school)” — at 51 percent than primarily white elementary schools [9-percent].
Quality & Opportunity
How do the indicators measure the opportunity for African-American students to take advanced placement courses?
Race & Advanced placement (AP) Courses
The educational equality indicator gave the City of Tulsa a score of 37 out of 100 for Race and Advanced placement (AP) courses because high schools with predominantly White student populations offered two and a half times more AP classes than high schools with predominantly Black and Brown student populations.
The report states “AP courses have a number of benefits for high school students. Not only do AP courses provide students with a chance to learn how to prepare for college level classes, they can also count toward college credit in the future. This can be both time- and cost-saving for students once they enter college.”
“Education serves as the gateway to equality and a more inclusive society. Educating students and nurturing their curiosity for lifelong learning and achievement is a central function of public schools. Tulsa’s wide array of public school offerings is reflective of its diverse societal fabric. However, not every student has access to the same level of educational opportunity. Many factors, both inside and outside of the school system, impact how students experience their formal education.”
Oklahoma has a long road to travel if it wants to academically compete with the top ranking states for education in the nation. With Oklahoma legislators unwilling to adequately fund education, the mere possibility of becoming competitive may seen out of reach. But these equality indicators that measure a city’s progress are a game changer for the city of Tulsa and its schools. At the very least, they are a move in the right direction.
Click here for more information about Tulsa’s Equality Indicators.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Frank recently gave a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.