Education Secretary John King calls for emphasis on equity

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, speaking to urban leaders in Baltimore Thursday, encouraged them to be vocal advocates for changes in education that will provide equity for all students.
The recent rewriting of the No Child Left Behind Act allows states more flexibility in how they hold schools accountable, but only if leaders are vocal about making sure that students have access to quality schools and resources will the new law work, he said.
“The new law replaces the one-size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind for schools that struggle. But we have to be vigilant to make sure it is not replaced with doing nothing at all,” King said to an audience at the National Urban League convention being held in downtown Baltimore this week.
“We have to make sure that it is replaced by meaningful interventions when schools are struggling.”
For instance, King said, interventions must be aimed at schools where the graduation rates are too low or where achievement is lagging.
“We need you to be loud in those conversations,” King told the crowd at panel on education. “To be insistent that states use their new flexibility under the law in service of equity. The flexibility can’t be an excuse to do less. It has be a tool to do more to close our achievement gaps.”
King listed a series of inequities in access for black and Latino children in the country, saying that while “money isn’t everything” educators must make good choices about where to put their resources.
Data shows that there are 1.6 million students who go to schools that have a sworn law enforcement officer, but no school counselor, he said. That same survey also shows that African American students in pre-kindergarten are three times more likely than their white peers to be suspended from school.
Across the country, he said, African Americans are also significantly more likely to attend schools where they can’t take calculus, chemistry or physics.

King also spoke about the resegregation of schools in the past 20 years that has left many minority and socio-economically disadvantaged students isolated in schools where they don't come in contact with white and middle class students.

The Obama administration has launched a move to try to encourage communities to voluntarily integrate schools. He cited examples of magnet schools that have attracted a mix of students.

"We can change that reality as a result of choices we are making in terms of school and housing opportunities," he said.
King described his own personal journey as a minority student growing up with a father with dementia. School, he said, became the place where he felt safe. He read Shakespeare in elementary school and was exposed to many things he would not see at home. "My teachers gave me a sense of possiblity," he said.

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