In its purest form, education should be a great class equalizer. But that's often not the case in practice, of course.
Bias still seeps into education, in ways both subtle and blatant. These biases can have a chilling effect on students at an early age, discouraging girls from studying math and science and creating a discipline gap whereby students of color -- especially boys -- are more frequently suspended or expelled than their white peers.
But there are significant efforts underway to address bias in schools. This month, Education Week launched a new yearlong series, “Beyond Bias: Countering Stereotypes in School,” which will highlight examples of success as well as challenges in confronting unconscious prejudices.
The series’ first installment includes three pieces on how school districts in the Ferguson, Missouri area have responded to the unrest that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown last August.
At St. Louis city schools, Education Week’s Denisa R. Superville reports, educators have begun reviewing discipline and suspension data to better understand why African-American males are disciplined at such a high rate. At two of the area school districts, Ferguson-Florissant and Jennings, full-time mental-health counselors have also been brought on staff to help students come to terms with the tumultuous events of the previous year.
The second piece is a question-and-answer feature and video interview with Joseph Davis, the newly-hired superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant school district. Davis describes how the district is undergoing an "equity audit," looking closely at how to help its underachieving students become "self-advocates" and access the tools they need to succeed.
The third story offers an examination of the challenges facing schools that have been put on warning by the U.S. Department of Education to correct patterns of systemic discrimination, as well as a short “implicit association” test allowing readers to gauge their own subconscious biases.
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