Alabama Places ‘Failing’ Label on Majority Black Schools Only

Challen Stephens, AL, February 16, 2016

Alabama last week received a new list of failing schools, a two-page memo slipped under the door without explanation from the educators who prepared it.

What does it mean? Why these 76 schools? Why “failing”?

The measure is straightforward. These are the state’s lowest ranking schools on state tests of reading and math.

The larger meaning, the one that defies any safe bureaucratic commentary, is that Alabama continues to fail to educate black students who are schooled in relative isolation.

Look at the numbers. There are just under 37,000 children in failing schools in Alabama. More than 34,000 of those children are African American.

These 76 “failing” schools are the modern face of a legacy of segregation followed by desegregation followed by white flight followed by resegregation.

At three of the schools, every single child is African American this school year. Most of the schools are predominantly black. What’s predominantly mean? At Hatch High in Perry County, 688 of the 689 students are black. At Hudson Middle in Selma, 465 of the 469 students are black.

There are no exceptions. Goodwyn Middle is the by far most “diverse” school on the list, and its student body is 72 percent African American.

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At half of the “failing” schools, three quarters or more of the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. At all of the schools, more than half of the students get subsidized lunch.

To spell that out plainly, every single one of the newly announced “failing” schools is both majority black and majority poor.

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The current accountability rules label as “failing” any school scoring in the bottom 6 percent on standardized tests for reading and math. {snip}

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African American children today account for just one third of the 731,000 students in public schools across the state. Yet last week they accounted for 92 percent of the students in failing schools.

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