Ypsilanti Superintendent: Black Students Should Be Considered ‘at Risk’

Lauren Slagter, MLive, June 13, 2016

There’s a line item in Michigan’s School Aid Fund budget that designates money to schools based on the number of at-risk students they serve.

The fact black students are not automatically considered at-risk is a “blatant omission” from the factors considered when the state divvies up that money, says Ypsilanti Community Schools Superintendent Ben Edmondson.

Ben Edmondson

Ben Edmondson

“The fact that you’re a person of color in the state of Michigan should be on there,” Edmondson said June 3 during a meeting with a representative from the Michigan Department of Education. “My children are African-American. Yes, I’m in a higher tax bracket and highly educated, but the simple fact that you’re born into this country as a person of color puts you at-risk. … Some state needs to be bold enough to say yes, that is a factor.”

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In every subject area and grade level tested, a lower percentage of black students than white students test as proficient or better. The largest gaps are: eighth-grade math, where 34 percent of white students are proficient compared to 9 percent of black students; 12th grade reading, where 42 percent of white students are proficient compared to 12 percent of black students; and eighth grade science, where 45 percent of white students are proficient compared to 6 percent of black students.

NAEP results revealed a smaller achievement gap between white students and Hispanic or Latino students, and Asian students consistently had the highest proficiency rates.

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“People of color didn’t always feel welcomed into the institution of public education,” Edmondson said. “They don’t feel welcome or valued.”

With additional state funding directed at at-risk black students, Edmondson would provide additional supports specifically for black female students. There’s a stronger correlation between a mother’s educational attainment and her children’s academic achievement in black families than white families, he said.

He would like to provide more preschool interventions and get parents more involved in their children’s education at a young age. More state funding could provide for after-school enrichment activities and additional training for teachers on understanding African American culture, Edmondson added.

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Of the 3,800 students enrolled at YCS for the 2015-16 school year, 60.9 percent are African American. White students account for 22.5 percent of the student body and 7.7 percent of students are Hispanic or Latino. Biracial and Asian students make up the other 8.9 percent of the student body, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education.

By comparison, 61.5 percent of the city’s population is white, 29.2 percent is black and 3.9 percent is Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent census data available from 2010.

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