Educational racism prevents bright minds from excelling in school


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Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Monica Alarcon-Najarro, Contributing writer

As I nervously walked into my high school class in the morning, the Virginia Learning Standards, or SOL, exams took place, I remember the intimidating feeling of relying on a test result to pass my classes.

Preparing for these exams is not easy, and external factors such as employment, family, and access to preparation materials can hinder a student’s path to academic success.

Each year, students in Virginia schools spend the whole year studying materials in order to pass a single test in five subjects at the end of their school year, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made exams SOL more difficult for disadvantaged students.

Educational racism is a problem in schools that students of color, especially black students, face to this day. This has not only been seen through the test results, but also through the implicit biases of instructors who neglect the academic excellence of black students, or by leaving black students disproportionately out of the picture. gifted and talented programs or lack of support from their teachers.

One Friday morning, while browsing the headlines of the Richmond Times-Dispatch daily newsletter, I came across an intriguing but familiar headline in the news: “Performance of Virginia students on learning standards tests plummeted during pandemic. “

Reading the article, I realized that this was not a new topic for me. Even in high school, I was aware of the advantages some schools had over others, allowing their students to do better on standardized exams such as the Advanced Placement and SOL tests.

During my high school years, I realized that many students who attended high income schools had access to professional tutors outside of the classroom to help them pass exams such as the AP and SOL tests.

Meanwhile, many students in my high school were looking for school programs to help them prepare for exams, either because they didn’t have time for extra help or they didn’t have the funds.

It occurred to me that a student’s score on the test was not necessarily a reflection of their intelligence or motivation. Factors beyond their control, such as English proficiency, the school district they lived in, and having parents enough time to help them understand the material, all played a role in their success. or not.

In high school, I experienced this firsthand. As a writing teacher, I have helped several students with tasks ranging from understanding grammatical conventions to writing AP essays. At one point in my senior year, I was asked to help non-native English speakers prepare for SOL English.

For these students, success at the SOL was essential: it would ultimately decide whether they could move on to the next class or whether they had to stay behind and retake the exam.

While working with the tutors, I realized that many students were unprepared and had circumstances that caused intense obstacles in their education. As the chatter filled the room, I remember hearing that many of these students had younger siblings to look after at home and prioritize their families over school; others had to take shifts to help with the income.

I remember partnering with a girl who was a lower level than me to work on issues with. I could see in her eyes that she was extremely tired and the last thing she thought about was studying for a test entirely in English, a language she was still learning.

As bad as the barriers she faced while studying for SOL, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse.

Not only has online learning worsened test scores for public schools, but the statistical percentages that black and Hispanic students barely pass these exams show just how much educational racism is alive in county schools.

In Virginia, students of color struggle to keep up with pass rates.

According to Virginia Department of Education, in the results of the SOL 2020-21 test, black students in the city of Richmond scored 36% in reading, 18% in math, and 30% in science. Meanwhile, Hispanic students had a 38% pass rate for reading, 23% for math, and 35% for science.

Educational racism affects the way future generations learn in school. Students in low-income schools do not receive up-to-date school materials, such as laptops, or have no means of purchasing notebooks, pencils, etc.

Not only that, but it shows through the investments made for certain school districts. Richer school districts earn higher budgets because of their registration forecasts.

These higher budgets include an additional $ 5 million for schools in Chesterfield and almost $ 10 million for schools in Prince William County.

According to an article by Virginia Public Media, schools that are more rural and low-income are losing money because their enrollment forecasts were inaccurate in the wake of the pandemic.

Money and privileges are the most damaging factors that determine whether or not a child receives an education. We need to invest more in education in areas like Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield.

Students should not be deprived of future career prospects because of the inequity of the education system.

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