Brightbeam Urges Leaders of Progressive Cities to Prioritize Closing Education Gaps in Public Schools

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New Report reveals Students in America’s Most Progressive Cities face greater racial inequity in achievement and graduation gaps 

CHICAGO, IL – Today, Brightbeam, the umbrella organization for the platform known as Education Post, released the “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity For All” report for progressive leaders, urging them to recognize ongoing disparities and prioritize closing achievement gaps. The report, which was published on Martin Luther King Day by Brightbeam, offers a shocking comparison of racial gaps in educational outcomes between progressive and conservative cities.

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“Progressive cities are facing a stark challenge to their status as an exemplar – the truth is that our schools do not work equally well for everyone. We have kids living on the margins, who will never be able to experience the best of what their city has to offer due to the pervasive inequities that decision-makers have presided over for decades,” said Chris Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of Brightbeam. “This report highlights a fixable problem and calls for meaningful plans from political leaders that are co-created with the communities they serve and monitored year-over-year for real progress.”

“The Secret Shame” gathered achievement and graduation rate data from public school districts in the 12 most progressive and 12 most conservative cities in the U.S. and analyzed achievement gaps between black and white students and between Latino and white students. The report revealed that students in progressive cities were found to face greater racial inequity in achievement and graduation rates than students living in our most conservative cities, notably:

  • Progressive cities, on average, have achievement gaps in math and reading that are 15 and 13 percentage points higher than in conservative cities, respectively.

  • In San Francisco, for example, 70% of white students are proficient in math, compared to only 12% of black students reaching proficiency — a 58-point gap.

  • In Washington, D.C., 83% of white students scored proficient in reading compared to 23 percent of black students — a 60-point gap.

  • In contrast, three of the 12 most conservative cities — Virginia Beach, Anaheim and Fort Worth — have effectively closed or even erased the gap in at least one of the academic categories we examined.

“We looked at other pertinent factors that might create correlations between larger achievement gaps and progressive cities, such as the percentage of white students in the city or the per-pupil spending. But controlling for these factors did not erase the correlation between a city’s progressivism and the sizable racial gaps in educational outcomes,” said Patrick Wolf, lead research advisor of the report. “It’s important to recognize that while this report shines a light on a striking correlation, it makes no claim as to causation. The variability in local policies and practices greatly impact city-specific results. But by limiting the scope of this report to the facts we can observe, we hope to shed light on a troubling mismatch and invite those who care to take action.”

“School systems in our great cities have failed generations of students. This report gives us an opportunity to acknowledge these gaps and take action to change this reality,” added Stewart. “It’s time to reclaim the idea that families—not systems—are the ones who know best how, when, and where their children will learn and grow, and to reflect on how to best create an education system that lives up to the values progressives live and vote by.”

To learn more about “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All,” visit brightbeamnetwork.org/cities

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