gap watch

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Our friends over at have a story out today about what some Michigan colleges are doing to improve graduations rates for black men. Along with the story, they've published a searchable database so you can check graduation rates at any Michigan college, break the rate down by race and then compare the results over time. It's a useful tool.
Steven River / flickr

Royal Oak based Beaumont Children's Hospital is trying to raise awareness about a kids health disparity that until now has not gotten much attention, the gap in food allergies. 

Food allergies in children are rising across the board, says Devang Doshi, the chief of Pediatric allergy and immunology at Beaumont Children's Hospital. "We used to see about 3% in the nineties, but now we're up to 6-8% of pediatric patients that have food allergies." says Doshi. 

Gap Watch: Gender and technology

Jul 12, 2013
Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

Women fill almost half of all jobs in the United States, but they fill less than 25% of jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. How do we bridge this gap and get more women in engineering and tech fields?

Start as early as possible.

Gap watch logo
Chris Devers / Flickr

Researchers Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchman write in the Los Angeles Times about another phenomenon for the gap watch files.

According to Buchman and DiPrete, "anti-academic male stereotypes" are keeping young men from college and making it harder for them to graduate.

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We've been tracking the discipline gap between students of color and students with undiagnosed learning disabilities. News from the west coast that might roll across the nation to narrow that gap: LA Unified School District will no longer use "willful defiance" as a reason to suspend students.
chart of relative child poverty

Initially, it was darkly funny and absurd: "What's up with all the 'gaps'?," we asked ourselves. Discipline gap. Gender gap. Achievement gap. And now the United Nations Children's Fund is reporting that the US is at the almost-bottom of their index for relative child poverty rates: a child poverty gap.

The report excludes kids from places such as sub-Saharan Africa, so take note of the "relative" aspects of this data. But, still, too many American children are "living in a home that makes 36 percent less than the relative poverty line."

When I told people I was working on this special, one hour show about race, a lot of the reactions were along the lines of “race…hmm….interesting.” Like, man, I’m glad I don’t have your job. That’s cause the topic of race is fraught; people hear it and they run for their hills.

One place where parents and teachers are talking about race in the classroom is Birmingham, MI. Birmingham is pretty much as white a city as they come, with a median household income around $100,000. Espresso bars and high end restaurants and shops line the streets downtown, and there’s a four star hotel where out of town celebrities stay whenever they visit metro Detroit.

From the looks of it, Birmingham has it all. But dig a little deeper, and Birmingham has a problem.

Gap #1: Achievement

Jason Clinkscale is the principal at Berkshire Middle School in Birmingham. He says when it comes to student performance on standardized tests, "the achievement gap is alive and well" in his district.

We're not talking about some 5 or 10 point difference here. The achievement gap in the Birmingham district translates to a nearly 30 point difference in proficiency in math at the middle school level between white and black students. By the time those students reach 11th grade, the math gap is more than 50 points wide.

Clinkscale is an African American with two daughters of his own. He uses words like "sobering" and "frustrating" to describe the achievement gap. And the gap isn’t just on paper. You can see it play out from classroom to classroom: minorities are over-represented in lower level classes and underrepresented in honors and advanced classes.

Pew Economic Mobility Project

This chart comes from a report released yesterday by the Pew Economic Mobility Project. The report looked at the effects of unemployment on American families. Overall, the report says one third of families in America experienced some form of unemployment between 1999 - 2009. But minority families were far more likely to be affected. Forty-one percent of black families and 51 percent of Latino families experienced unemployment during the period, compared to 30 percent of whites. 

yellow chair in the rain
James Nord / Flickr

We're starting to look into why certain kids are getting suspended from school more often than others, namely African-Americans, Latinos, students with disabilities, and low-income white students.

It’s not because these kids are worse than others or have taken misbehavior to new levels.

Instead, disturbingly, it’s because these kids are who they are---African-American, Latino, in special education, or low income. Closing the gap in achievement won’t happen if kids from different backgrounds are disciplined differently based on race, income, or other factors.

But even more disturbing, is the rise in preschool suspensions. Pre-K suspensions from state-funded program are three times higher than for K-12

Graph of black student suspensions in Ann Arbor Public Schools
Michigan ACLU

A few recent recent stories made me wonder how much a health or special education diagnosis can impact a kids achievement in school.