Black ExperienceEducation

Children of Color Still Face Obstacles in America: Report

A report released Tuesday by a philanthropy group from Baltimore outlines how non-white children continue to face educational, health and economic obstacles in America.

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, titled “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for all Children,” highlights how 77 percent of white children live in two-parent households, more than double the rate of Black children at 37 percent.

Black babies have the lowest percentage among all people born at a healthy birth rate, which the report says increases the risk of death within the first year of life, or development delays as the child grows. The foundation released a report three years ago that also focused on children 18 and younger.

To improve the lives of children, one idea suggests the courts allow those in the welfare system to reside with a parent’s relatives.

It also mentions how local and state governments should pass legislation to offer employees paid sick leave. Fewer than 10 states and the District of Columbia passed laws to provide that benefit.

“It is a key step to help children, especially working families,” said Shana Bartley, acting executive director with DC Action for Children. “While this is an improvement, there’s still more work to do to help children.”

The District’s neighbor in Maryland doesn’t make paid sick leave available on a statewide basis, but lawmakers in Montgomery County approved it last year and became the first jurisdiction in the state to do so.

“Most parents who work have to choose between having to take care of their child, or having to work. They must have the option,” said Nonfo Umunna, research director for Advocates for Children and Youth in Baltimore. “You don’t want the parent to go to work who is sick and can make others sick. It’s not just financially, but also health-wise.”

The 52-page document not only analyzed various racial groups, but it also concentrated on children from immigrant families.

The foundation recommends jurisdictions form public-private partnerships to pay legal representation for immigrant residents to navigate “the complicated immigration system.” Also, states should provide education for parents who have limited English proficiency.

In terms of Black children, 25 percent of the 359,000 in Maryland are from immigrant families, the highest percentage in the nation. Maine and D.C. are tied for third at 22 percent.

“I see a lot of children who come here from countries who don’t speak English and the challenges they face,” said Umunna, 32, who moved to the United States more than a decade ago from Nigeria. “There has to be a lot of effort to have culturally competent teachers to be aware of the cultural and linguistic barriers children encounter. Programs should already be in place to help these children.”

The report used five indicators to assess educational outcomes and early work experiences how children of color perform: fourth-grade reading proficiency; eighth-grade math proficiency; high school students graduating on time; young adults in school or working; and the completion of a postsecondary degree.

Between 2013-15, Black children had the second-highest percentage at 63 percent with children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in school. Asian and Pacific Islander children recorded the highest figure at 64 percent.

During that same timeframe, Black children recorded the lowest proficiency levels in reading among fourth-graders and math among eighth-graders at 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

In Prince George’s County, about 21 percent of Black fourth-grade students reached proficiency levels in math and 19 percent of Black eighth-graders in reading.

The county council held an education town hall Monday, Oct. 23 in Upper Marlboro where school officials presented a PowerPoint presentation with updates on school security, maintenance, transportation, the opening of the new Fairmount Heights High School and renovations to Glenarden Woods Elementary and Accokeek Academy.

One topic not mentioned more than an hour into the discussion: academics.

“When the community hears education town hall, [residents] assume that we would talk about reading, math, SAT,” said school board member Edward Burroughs III during an interview. “It’s great to highlight the major successes. But if you want to move the district forward, then you have to recognize where we are falling short and then hold us accountable on fixing those key areas.”

Meanwhile, the school system awaits to hear from a firm hired by the state Department of Education to investigate grade inflation allegations. A final report is expected to be released by Oct. 31.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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