Academics & Faculty

California’s Segregated Schools Limit College Eligibility: African American Student Access to California Universities Reduced, UCLA Bunche Center Study Finds

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According to a new report released May 20 by the UCLA RalphJ. Bunche Center for African American Studies, students attending AfricanAmerican- or Latino-majority high schools in California had fewer educationalresources, such as a high-quality curriculum and experienced teachers, andproduced fewer college-eligible students.

In contrast, most students attending white- andAsian-majority schools had access to more educational resources, such as moreAP courses and more credentialed teachers, and exhibited higher levels ofcollege eligibility and admission to the California State University andUniversity of California systems.

The report, "Separate,But Certainly Not Equal," finds that the troubling trend toward re‑segregationand inequality in California's public schools is resulting in fewer AfricanAmerican and Latino students obtaining the requirements they need to attend thestate's universities.

"While we as a nation are celebrating the 50th anniversaryof Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared 'separate but equal'unconstitutional, we here in California are witnessing the re-segregation ofour schools and the loss of equal opportunity for African American and Latinostudents," said Walter Allen, UCLA professor of sociology and the study's principalauthor. "The re-segregation of public higher education in California is rootedin Proposition 209 and in the UC Regents' decision to end affirmative action incollege recruitment and admissions."

According to Allen, "There has been a stunning decline inthe admission of African American students who are new California freshmen toUC flagship campuses."

In 1997, 515 new California African American freshmen wereadmitted to UC Berkeley; by fall 2004,this number had dropped by 60 percent to 194 admits, Allen said. UCLA admitted470 new California African American freshmen in 1997; by fall 2004, theseadmissions declined 58 per cent to 199 admits, he said.

"These disastrous declines are not just about Californiademographics," said Allen, who is also the Allan M. Cartter Professor of HigherEducation at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. "Ialways need to remind people that California has 2.4 million African Americans,the second largest population of African Americans of any state in the nation.More specifically, the total 2002 high school enrollment in California forAfrican Americans was approximately 120,000, compared to roughly 147,000 forAsians.

"Asians and African Americans are considerably closer intheir proportion of total state high school enrollment, 9 percent versus 7percent, than in their relative proportions of freshmen admits to UC, or 34.3percent versus 3.1 percent," Allen said. "Why? Our research reveals that theunderrepresentation of African American and Latino students is tied to the factthat these students are forced to attend racially segregated, separate andunequal high schools."

The study, supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation,documents the "considerable inequity in student educational experiences andoutcomes, the educational settings where they are expected to learn, and theresources available to promote student learning. These educational inequitiesare most apparent in the differential rates at which various racial/ethnicgroups of high school graduates achieve eligibility and access to the state'spublic university systems, the California State University (CSU) and theUniversity of California (UC)."

Other highlights from the study include:

       African American- and Latino-majority high schools havefewer educational resources, which results in poorer educational preparationand fewer opportunities for higher education.

       High schools with greater proportions of AfricanAmerican and Latino students were more likely to have fewer AP courses thanschools with greater proportions of white and Asian students.

       African American- and Latino-majority schools were morelikely to have lower teacher retention rates, less experienced teachers andfewer teachers who were fully credentialed.

       In African American- and Latino-majority high schools,white and Asian students did not exhibit the same levels of college eligibilityand college attendance rates as were characteristic for white and Asianmajority schools.

"Without equal resources such as qualified teachers andaccess to high-level courses, African American and Latino students do not havean equal opportunity to succeed in school," Allen said. "California, which in afew short years will be the nation's first majority minority state, must beginto address the enormous disparities that exist in the state's secondaryeducational system."

Allen proposes the following short-term efforts be put intopractice in order to increase the number of African American and Latino collegestudents in California:

       Implement procedures and programs to increase thepercentage of African American and Latino students who are accepted and thenactually enroll.

       Employ procedures and programs to increase retentionand graduation rates for African American and Latino students who are enrolled.

       Implement an admission plan to increase eligibility inthe local context to the top 12.5 percent of graduates.

       Restore university outreach activities targetingAfrican American and Latino students.

Allen proposes the following long-term efforts:

       Rescind Proposition 209.

       Restore full funding for university-outreach programs.

       Target low-performing high schools for increasedfunding, academic development and special admissions.

       Create a comprehensive state program to eliminateracial and ethnic disparities in college attendance.

       Require campuses to make access a priority and linkfunding to progress.

       Increase funding and academic development support forunder-performing elementary and middle schools.

The study, based on public information available onCalifornia's 823 comprehensive public high schools, examined nearly 250measures on student outcomes, demographics, course enrollment, standardizedtest-taking rates and performance, college eligibility rates, college‑goingrates, and teacher and administrator qualifications.

The study's co-authors were Daniel G. Solrzano, chairman ofthe UCLA Department of Education and professor of education, and RobertTeranishi, assistant professor of education at New York University.

In 2002 the Bunche Center was awarded a five-year grantstemming from discussions with the Ford Foundation about the center's concernswith the repeal of affirmative action in California's public institutions viathe passage of Prop. 209 and the subsequent decline in African Americanadmissions to the University of California. The grant funds the College AccessProject for African Americans, which examines the current status, challengesand strategies for increasing opportunity in higher education in California forAfrican Americans.

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