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Racial Disparities in BA Attainment, Mental Health + Absenteeism, ERN Series on School Choice

Racial Disparities in BA Attainment

This past Thursday, James Murphy, head of Higher Education at our national affiliate, Education Reform Now, released a blog regarding racial disparities in bachelor's degree attainment across the country. While the rate of attainment has improved in each of the fifty states, many states have huge gaps broken out by race and ethnicity. Between 2006 and 2022, BA degree attainment for all Connecticut residents 25 years and older rose from 33.7% to 41.9%. In 2019, however, BA attainment for Latinos aged 25+ was only 18.65%, as compared to 23.45% for Black attainment and 44.99% for White attainment.

Despite the growing awareness that the cost of college education has become steep for many—obtaining a BA leaves most people better off in terms of careers and earning potential. Accordingly, James points out that overall increases in BA degree attainment can actually exacerbate income and wealth disparities if they are not fairly distributed across racial and socioeconomic groups. It’s a quick, worthwhile read, and an interesting data set.

Relatedly, The Education Trust released a new report exploring the underrepresentation of Black undergrads in the country's most selective private colleges. Their finding: Black student enrollment increased at 74% of the higher education institutions studied between 2000 and 2020, but still wasn't representative of the state demographics from where students came. Read that report here.

Mental Health and Chronic Absenteeism

A story by Education Week on Friday explored a survey of over 1,000 high school students—which suggests that worsening mental health contributes to their rates of absenteeism. “Sixteen percent of students who were absent for at least a day in the past year and missed school for reasons other than physical illness said they didn’t attend because of anxiety, and 12 percent said they felt too sad or depressed to attend,” the article reads.

Here in Connecticut, a new 2021 law gives each K-12 student two "mental health wellness days.”

Statewide, the rate of chronic absenteeism has been noteworthy— growing steadily from 10.4% to 23.7% between 2018 and 2021; then, it dropped to 20% again in 2022. But an interesting story in CT Examiner shows how local definitions can impact the data. In that article, Stamford is working to formulate attendance policies that don't conflate tardiness with total absence from school. Under state law, the article says, attendance is defined by being in class for at least 50% of the time. The question for Stamford is how to count a student who is merely late.

ERN Launches Public School Choice Series

This month, the national policy team at ERN has launched a Public School Choice series, which will run for the duration of the year, featuring pieces by national thought leaders, electeds, and advocates. Last week's brief from Colorado Governor Jared Polis outlined his state's policy empowering every parent with the option to choose a school within or outside of their district. The next installment of the series—released yesterday—features Tim DeRoche, President of Available to All. In it, he writes: “How do we persuade them that the current system is deeply flawed and that it is highly skewed toward serving special interests, not low-income kids? Here’s my answer: Talk about equal access to public schools. Denounce educational redlining. Advocate for public school choice and Open Enrollment. Use the language of civil rights.” It’s a very timely discussion to have in our own state. More to come from this impressive lineup!

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