A Look at Redlining and the Academic Achievement Gaps

Eighty-five years after the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, or HOLC, released a map of redlining in the East Bay, the ramifications of structural racism and Jim Crow are still widely felt – especially in the public schools in Berkeley and surrounding areas.

According to a UC Berkeley Library News article, redlining was enacted to assess neighborhoods for “lending and insurance risk.” A major determinant of these assessments was race, excluding areas deemed “at risk” from certain federal loans and funding, which reinforced poverty.

“The legacy of redlining has a structural dynamic that it created and perpetuated,” said Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett. “Redlining maintained an American caste system, where blacks are at the bottom.”

The 1937 map ranked communities using the following scale: A was best, B was “still desirable”, C was “definitely in decline”, and D was “dangerous”. Most areas of the city in regions labeled C and D were predominantly black.

An interactive map from UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute also shows that Berkeley and Oakland are still largely separated today.

“Disparities in school results”: the impacts of the correction on education

Equity data produced by GreatSchools, a nonprofit that shares academic and demographic data on private and public schools, shows schools in gated neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland are falling behind in aid low-income students and students of color. For example, GreatSchools ranks schools in California on an equity scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most equitable and 1 the least equitable.

Thousand Oaks Elementary School scored two out of ten on the equity scale. Additionally, on a scale of 1 to 10, low-income students in Thousand Oaks had a one-in-10 chance of meeting the state’s standardized test goals, while other Thousand Oaks students had a chance of nine. out of 10 to meet standardized benchmarks. .

This phenomenon is known as the “achievement gap”. An article from the Penn State Graduate School of Education defines achievement gaps as “the persistent disparity in academic achievement” between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts.

Joshua Rogers, a violence prevention educator with the Teens on Target program at Oakland nonprofit Youth Alive!, says funding and access to resources are the biggest issues.

“Members of historically disenfranchised neighborhoods earn significantly less income than more affluent neighborhoods, which means less taxes can be paid and less revenue can be allocated to our schools,” Rogers said in an e -mail. “This has led to many school closures and mergers within schools in East and West Oakland.”

Rogers said that many of the students he works with have students whose teachers have abandoned them and they receive almost no preparation for college.

However, the disparities faced by minority and disadvantaged students do not stop with academic achievement.

GreatSchools also shows that minority students have much higher rates of chronic absenteeism, or large amounts of absence from school, compared to white students.

Bartlett believes that chronic absenteeism exists because of the struggles faced by the parents of these disadvantaged students.

“People are going missing because their parents are working two jobs or are charged with rent,” Bartlett said. “It’s not an environment for stability and showing up to school all the time.”

To address issues such as chronic absenteeism and achievement gaps, the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, instituted the “2020 Vision for Berkeley Children and Youth,” focused on ending disparities in academic achievement that exist along racial lines, according to the BUSD website.

Other city initiatives include enacting reparations to help people with financial compensation and stability, according to Bartlett.

A historical look

Rosa Higgs, longtime Berkeley resident, teacher, and former member of the Black Panther Party, recalls a time before the achievement gaps. She alleged that Ronald Reagan’s governorship was the turning point for Berkeley schools.

“When Ronald Reagan became governor of California, he ended music programs and stopped giving black schools the same material that white kids were getting,” Higgs alleged. “The system has imploded.

Higgs also alleged that although redlining was in effect, before Reagan the achievement gaps did not exist. According to her, there were black teachers and principals, and there was “nothing wrong with the Berkeley schools”.

While Higgs acknowledged that it was wrong to tell people where they could and could not live, she noted that black communities were not “slums”. She recalled that her neighborhood park, San Pablo Park, had programs like ballet lessons, music lessons and Girl Scouts.

Higgs said when the schools were integrated, many black teachers were fired. She added that when black students started going to white schools, they weren’t taught anything.

“Four out of five black boys can’t read at the grade level,” Higgs said.

According to Higgs, redlining continued under Reagan, but rather than calling it redlining, people were told they couldn’t qualify for a mortgage and couldn’t afford particular homes. .

The impact of this redlining was severe and continues to this day.

“Community members must come together to fight for our children,” Rogers said. “If we don’t advocate for their needs, no one will.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at [email protected]and follow her on Twitter at @annavarmstrongg.

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