Racial Equity Report Cards Continue to Show Disparities in Achievement and Discipline

Justice System Reform

This year’s report cards include teacher diversity statistics for the first time

Durham, N.C. — The 2019 Annual Racial Equity Report Cards released by the Youth Justice Project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice reveal significant racial disproportionality across the state and in most individual school districts. The report cards use public data on academic achievement, school personnel, school discipline, and juvenile court involvement to provide a snapshot of a community’s school-to-prison pipeline, including any racial disproportionalities that exist in the pipeline. There is a Report Card for each of the state’s 115 school districts and one for the state as a whole.

“The racial disparities that persist in our schools are a tough pill to swallow, especially on the eve of a holiday celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.. However, we hope the Racial Equity Report Cards can serve as a launching point for community education and discussion,” said Peggy Nicholson, Director of the Youth Justice Project. “They are not meant as an attack on the critically important public institutions that serve our youth, but rather, as a call-to-action for students, parents, advocates, policymakers, and institutional stakeholders to collectively examine the causes of racial inequity in their community and develop solutions that will help young people, especially youth of color, avoid and escape the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Highlights from this year’s report cards include:

Teacher Diversity

This is the third year the organization has released the analyses, but it is the first year the cards have included statistics on teacher diversity. A diverse school staff representative of the student body is one important way to help equalize opportunities for students of color. A recent study revealed that low-income Black students in North Carolina who had at least one Black teacher in elementary school were significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college. Despite this, North Carolina’s teaching force remains disproportionately White. In 2017-18, 79% of the state’s teachers were White, even though only 48% of the state’s student population was White. White teachers are overrepresented in every NC school district when compared to the demographics of students.

According to a 2018 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Black students who had just one Black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college – and those who had two were 32 percent more likely to enroll in college.


Throughout the state during the 2016-17 school year, Black students were 4.3 times more likely than White students to receive a short-term suspension. In seventeen school districts, Black students had an even higher risk (over 4.3 times more likely) of being suspended than their White classmates. While direct comparisons between districts are not always appropriate because of the variations in size and demographics of the district, the findings are nonetheless noteworthy.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools, Black students were 7.5 times more likely than White students to receive a short-term suspension.

Lack of Data

“While the limited data we have is certainly troubling, the fact that there is still so much we don’t know raises even more concern,” said Nicholson. “There are many common sense metrics that educators and families deserve access to and that would help in assessing the true extent of this crisis; however, the state does not track and report them. For example, there is no statewide data collection or reporting on interactions between students and school police, even though this is a primary driver of the school-to-prison pipeline.”

At a minimum, the Youth Justice Project would like to see the state, through the Department of Public Instruction, begin tracking and publicly report the following data points:

  • Use of in-school suspension at the school and district level;
  • Out-of-school suspensions disaggregated by offense, grade, and length;
  • Assignments to alternative programs and schools; and,
  • School-based arrests and use of force incidents.

To view Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District’s racial equity report card, visit: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/2018-RERC-Charlotte-Mecklenburg.pdf

A complete list of Racial Equity Report Cards can be viewed on the Youth Justice Project’s website: http://youthjusticenc.org/our-work/racial-equity-report-cards/

The National Bureau of Economic Research study can be viewed here: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10630.pdf