Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali appear at Howard University on Tuesday to discuss the release of data on race, educational equity and opportunity.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali appear at Howard University on Tuesday to discuss the release of data on race, educational equity and opportunity.

by Sally Holland, CNN

(CNN) African-American boys and girls have higher suspension rates than their white or Hispanic peers, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Tuesday. The report looks at race, educational equity and opportunities of U.S.students.

“Perhaps the most alarming findings involve the topic of discipline,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  “The sad fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than nonminorities, even within the same school. Some examples – African American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.”

“We cannot suspend, expel and arrest our way out of our nation’s education problems,” said John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in response to the report.

“In fact, relying upon exclusionary discipline policies actually fuels academic failure and drives achievement gaps,” he added.

According to the report, African American students are more than three and a half times likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts.

“This is where the school-to-prison pipeline begins, and it’s on all of us to break these insidious patterns,”Duncan said at the Howard University event where they release the data.

On average, elementary school teachers who work in schools with large African-American and Hispanic populations make $2,250 less per year than their counterparts who teach in schools with low African-American and Hispanic population.

Among the 20 largest school districts in the United States, Philadelphia has the greatest salary disparity among high school teachers in schools with large and small African-American and Hispanic populations, Teachers of large black and Hispanic populations earn $14,000 less in that city, followed by San Diego Unified School District and New York City Public Schools, both of which pay more than $8,000 less.

The report also found that high schools with large black and Hispanic enrollment are less likely to offer algebra II, physics and calculus, classes that are often required for college admission.

Duncan said that he hoped that by shining a massive spotlight on the disparities, it will force some important conversations among educators and change their behavior going forward.

“This isn’t about laying fingers or pointing blame, it’s about saying where do we go collectively to get a much better outcome for our children and for our country,” Duncan said.

The data for this report was gathered during the 2009-2010 school year and can be found on the Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection website.