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Educational Inequality is the Greatest Social Justice and Civil Rights Issue in America Today.

Martin Luther King Jr. said the Civil Rights Movement was a revolution—not a revolution to overthrow or “get out,” but rather to “get in.” Universal quality is a key feature of the civil rights struggle. To get in to the sameness that other Americans enjoyed, to enjoy a share in the opportunities that the American economy and education system could provide, was the request.

However, today, this request has not been filled. Nowhere is this dream more distant than in the realm of education. Not only is there an unequal and unfair disparity in the academic achievement of children based on race and income, this also creates an unfair and unequal set of opportunities. Education is a civil rights issue because of the lack of sameness and universal quality for all children. It is a justice issue because of the inherent marginalization from society that it fosters.

We invite you to explore EdGap.org, our national interactive map that displays the correlation between academic achievement in the US and the social marginalization of unemployment, income disparity, lower adult educational attainment and single-parent households.

EdGap Map: A Geographical Perspective on Educational Opportunity

In our nation’s largest urban centers, and particularly in Memphis, our education sector is incredibly segregated and incredibly unequal. The average ACT score in Memphis’ lowest performing communities is between 14 and 16, while the highest performing public schools average 23-26, and the leading private school students average above 28. ACT scores range from an approximate minimum of 11 to an average of 21 and a maximum of 36, which puts many Memphis students closer to the minimum possible score than the national average.

The EdGap map currently has college-readiness data for 27 states. You can look at any city in these 27 states and see visually the average ACT or SAT score for each public or charter high school overlaid on socioeconomic data.  We hope you will use this tool to explore the geography of achievement and opportunity in Memphis and in your region of the country as well.

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Median Household Income of Census Tract

The State of Educational Inequality in Memphis and the Nation

7

College Ready

Seven percent of students in Memphis schools are on track to graduate college ready across all four ACT subject areas.

4

Grades Behind

By twelfth grade, minority students from low-income neighborhoods are typically four years behind their more affluent peers.

Only 1 in 10 students from low socioeconomic communities will graduate from college.

Nationally

  • While 51% of higher-income students can read proficiently by 4th grade, only 20% of lower-income students reach this mark by 4th grade.  The magnitude of this gap has worsened in nearly every state over the last decade. 
  • While 8% of white children attend schools with concentrated poverty, 43% of children of color attend such schools. This gap has worsened since 2010.
  • While 28% of all students taking the ACT nationally meet the college-readiness benchmarks in all four subject tests, only 11% of students make this mark if they come from a family earning less than $36,000 per year.

Memphis

  • More than half of all children in Memphis live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty (where at least 20% of households live beneath the poverty level).
  • Memphis is one of the cities where minority students are most likely to attend a concentrated-poverty school where over 50% of students come from lower-income families.
  • Shelby County residents who work without a high school diploma earn, on average, $17,000 annually. College graduates earn $44,000 annually while those with higher degrees earn $59,000 annually.
  • Of 381 metro areas in the US, Memphis has the lowest rate of upward income mobility for children born into low-income families. Children born into low-income families in Memphis are the least likely to be making significantly more as adults. This statistic is significantly related to the quality of education provided to low-income children in each of these metro areas.

Educational injustice often exists along economic and racial lines. However, regardless of zip code, cultural or racial identity, or family income, all students deserve the opportunity to receive an excellent education. We believe that all individuals are created in the image of God. As such, students have inherent value and potential for academic success.

The 112,000

As our EdGap map demonstrates, there is a strong correlation between academic success and earned income. The cycle perpetuates as lower academic achievement contributes to higher unemployment rates, lower wages, and higher rates of single parenthood—each of which has the potential to lead to lower academic achievement in the next generation. The graphic shown here compares median earnings in Memphis by educational attainment to the federal poverty rate for a family of four ($24,300). For our school district where 25% of students do not graduate from high school and only 7% of students graduate fully prepared to enter and graduate from college, the likely future for 112,000 out of the 120,000 school age children in Memphis is one that does not adequately prepare them to raise families much above poverty.

We believe this to be both unfair and unacceptable. Join us as we seek to display Christian love expressed in equal education:

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“My faith in Jesus allows me to daily serve and love children, families, and co-workers. Ultimately, I feel called to the classroom so I can offer an excellent education that empowers students to be the future leaders of their community.”
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