Students Find Undercover Segregation at East High

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The Colorado Freedom

Students Find Undercover Segregation at East High

Editor's note: In my article "Government Schools Are Failing Minorities" (, I argue ACT scores show government schools are failing minority students. The news release below from the Colorado Progressive Coalition provides more evidence along the same lines. However, CPC sees the failure of government schools and advocates -- amazingly -- more spending on government schools and an expansion of the government monopoly education system. On the other hand, I argue we should "start thinking about ways to break up the monopoly government-run education system and empower parents to choose the schools that work best." That's really no surprise -- Libertarians have always been more progressive than self-described progressives. -- Ari Armstrong

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, August 9, 2001, 10:00 A.M.

For More Information:
Kara Cayce, 303.866.0908

Students 4 Justice & East High Students Release Survey Showing Racial Tracking

Students of Color Face Barriers, Isolation, & Discomfort in Advanced Level Classes

DENVER --.Students 4 Justice, a Denver youth-organizing group, and students from the city's East High School today released a first-ever report documenting the existence of racial "tracking" at the school, one of the city's highest rated public high schools. In 2000, East received national recognition for its advanced placement course participation.

Racial tracking, according to Students 4 Justice, leads to a disproportionately low number of students of color, especially African-American students at East, in the school's highest level courses. While the school is more than 57% minority, white students comprise three times the number of students in Advanced Placement (AP) and Accelerated (X) classes.

Kara Cayce, 18, Students 4 Justice’s Lead Youth Organizer and a recent East graduate, said: "When we began to hear stories of students of color being discouraged from taking advanced classes, we decided to take action. We surveyed more than 950 out of the school's 1,700 students about their experiences with AP and X classes and found that white students were often automatically placed in advanced classes while many students of color, especially African-Americans, were discouraged from doing so. Overwhelmingly, students of color talked about the lack of information presented to them by counselors and the isolation and discomfort they felt as the only student of color in a class. We call on East and DPS to take action to make sure that every qualified student should have an equal opportunity to take advantage of AP and X classes."

The report, "On the Outside Looking In: Racial Tracking at Denver's East High School", is an original research effort and the product of more than one year of student work. Students 4 Justice, the youth organizing project of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a statewide racial and economic justice network, conducted the surveys, researched the issue of tracking nationally, and compiled the report, believed to be the first student led effort of this nature in the Denver Public Schools. S4J has a staff of eight youth organizers -- from East, Manual, and West High Schools -- that receive national training and a stipend to do their work to mobilize hundreds of DPS students seeking a high quality education.

A number of students, both African-American and white, shared their experiences at the morning news conference held outside of East High. Many shared their impressions of how the lack of advanced course opportunities leads to fewer college, career, and earning opportunities in the future. Many also talked about the isolation that they feel when they are among the only students of color in advanced classes.

Shakese Hudley, 17, an East High Senior, said: "Over the years, I've realized that you have to take the initiative to develop your education because the teaching staff, administration, and counselors do very little when it comes to going out of their way to assist students. There is a prolific amount of opportunities not being publicized to African-American students."

Marlena McWilliams, 17, a Senior, said: "East High School is a great school but, through my experiences, I have had to deal with defending my abilities and my capabilities to attend advanced classes even though I've been in them throughout my high school career.”

Terra Horton, 17, a Senior, said: "When you are in an environment where you do not feel comfortable, it is hard to excel to your ability. When I am the only student of color, I feel uncomfortable and unwanted and think self-conscious thoughts like 'are they looking at me?'"

Carletta Cowans, 16, a Junior, said: "It is hard to claim your place and be part of a classroom when you don't feel welcome and are made to believe that we aren't capable enough to make it in this classroom setting."

Students called on the DPS Superintendent and Board, East High administration, teachers and counselors, and themselves and their parents and families to make a greater effort to ensure that all students receive information on accessing advanced level classes. "We'll be monitoring how well the school does with making sure that everyone gets information and encouragement to take the most challenging classes available" said Kara Cayce of Students 4 Justice. "Anything less leaves African American and other students of color behind and with more limited preparation for college and their careers. Racial tracking at East and in DPS has to stop."

Students 4 Justice is the multiracial youth organizing project of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a Denver-based statewide racial and economic justice advocacy organization. S4J can be reached at 303.866.0908.

Copies of the 16 page "On The Outside Looking In: Racial Tracking at Denver's East High School", can be ordered through Students 4 Justice by calling 303.866.0908. Copies are available for a $15 donation and checks can be made out to the Colorado Progressive Coalition.


c/o Colorado Progressive Coalition
Building A New Generation Of Youth Leaders In Communities of Color
1420 Ogden Street, 1st Floor, Denver, CO 80218
Colorado Progressive Coalition
phone: 303.866.0908
fax: 303.832.6416

The Colorado Freedom