The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) successfully resolved today its compliance review of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, entering into an agreement to ensure the District will provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Latino students with equal access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs offered at the high school level.
During the 2012-13 school year, only 130 of the district's 5,586 Hispanic students enrolled in the district's four STEM high schools. Although the district has designated nearly half (2,764) of its Latino students as English Language Learners (ELL), the district has neither regularly made STEM program information available in languages other than English nor made significant outreach efforts to the ELL student community regarding district STEM offerings. Geographic siting compounds the issue: only two of the district's seven STEM-themed high schools or high school programs are located on the west side of Cleveland, where Cleveland's Latino population is heavily concentrated. The district's innovative, challenging STEM programs have had to turn away interested students at some locations and have been under enrolled at other locations, underscoring the benefits to be gained from promoting STEM education more equally among district students.
"The pipeline to educational opportunities in STEM fields must be open to all students," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. "We appreciate the district's commitment to working with OCR to identify steps to promote and ensure equal access to STEM educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race or national origin. Increasing student interest and expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is critically important to developing more scientists, engineers, and innovators who will help our nation maintain its position as a global leader."
Today's agreement ends the unequal access to STEM offerings for Limited English Proficient and Latino students in the district. The district, which cooperated fully with OCR throughout the investigation, agrees to form a committee, including district and community members, to identify and assess barriers to Latino participation in STEM program; to develop and provide OCR, by the end of the current school year, with a plan to be implemented beginning in the 2014-15 school year to ensure equal STEM access district-wide; to promote STEM programs specifically to Latino students and their families; to make sure that information communicated to Limited English Proficient families about STEM programs is either translated or interpreted into their home language and specifically to provide written notice that ELL services are available for students who enroll in STEM programs; to annually monitor student enrollment in STEM programs and make changes as necessary to improve access for Latino and ELL students; and to improve academic counseling services and retrain district staff as necessary to improve equitable access to STEM programs in the district.