Equal Educational Opportunity for Hispanic Students in the Oklahoma City Public Schools

Chapter 6


On September 29, 1998, the Oklahoma Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission Civil Rights held a community forum with the purpose of reviewing the equal educational opportunity for Hispanic students in the Oklahoma City public schools. The Advisory Committee received information on school suspension and dropout rates. It also reviewed exemption procedures for the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for limited-English-proficient students.

It was determined from information provided at the forum that student suspensions in the school district are a serious problem and one that school officials are not proud of. Oklahoma City school officials said that during the 1997–98 school year, there was a total of 7,299 elementary and secondary student suspensions in the district. American Indians accounted for 200 suspensions; Asians, 46; blacks, 4,100; Hispanics, 1,016; and whites 1,937. In Oklahoma for the 1996–97 school year, the overall student dropout rate was 5.6 percent. For the Oklahoma City public schools, the overall student dropout rate was 13.9 percent, while its Hispanic dropout rate was 15.5 percent.

The issue of waivers for exempting students from taking the annual ITBS brought up several concerns that touched on the importance of language instruction in the school district. Several community participants alleged that Hispanic students were granted waivers not to take the ITBS so that scores would remain high. Further, several presenters suggested that parent involvement could be improved if interpreters were available at school sites to remove the language barrier for limited-English-proficient parents.

The deputy superintendent provided the Committee with information on the role and responsibilities of the school district for teaching all students, emphasizing the needs of Hispanic and other limited-English-proficient students. He said that testing officials were not knowledgeable about the pressure placed on Hispanic parents to sign waivers for taking the ITBS. He also stated that his office has a good system for monitoring additional State funds targeted for the special instruction of bilingual students.

School district officials gave their responses to concerns raised by the Advisory Committee and the Hispanic community on the magnitude of educational equity problems. They said the district was also “sensitive” to the corrective action instructions it is under, resulting from a formal discrimination complaint made to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

There are programs like Even Start and Promises that focus on helping every student, but certainly at-risk students in achieving their potential for leading successful lives in society.

The Oklahoma Advisory Committee hopes that this summary report of the community forum provides information that will be beneficial to the residents of Oklahoma City interested in working with their school districts.