Racial Disparities in Ferguson, Missouri Schools

[Click Here to View Infographic]


Ferguson, Missouri, the city in which a White police officer recently shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager, shares its public school district with Florissant, a neighboring community. The District notes on its website that schools are closed this week due to unrest in and around Ferguson. Local law enforcement officials and district security staff were consulted on this decision, according to the site. Last Thursday, August 14, was supposed to be the first day of school.

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education researchers found stark racial differences between the two towns, despite being just 3.4 miles apart. Shaun R. Harper and Charles H.F. Davis III, directors of Penn GSE's Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, matched data from the U.S. Census with statistics from the U.S. Department of Education to determine the extent to which schools in the Ferguson-Florissant School District reflect the children who live in the two communities. "School closure is disproportionately affecting African American children," Davis notes. "Their White peers have been in school somewhere for a week, presumably learning and likely getting even further ahead of their African American neighbors."

"Ferguson had structural problems that systematically disadvantage Black families long before Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown," Harper suggests. "Inequitable schooling there didn't start two weeks ago." He adds, "White families are obviously aware of alternatives to the Ferguson-Florissant School District. Are Black families uninformed of their choices or are there other, more troubling structural explanations?"

The researchers present some key findings in an infographic [download it here].


Shaun R. Harper is the former Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

Charles H.F. Davis III is the former Director of Higher Education Research and Initiatives at Penn GSE’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.