RACIAL EQUITY & EXPANDED LEARNING OPPORTUNITY (ELO): Quality Expanded Learning Opportunity Can Help Meet Increasing Racial Equity Challenges in Education

RACIAL EQUITY & EXPANDED LEARNING OPPORTUNITY (ELO): Quality Expanded Learning Opportunity Can Help Meet Increasing Racial Equity Challenges  in Education

By Ernest Saadiq Morris, Urban Youth Justice *

The rapidly diversifying student population in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, and across the United States presents educational equity challenges that must be met by Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) programs in the more racially diverse and not-too-distant future.

Consider this changing youth demographic landscape:

  • Minority youth under age 20 currently outnumber white youth in 504 U.S. Counties.
  • More than 47% children under age 5 are non-white minorities.
  • By 2023, youth of color will be the majority of children under 18, with Latino minors comprising the largest segment of that population.

Source: Growing Diversity Among America’s Children and Youth: Spatial and Temporal Dimensions, Population and Development Review, March 2010

If the educational achievement gap (as measured by the graduation and post-secondary education rates among today’s Black, Latino, and other similarly disadvantaged youth of color) increases exponentially similar to the  anticipated growth in minority youth population, then a crippling social and economic crisis may result.

A potential critical mass of economically dispossessed youth and young adults of color with limited education and a lack of advanced trade skills will surely throw this nation into crisis. The impending drain on social services budgets alone would significantly burden state and federal governments and it is doubtful that an aging (future minority) white population could maintain a robust economy alone. This is not a winning formula for a brighter future.

Expanded Learning Opportunity is unique in that it is naturally positioned to address and ameliorate this potential social and economic crisis arising from the failure of the traditional educational status quo to provide equal educational opportunity to students of color– a promise embodied in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision that was never delivered.

Since the Brown v. Board decision, Black youth and similarly disadvantaged students of color continued to endure a legacy of unequal educational opportunity that has spanned multiple generations, reinforced by white middle class flight from urban public education, and the inferior and unequal allocation of educational resources.

This entrenched educational inequality based on race, ethnicity, and culture is exacerbated by a school-to-prison pipeline that merges inferior educational opportunity with overly punitive (and racially disproportionate) school discipline that increases the risk of criminal justice system contacts, mass incarceration, and chronic under/unemployment,  thus perpetuating a legacy of lifelong economic oppression and intergenerational poverty.

Quality expanded learning opportunity programs aim to improve and enrich the educational opportunity of all youth. Consequently, the opportunity and enrichment provided by quality ELO programs implementing racially inclusive and collaborative strategies can be a crucial intervention to the future success of youth of color and society as a whole.

An ELO program that demonstrates its racial equity awareness through its development of effective equity & inclusion strategies and methodology can have a considerable impact on the achievement gap by providing quality learning opportunity and quality personal enrichment to disadvantaged students of color.

Racial inequity starts with the Pre-K/Early Education opportunity gap. Low-income youth of color that don’t participate in a quality early education program can enter kindergarten up to 18 months behind their peers. [Source: National Institute for Early Education Research, The State of Preschool 2011]. This results in educational achievement disparity that often persists and remains an obstacle throughout that disadvantaged student’s K-12 educational career or until the student drops out or is pushed out.

Quality ELO programs show promising ability to provide enriched early learning experiences to address and bridge the pre-K/early learning education opportunity gap. A quality ELO program can also provide enriched K-12 educational opportunity to address and bridge the entrenched educational opportunity disparity that many youth of color face.

Ultimately, ELO programs must use a proactive approach to assure racial equity within their programs and avoid many of the barriers found in traditional school-based learning environments.

ELO programs must work to acknowledge structural, institutional and subconscious barriers within their programmatic choices that marginalize or suggest cultural, economic and/or political preferences that cut along race/ethnic origin, nationality, and/or skin color lines.

ELO programs should strive to engage in a more flexible pedagogy than traditional school-based learning.  ELO programs can differentiate themselves by emphasizing flexible learning experiences, i.e., active (or experiential) learning in an individualized, peer-to-peer or team learning format.

ELO programs should embrace a wider cultural relevance in their teaching and learning practices to maximize the involvement of youth of color, and increase their recruitment and retainment with more tolerant programmatic choices, including staffing and curriculum.

Moving beyond the entrenched educational opportunity gap requires ELO programs to demonstrate to youth of color that racial equity is a true programmatic goal, i.e., with inclusive strategies,  a willingness to tolerate diverse  cultural viewpoints, and a commitment to empower disadvantaged youth with an enriched educational experiences that does not merely extend the traditional school day.

Quality ELO is the intelligent response to the racial gap in educational opportunity that results in the K-12 education achievement gap. Rather than more of the same entrenched inequities, ELO can provide enriched learning experiences and opportunities for youth of color and similarly disadvantaged students that can resemble the hopeful vision of racial equity in education post-Brown v. Board.

*Ernest Saadiq Morris is a youth rights advocate, civil rights and liberties lawyer, and founding director of the public education and advocacy initiative, Urban Youth Justice. He has been defeating the school-to-prison pipeline since 2004, including coordinating the largest successful mass student defense to-date (Round Rock, Texas 2006-2007). You can follow Urban Youth Justice daily on Facebook and Twitter.


*Urban Youth Justice* Education Equity Workshop – “Empowering Students of Color for Future Success and Leadership” Mon. October 8, 2012 10:15AM School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference (SEATTLE)

Urban Youth Justice Director Ernest Saadiq Morris, Esq. will be presenting a school equity workshop at the 10th Annual Bridge Conference in Seattle, Washington, on October 8, 2012!

Empowering Students of Color for Future Success and Leadership

This session will focus on how quality afterschool and youth development programs are uniquely positioned to meet the racial equity challenges presented by the diverse student populations of the present and foreseeable future. We will examine how the educational opportunity gap entrenched within our school system reinforces racial inequity in learning and leadership opportunities, as well as discipline and dropout rates, from pre-K/early education through K-12. Quality afterschool and youth development programs that integrate racially inclusive and collaborative models as a core program component can be a crucial intervention to the future success of youth of color and our society as a whole. This session will provide participants with a unique opportunity to share ideas, experiences, and best practices, as well as cautionary tales of what to avoid.


Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Palm Springs, CA) – BOOST (Best of Out-of-School Time) Conference – Urban Youth Justice Town Hall: The State of Equity in After-School/Out-of-School: How Extended Learning Opportunity Meets Diverse Student Needs


The BOOST Collaborative Conference for AfterSchool & Out-of-School learning providers was an excellent event showcasing the challenging workshops and incredible enthusiasm of BOOST staff and the hundreds of participants!

The Urban Youth Justice Town Hall on Afterschool Equity Issues featured an honest discussion and open exchange of ideas between dedicated extended education providers from across the United States, and from as far away as Australia!

We’re already looking forward to participating in next year’s conference.  Kudos to BOOST Executive Director Tia Quinn and all the BOOST Staff and volunteers for an incredible experience.

~Ernest Saadiq Morris – Director, Urban Youth Justice


Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Palm Springs, CA) – BOOST (Best of Out-of-School Time) Conference
Urban Youth Justice Town Hall:
The State of Equity in After-School/Out-of-School: How Extended Learning Opportunity Meets Diverse Student Needs
Ernest Saadiq Morris, Esq., Director, Urban Youth Justice Initiative (Urban Youth Justice), Seattle, WA

Ernest Saadiq Morris will lead a dynamic, no-holds-barred Town Hall discussion on how after-school/out-of-school programming is meeting the equity challenges presented by a rapidly diversifying student population.

An overview of current issues and challenges created by diverse student subgroups, based on ethnic origin, nationality, race, gender, special needs, language, sexual orientation, and poverty (to name only a few). We will discuss the obstacles to maximizing the involvement of all student groups, as well as using grassroots organizing strategies to overcome them, e.g., inclusive communication strategies, and identifying barriers to participation. Also, cautionary tales of mistakes that your program will want to avoid.

A unique opportunity to share ideas, experiences, and the best practices for facilitating access to Out-of-School learning opportunities for the diverse student populations of the present and foreseeable future.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet Ernest Saadiq Morris, ask questions, and learn by collaboratively challenging each other to reach higher levels of effectiveness within your own programming!

Urban Youth Justice’s Ernest Saadiq Morris criticizes Seattle Mayor’s 20/20 SPD plan: Premature plan intended to avoid DOJ oversight is no guarantee of detailed police reform and real oversight

At an April 18, 2012 meeting of the Seattle City Council Civil Rights and Public Safety Committee, Urban Youth Justice Director Ernest Saadiq Morris questioned the motivation behind Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s SPD 20/20 plan touted as a local solution to excessive use of force and discriminatory policing tactics identified by the U.S. Department of Justice pattern and practice investigation released in December 2011.

From the Real Change article “Policing the police” by reporter Aaron Burkhalter,

“I think it would be a stunning upset if there was not a consent decree on the Seattle Police Department,” said civil rights attorney and Urban Youth Justice director Ernest Saadiq Morris.

(Seattle) Saturday April 21st – 8:00AM – 2:00PM – The Youth & Law Forum – First A.M.E. Community Center – A Free Community Event!


The Youth and Law Forum was  a huge success! Very well-done and a big turnout across all generations, including many Teens. Thanks to the community members that came to the Advocating for Students session for Parents and Guardians. Great conversation and constructive dialogue on how to reach and support our Youth for school success and advocate for them within the school districts to counter the school-to-prison pipeline.

Let’s continue to build capacity within our communities to advocate for our Youth and Families!



Seattle) Saturday April 21st  – 8:00AM – 2:00PMFREE LUNCH –– A Free Community Event!

and don’t miss Urban Youth Justice! :


Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice will discuss empowering parents & guardians to advocate for their children and oppose the school-to-prison pipeline that targets so many of our youth.

FLYER – Seattle 2012 Youth and Law Conference_front

REGISTRATION FORM – 2012 Youth and Law Conference

Saturday April 21st (Seattle) – 8:00AM – 2:00PM – The Youth & Law Forum – MLK FAME Community Center – A Free Community Event!

Saturday April 21st (Seattle) – 8:00AM – 2:00PM – The Youth & Law Forum – MLK FAME Community Center – A Free Event!

Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice will address the school-to-prison pipeline issues in both parent and youth empowerment sessions. Join us at this free community event!

FLYER – Seattle 2012 Youth and Law Conference_front

REGISTRATION FORM – 2012 Youth and Law Conference

*CANCELED*ACTION ALERT – SEATTLE -Thu, March 15, 6:00pm – 7:30pm- Community Conversations with Seattle Public Schools ELL and Special Education Directors *CANCELED

*UPDATE*-EVENT CANCELED- If you can’t stand the Heat, don’t open up the kitchen??**

If you haven’t already please, read the UYJ article: Special Ed Warehousing: Special Education Means No Education for Many Youth Of Color

Seattle Public Schools – Community Conversations with ELL and Special Education Directors
Thu, March 15, 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Where @ Washington Middle School

In the Seattle Public School District, Native American (25.6%), Black (18.2%) and Latino (19.3%) students are overrepresented in K-12 special education. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

Black students overall barely outperform Special Education students overall in Reading/Math test scores. (SPS District Scorecard 2010-2011)

Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011

English Language Learners proficiency on State Math and Reading Tests is at 30%–for both.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where's the Accountability?

This should be good.