Racial Disparities in Education in Athens-Clarke County

Often times when we speak at the University of Georgia about disparities in education, we don’t always think of Athens, Georgia. Many of us are privileged enough to attend the flagship institution and receive an education from the 13th top public national university according to U.S. News & World Report 2019. As I spent more time in Athens getting involved on and off campus, I realized that this reality is not as simple as it might seem, and that Athens Clarke county’s educational system has alarming achievement gaps when it comes to racial minorities.

In October of last year, OnlineAthens reported on the performance gap data that the Clarke County School District was set to review. The report highlighted that these behavioral and academic measures affected African American students at disproportionate rates. For example, African American students were more likely to be “put into special education classes, or be suspended or expelled than white, Asian, or Hispanic students.” This is clear in an elementary school, such as Barrow Elementary school, where 38 percent of the student population is Black, however 74 percent and 84 percent of students in special education programs and out of school suspension, respectively, are Black students.

This report goes beyond just the behavioral measures but evaluates the academic ones as well. When it comes to proficiency in English, specifically on the state’s standardized tests, “17 percent of African American third and fifth-graders scored proficient in English language arts in last spring’s testing, and just 17.7 percent in math… Among Hispanic students, 28.8 percent were proficient in third- and fifth-grade language arts, and 36.3 percent in third- and fifth-grade math; 21.4 percent of sixth- and eighth-graders were proficient in English language arts and 27.7 percent in math.” These numbers are quite alarming, and they once again indicate a significant issue rooted in our education system.

The Clarke County School District did, however, address this report by proposing different initiatives that will be taken to address this issue. The district mentioned plans such as “maximizing the district’s urgency and diligence to improve academic performance” and “maximizing the implementation of a college and career readiness culture.” Athens-Clarke County still has a deep racial disparity with regards to education, but fortunately, steps are being taken to improve education for all students in Athens-Clarke County’s school systems.



  1. https://www.usnews.com/info/blogs/press-room/articles/2018-09-10/us-news-announces-2019-best-colleges-rankings
  2. Shearer, Lee. (October 04, 2017). Report: “Alarming” gap in African American students’ achievement, discipline http://www.onlineathens.com/local-news/2017-10-04/report-alarming-gap-african-american-students-achievement-discipline