To witness how pervasive racial inequality is in Kansas, all you have to do is look at the state’s ACT profile every year – particularly how many students in each racial group are emerging from our public education system prepared (or unprepared) for college.

ACT Inc. has “readiness benchmarks” that indicate whether students will perform well in particular subjects at the postsecondary level. For example, if they receive a 22 or higher on the mathematics portion of the test, there’s a 75 percent chance that they’ll earn a “C” or better in a first-year college math course.

Only 15 percent of black students in the class of 2017 reached the math benchmark in Kansas – a proportion that surges to 53 percent for white students. On English, this differential is 35 percent to 76 percent. On reading, it’s 22 percent to 61 percent; on science, 12 percent to 47 percent. White students are almost six times more likely to reach the benchmarks in all four subjects – something only 6 percent of black students did in the most recent testing period. Disparities exist between white students and other races as well – 14 percent of Hispanic students and 12 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students met or surpassed all four benchmarks, while the proportion was 35 percent among white students.

Remember what these benchmarks are designed to do: determine who will succeed in college. …

This is how inequality persists in our society. Opportunities are denied to members of minority groups early in their lives, and this affects everything else – the type of work they do, the amount of money they earn, their access to everything from health care to food, and perhaps most crucially, the resources they can offer their children.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation just released its most recent “Race for Results” report, and its findings reinforce these points. For example, 77 percent of Kansas children live in low-poverty areas – a proportion that collapses to 53 percent for Hispanic children and 51 percent for black children. …

As long as skin color remains a reliable predictor of academic success or failure, we’ll know we’ve failed our students.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal