Thousands of students of color in Connecticut are underserved by the state’s education system, experts say. In particular, Black and Latino high school students are meeting college benchmarks at lower rates than white students.

In districts like Darien, Weston, New Canaan and Colchester, over 80% of high school students enrolled in a college-readiness course are meeting state benchmarks that can indicate that the student is ready for higher education, according to state data. In other districts, like Waterbury, New Haven and Hartford, that number is no higher than 22.4%. 

But the achievement and opportunity gap in “college-readiness” goes beyond district-to-district or school-to-school comparisons. It’s also more complicated than the issue of funding, though money does play a role. 

It’s often seen within the same building — or even classroom — where Black and Latino students not only don’t have the opportunity to take college-readiness classes, but when they are, they don’t have the right tools or support to succeed, compared to their white and Asian peers.

It’s the story of the two Connecticuts: the one that prepares students for any avenue after high school, or the one where they have to fight to make it through.

Districts have acknowledged the disparities and say they’re working on additional efforts to improve communication with students and their families in addition to expanding their course offerings.

But such unequal educational opportunities are well-documented, notably within the cases of Sheff v. O’Neill in Connecticut and Brown v. Board of Education nationally.

Connecticut still sees students of color overwhelmingly concentrated within urban communities or low-income areas, despite school choice options established through the Sheff lawsuit, but even some of the most integrated districts in the state, including Vernon, West Hartford and Middletown, struggle with de facto segregation as students of color are often overrepresented in special education, underrepresented in advanced coursework and are subjected to more internal and external educational factors to keep them stuck in a loop of underperformance.

Read more: How CT’s college-readiness system leaves students of color behind