Today is the 59th anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Almost six decades later, students, parents, teachers and advocates across the country are still fighting against education policies that leave students of color and low-income students deprived of the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.
We’ve become a nation obsessed with using standardized tests as the driver for all education decisions, convinced that the answer to how to reform schools lies in bubbles A through E on a Scantron sheet. Policymakers are closing schools en masse when they fail to meet ever higher standards with ever fewer resources, sending those students affected to schools no better than the ones they left. Students of color and students with disabilities continue to be pushed out at alarming rates through harsh discipline policies. Education officials scapegoat teachers for the failures of an entire system. Federal policies force our schools and teachers to compete for resources, setting up a system of winners and losers rather than one of equal opportunity for all.
But resistance to those misguided policies is growing. A grassroots revolution is brewing, what blogger Jeff Bryant has been calling an "education spring." Parents are opting their children out of high-stakes tests, and teachers are refusing to give them. Whole communities are reforming school discipline policies. And students and teachers are taking to the streets to stand up for their public schools. You can read about the bigger picture here and here, but the stories of just this week represent the stirrings of a national movement:
- In Seattle, teachers boycotted a state standardized test… and won.
- In the Los Angeles Unified School District, organizers successfully pushed the school board to adopt a new discipline policy that bans out-of-school suspensions for "willful defiance."
- In Philadelphia, thousands of students staged a city-wide walkout to protest budget cuts and the under-resourcing of their schools.
- And this weekend, Chicago teachers and education activists will hold three days of marches across the city to protest the closure of 54 public schools that serve primarily Black and low-income students.
One week of headline-grabbing victories and inspiring actions reminds us that WE can take ownership of the public education agenda and that we will win this fight to ensure all students have the opportunities they deserve.