The nation cannot afford discriminatory barriers that unfairly limit or deny educational access based on factors like race, national origin, sex, or disability. Inequality in education prevents the nation from fulfilling its potential, and ensuring equal educational opportunity remains one of the civil rights movement's top priorities.
June 1, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have joined an effort to develop common standards for what American students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through 12th grade, a significant step toward national education standards. Alaska and South Carolina have not yet signed onto the initiative, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
A committee of education experts are currently developing the standards, which will be "research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills," according a press release from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, who are coordinating the experts' work.
"Defining standards is only the first step, they must reach all students regardless of the state or community in which they live and the states must commit to implementing them as soon as they are ready," said LCCR Senior Counsel David Goldberg, and a founding partner in the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of 10 national civil rights and education organizations that support common standards.
States and territories will have the option of adopting the standards or incorporating them into what they are currently doing. The first set, focused on making sure high school graduates' reading and math skills prepare them for work and college, will be released in July. The second set, grade-by-grade benchmarks designed to keep students on track to meet the graduation requirements, will be completed by the end of the year.
"To make the standards meaningful for students, there will have to be new curricula and better assessments aligned to meet them. The federal government can support the states with funding to make sure they aren't done on the cheap and that there are well-designed versions for English language learners and students with disabilities," said Goldberg.
April 10, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
In a unanimous decision, a state appeals court ruled recently that a Berkeley Unified School District diversity plan that considers neighborhood racial composition for student placement does not violate Proposition 209.
Proposition 209, voted into law in 1996, is an amendment to the California constitution that bans the consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin in public hiring, contracting, and admissions to public colleges and universities.
The Berkeley policy considers the racial makeup of neighborhoods as one factor in determining which school in the district a student will attend. The school district also considers two other factors – average household income and average education level of adults in the neighborhood where the student lives.
The court said that the policy does not violate Proposition 209 because "all students in a given residential area are treated equally – regardless of the student's individual race or other personal characteristics."
The decision, though likely to be appealed to the California Supreme Court, is positive for supporters of equal opportunity and provides school districts with some flexibility in ensuring that their schools are diverse.
April 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The Texas House of Representatives is considering a bill that would cap the number of students accepted into state universities under the state's "top 10 percent plan."
In 1997, the Texas legislature passed a law that requires Texas state universities to automatically admit Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
The current bill, which passed in the Senate last week, will still require state universities to admit students under the plan, but it will allow them to cap these admissions at 60 percent of the incoming freshman class.
Some college administrators support the bill because it will give them more flexibility in admissions. However, if passed, the bill will mostly affect the University of Texas-Austin, which estimates that almost 90 percent of its incoming freshmen class next year will be admitted under the plan.
Originally intended to address the decline in minority enrollment and create equal opportunity for students from both inner-city and rural schools, the "top 10 percent plan" was enacted after a federal appeals court decision in Hopwood v. Texas banned equal opportunity programs in Texas. However, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, stated that race can be used as one of many factors in college admissions, invalidating Hopwood.
March 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Yesterday, students from around the country showed their support for greater protections for students and workers and affordable education for all people at a rally held by the United States Student Association (USSA) and the Student Labor Action Project.
Hundreds of students marched from L'Enfant Plaza to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., shouting cheers for policymakers to consider increasing federal financial aid for college and lowering student loan debt. Many held signs that read "Education is a Right" and "Students and Workers Unite for Justice."
A few policymakers spoke at the Capitol, but the most impassioned speech came from Sen. Richard Durbin, D. Ill., who expressed strong support for the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who want to go to college or serve in the U.S. military.
March 12, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
On Tuesday, President Obama announced his strategy for reforming education in the U.S.
In yesterday's segment of "The Diane Rehm Show", two LCCR coalition members – Dianne Piche, executive director of the Citizen's Commission for Civil Rights, and Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association – reacted to Obama's education agenda and discussed some of the issues around reforming education in the U.S., such as teacher layoffs, the high school dropout problem, charter schools, teacher compensation, and removal of ineffective teachers.
Diane Rehm also interviewed Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, about Obama's education agenda.
March 10, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and Arne Duncan, secretary of Education, visit with students at Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., in February 2009.
In a speech today before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama said it is time to reform U.S. education by adopting uniform achievement standards, increasing funding for early childhood education and high schools, and rewarding good teachers.
"The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, it's unsustainable for our democracy, it's unacceptable for our children — and we can't afford to let it continue," said Obama.
To implement the president's vision, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the Washington Post last week that he plans to use the education money in the recently passed economic recovery law to encourage school districts to adopt innovative policies and programs that have been proven to better educate students, including lengthening the school day, rewarding good teachers, and adopting uniform achievement standards.
"We share President Obama and Secretary Duncan's commitment to ensuring that education funding, and especially the new funding provided by the Recovery Act, support real reforms that will actually reach every child in America and help provide them with a first-rate education," said David Goldberg, a senior counsel at LCCR.
February 26, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Every year, students across the country celebrate Black History Month in a variety of ways, but a few states have passed laws that require public schools to include Black history in their curriculum throughout the year.
New Jersey, Illinois and New York have each created a commission to review how public schools in the state are teaching Black history and make recommendations on how to improve the curriculum. The commissions are called "Amistad Commissions" after the Amistad, a Spanish slave ship that was the site of a famous slave revolt in 1839.
One of the goals of the New Jersey commission is "to infuse the history of Africans and African-Americans into the social studies curriculum in order to provide an accurate, complete and inclusive history." It has developed a set of lesson plans which teachers will incorporate into their classrooms starting this fall.
However, four years after its law passed, New York has not yet appointed all its commissioners and the commission has never met.
California, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, Colorado and Michigan have also passed legislation regarding instruction in Black history. Florida's law, passed in 1994, also requires that its public schools teach women's history, Latino history, and the Holocaust.
February 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige participating in a reading session with elementary school children at Kit Carson Elementary School in San Diego, Calif., during a visit in 2002.
In 2000, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) created the "Blueprint for Student Success" to reform its schools and better educate its students. SDUSD is the eighth largest urban school district in the nation and has a high concentration of minorities and low-income students.
Prior to the plan, schools in the district struggled with low college enrollment, a high dropout rate, and a graduation rate of only 67 percent. The plan created immediate results for elementary schools, but results at the high school level took a little longer.
February 23, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Civil rights issues were all over the editorial pages this weekend. Here are just a few highlights:
February 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
With at least 26 states enacting or proposing major budget cuts to K-12 education spending, the money for education in the economic recovery package that President Obama signed into law today could have a huge impact on struggling states and local school districts.
More Information On
Segregation & Diversity
In The News
Recent news clips on this issue.