Equity & Diversity

Editor’s Note: Big Ideas for Confronting Racism in Education

By Elizabeth Rich — September 23, 2020 2 min read
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As you round out the early weeks of this very unusual school year, we know that you have many things on your mind, including how best to serve our nation’s young people during these challenging times. While we want to support you and your work, we know there are no simple answers.

The pandemic has changed everything, including exposing the deep fault lines in our nation’s schools. And the reality is that a growing number of Americans are no longer comfortable with the existing inequities in this country, including in our education system. To wit: In a nationally representative survey, conducted by the EdWeek Research Center in June, 87 percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders agreed that Black students face higher rates of school discipline than their white peers due to discrimination.

With the brutal killing of George Floyd in May, the Black Lives Matter protests surged, and America embarked on the largest movement in its history, according to an analysis by The New York Times. By some counts, nearly 10 percent of the nation’s adults—many of whom were white—marched in rural communities and big cities alike in every state in the union.

Books about anti-racism dominated bestseller lists for months. Conversations changed. Students were activated in large numbers. And educators started to rethink their curriculum in order to promote Black Americans’ experiences and challenge the dominance of whiteness. A new awareness seemed to be emerging as the country began to reckon with its racist past.

And yet, when the EdWeek Research Center in August asked teachers if they had the training and resources they needed to teach an anti-racist curriculum, just 11 percent said they did.

So, even as educators see the need to equalize and improve the educational experience for Black students, they might not have the tools or the support they need to address curriculum, practices, and policies that have long denied Black students the same opportunities as their white peers to thrive in America.

We appreciate and understand the dissonance.

Which is why we chose to dedicate the entire issue of this Big Ideas special report to addressing anti-Black systemic racism in schools.

Inside the pages, you’ll find bold and innovative ideas offering historical context and new language to consider reparations, advances to educator-preparation programs, law enforcement, and more—all of which our writers think will lead to a more equitable education for Black students in both practice and policy. And you’ll see that we also turned the tables on ourselves. When an Education Week editor asks researchers to review a series of her stories over the course of a decade, she interrogates her own biases and whether she has been “part of the race problem.”

This critical conversation doesn’t end with this report, of course. We hope you’ll visit Big Ideas online to see the results of a new, nationally representative EdWeek Research Center survey that delves more deeply into the sentiments, needs, and concerns of our nation’s educators in their efforts to dismantle racism.

We’re looking forward to hearing how you are working to create a better and safer educational experience for our nation’s Black students. Please connect with us on social media by using #K12BigIdeas or by emailing bigideas@educationweek.org.

Elizabeth Rich
Executive Project Editor

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A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2020 edition of Education Week as Editor’s Note

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