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American Education Reforms since Brown v. Board of Education

by Adekunle Lawal  
5/17/2016 / Education

According to James W. Fraser (2014), contrary to more simplistic versions of history, the civil rights movements did not burst on the American scene with the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. For Fraser, the decision represented the culmination of years of activity by civil rights organizations. The author states that African Americans and White allies understood that separate-but-equal schooling never meant equal. Fraser claims that the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-the NAACP-led by lawyers such as Thurgood Marshall and his predecessor Charles Houston, began a slow and systematic process of challenging both inequality and separation in the 1930s. He notes that, at the same time, a grassroots civil rights movement of African-American parents, teachers, and various allies began to raise the issue of school segregation across the country.

Fraser cites Septima Clark as one of the great leaders of the civil rights movement of 1950s who narrated her own experiences of teaching and been fired in the segregated South prior to the Brown decision. According to Fraser, Clark was fired as a public school teacher when she joined the NAACP in Charleston, South Caroline in the 1950s. Nevertheless, Clark went on to prepare a generation of teachers for Freedom Schools across the South from her base at the Highlander Center in Tennessee.

Fraser claims that, while it is important to view the trend of the U.S. education reforms in context, it is true that few Supreme Court decisions have had the impact of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. Fraser states that prior to Brown a decade of Court decisions, focusing primarily on higher education, were brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Yet Brown itself was only the beginning of a continuing struggle to end segregation and discrimination in American education.

Supreme Court of the United States, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 1954

In 1954 the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case, according to Fraser (2014), was unusual for the court in two ways. First, it directly overturned a previous Court decision: the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision in which the Court had decided that segregation on the basis of race was legal. For Fraser, Brown was also a unanimous decision; indeed, Chief Justice Earl Warren worked hard to achieve the compromise necessary for a unanimous decision because he believed that the full Court should be behind such a dramatic order. The author observes that many more years of legal action, civil rights activity, and local organizing across the country would be necessary to implement Brown. For Fraser, the case is a marker of great significance in the history of education, and worth reading with special attention.

Consequently, according to Fraser, in relating to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868; the reason for the inconclusive nature of the Amendment's history, with respect to segregated schools, is the status of public education at that time. In the South, the movement toward free common schools, supported by general taxation, had not yet taken hold. For Fraser, education of White children was largely in the hands of private groups. The author notes that education of Negroes was almost nonexistent, and practically the entire race was illiterate. In fact, any education of Negroes was forbidden by law in some states. Fraser claims that, but in contrast, today, many Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences as well as in the business and professional world. Fraser agrees that it is true that public school education at the time of the Amendment had advanced further in the North, but the effect of the Amendment on Northern States was generally ignored in the congressional debates. The author notes that even in the North, the conditions of public education did not approximate those existing today. For Fraser, the curriculum in those days was rudimentary; upgraded schools were common in rural areas; the school term was but three months a year in many states; and compulsory school attendance was virtually unknown. The author claims that as a consequence, it is not surprising that there should be so little in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment relating to its intended effect on public education.

Meanwhile, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. (2004) states that in the years following Brown, the Supreme Court moved from simply prohibiting segregation to stating that school districts bear "an affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to (achieve an integrated system) in which racial discrimination would be eliminated root and branch." According to Ogletree, in order to put it differently, the Court recognized that providing the opportunity for integration was not enough: some positive, remedial steps needed to be taken to ensure that black citizens and other non-White students were not denied equal benefit of the laws. For the author, President Johnson's "Great Society" was but the political expression of this goal. Ogletree observes that although in the South, colleges, universities, and graduate schools had been the site of the initial battle over equalization, by the 1970s many of these establishments had become engines for integration.

Supreme Court of the United States, Engel v. Vitale, 1962 Ceasing School Prayers Act

Precisely, in 1962 the decades of quiet after Brown decision, according to Fraser (2014), came to an end; this was the year when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Engel v. Vitale that the New York state policy requiring students to recite a state written prayer at the beginning of the school day was unconstitutional. The author notes that, the following year the Court expanded its ruling in Abington v. Schempp, stating that all required prayers as well as the devotional reading of the Bible in school were unconstitutional. According to him, while the Court carefully protected objective teaching about religion from its ban, the charge that the Court was "banning God from the schools" led to a battle about who controls the content of public culture, and about the proper relationship of personal piety and values to the educational process.

Moreover, according to Fraser, few decisions in the history of the Supreme Court have created such long-lasting animosity as Engel v. Vitale 1962 and the Court's subsequent 1963 decision in Abington School Board v. Schempp. The Engel case only banned a state-written prayer, but Abington expanded the field to include all official prayers and the devotional reading of the Bible. Fraser further observes that, while Abington was, therefore, significantly broader, the fact that Engel came first made it the target of debate. Many, according to the author, believed that these rulings represented not only the exclusion of faith, but the exclusion of what they had long seen as the properly dominant Protestant-European-Christian faith from the education of their children. For Fraser, all of the debates about cultural domination versus cultural inclusion came to a head here. At the same time, for others, according to Fraser, the issue was much simpler they wanted the right to affirm their own faith and piety at the beginning of the school day. The overlap of so many issues and fundamental debates about the nature of the unifying culture of the United States in these cases shown clearly in the majority and minority opinions that follow meant that resolution would never be easy or final.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Great Society, 1965

In 1965 another education reform surfaced. According to Fraser (2014), the civil rights movement had a significant impact on federal legislation in the 1960s. The author notes that, soon after his inauguration in 1961, John F. Kennedy began to lobby for a federal role in improving the nation's schools. According to Fraser, however, it was Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, who called for a national "War on Poverty," and who coined the phrase "The Great Society" for his wide-reaching social program. As he sought to end poverty and transform American society, Johnson also believed that education was the key to improved economic opportunity. Fraser observes that as the president never tired of saying, "Poverty has many roots, but the tap root is ignorance." Improved schooling, Johnson believed, was thus the key to the whole Great Society effort.

Notwithstanding, Fraser notes that, since the time of the New Deal, federal aid to education had generally floundered over two key concerns. For him, many southern Democrats who chaired key congressional committees feared that while many northern Catholic representatives in Congress would not vote for funds that did not aid students in Catholic parochial schools, many Protestants in Congress would not vote for any bill that provided such aid. The author notes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended the first concern since it banned federal aid to any racially segregated institution. Johnson then formulated the "child benefit theory" in which federal funds followed the child rather than the school, thus allowing limited aid to students in parochial schools in a way that satisfied most Catholics and Protestants.

Consequently, according to Fraser, the Kennedy-Johnson commitment to ending poverty and improving schools did not spring from nothing. For Fraser, the civil rights movement exerted one of the strongest influences on presidential policies and decisions during the 1960s. Moreover, Lyndon Johnson had begun his career as a schoolteacher in rural Texas. Fraser notes that Johnson brought a personal passion to the debate, as is evidenced in the two speeches that follow. According to the author, by the mid-1960s, Johnson was advocating a significant national effort to improve the educational experience of every citizen in a way no president before or since has done. Johnson's initial Special Message to Congress, "Toward Full Educational Opportunity," was submitted on January 12, 1965. Fraser observes that the president signed the act, which included all of the major provisions he had requested, on April 11 of the same year just three months later with a speed rarely seen in federal legislation.

Title IX, The Education Amendments of 1972 Women's Education Equity Act

In 1972 Women's Education Equity Act became the talk of the town. Fraser (2014) observes that, sometimes, a very short statement makes a very large difference. He notes that this is certainly true in Title IX, an education amendment passed by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. Fraser claims that Congress spent more than two years of debate leading up to the passage of Title IX in 1974. According to Fraser, the then U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which was charged with implementing the act, spent another three years developing the interpretative regulations before they were published in 1975. For Fraser, it is likely that some of those who voted for the act expected little from it. In fact, according to Fraser, most of the detailed language of the legislation lists of the types of cases to which it would not apply, including admission to private colleges, military academies, and student housing facilities. Nevertheless, because of patient and determined advocacy over the years after its passage, Title IX brought more and more changes to every aspect of American education; from more nearly equal sports facilities, to new initiatives to encourage women to participate in nontraditional programs, to very different portraits of women in textbooks.

In other words, according to the Act, no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. For purposes of this title, Fraser notes that, an educational institution means any public or private preschool, elementary, or secondary school, or any institution of vocational, professional, or higher education, except that in the case of an educational institution composed of more than one school, college, or department which are administratively separate units, such term means each such school, college, or department.

Supreme Court of the United States, Lau, et al. v. Nichols, et al., 1974 Bilingual Education Act.

In 1974 an education reform concerning bilingual was enacted. According to Fraser (2014), many different groups of Americans began to demand their rights in the 1960s and 1970s, and the energy and passion of the civil rights movement as well as the specific protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 meant that these demands would carry more and more weight. For Fraser, among the important changes wrought in education in these years was the development of programs in bilingual education. Fraser observes that as the majority opinion in the following case indicates, prior to this time many students who came to school with little or no English language proficiency were simply told to learn English somewhere else and then come to school.

However, in 1968, according to Fraser, the U.S. Congress passed the Bilingual Educational Act that made funds available to those school districts that wanted to develop programs for students who did not speak English, but offering bilingual education remained a voluntary local decision. The author observes that, that situation changed in 1974 when a suit by Chinese-American citizens of San Francisco came before the U.S. Supreme Court. In the Court's opinion, according to Fraser, the Civil Rights Act was very clear: discrimination whatever the original intent was discrimination. So, asking a student to sit in a classroom when the language of instruction simply made no sense was clearly discrimination.

Fraser claims that neither the plaintiffs nor the Court demanded a specific form of instruction for limited English proficiency students. The author observes that the debates have continued in subsequent decades between those who favor two-way bilingual education retaining the speaker's native language while helping him/her learn English; those who favor a transitional form of bilingual education in which instruction in many subjects is carried on in their student's language of origin while they also learn English, and those who favor intensive immersion in the English language followed by an all-English curriculum. According to Fraser, but while those debates continue, the basic principle that every student has a basic civil right to be taught in a language that makes sense was established by the court in this 1974 ruling.

Public Law 94-142, Education for all Handicapped Children Act, 1975

In 1975 American education system embraced Education for All Handicapped Children Act. According to Fraser (2014), perhaps the last group petitioning Congress to recognize their civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s were people with handicapping conditions. The author claims that while schools have still not met the goal of offering fully equal treatment to all students regardless of handicap, Public Law 94-142 made extraordinary difference in schools. Fraser claims that prior to the law (and its predecessors in a few states), many students with handicapping conditions were simply excluded from school or separated into special classes, often in the symbolic basements of the schools, which were properly described as warehouses. Fraser observes that because of the costs associated with implementing the law, the implementation of Public Law 94-142 has aroused continual debate in many school districts across the country.

The author claims that, nevertheless, few advocate returning to the days of segregation and exclusion of students with special needs. For him, the advocate was enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembly, that this Act is cited as the "Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975."

According to the Act, State and local educational agencies have a responsibility to provide education for all handicapped children; but present financial resources are inadequate to meet the special educational needs of handicapped children. Moreover, the Act states that it is in the national interest that the Federal Government assists State and local efforts to provide programs to meet the educational needs of handicapped children in order to assure equal protection of the law. So the Act makes provisions to assure that the rights of handicapped children and their parents or guardians are protected, to assist States and localities to provide for the education of all handicapped children, and to assess and assure the effectiveness of efforts to educate handicapped children.

National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, 1983

In 1983 there was an introduction of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Fraser (2014) states that with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, the Great Society era was clearly over. The author claims that Reagan had pledged to abolish the federal Department of Education. For him, more substantially, the Reagan revolution involved cutting all of the nonmilitary functions of the federal government so that they would revert to the states or for most of the social programs that had expanded in the previous two decades, including education simply shrink or disappear. Fraser claims that Reagan engineered the massive transfer of funds from the poor and middle class to the rich, which became his lasting legacy, by cutting many of the services that had opened doors of opportunity for poor and working-class Americans during the previous era. The author notes that given such a philosophy of governance, it was a surprise to many observers when Reagan's Secretary of Education, Terrell Bell, created the National Commission on Excellence in Education. According to Fraser, the Commission's 1983 report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, brought significantly more national attention to school reform than any act of the Carter-era Department of Education; indeed, it called more attention to school reform than virtually any federal action in education since Richard Nixon had signed Public Law 94-142 in the early 1970s.

Fraser claims that it is hard to imagine the surprise and the energy surrounding A Nation at Risk when the report first appeared in 1983. According to the author, few federal reports have stirred as much as debate. Fraser further states that, in part, the debate was so intense because a number of other reports appeared within the following year, such as, Making the Grade: Report of the Twentieth-Century Fund Task Force on Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Policy. Based on these various reports, Fraser notes that Education was in the news, debates about education were in the air; and ultimately, the Nation at Risk report, along with its many successors, continues to influence school policy to the present.

Fraser states that according to the report, America as a nation is at risk; although, America's position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trained men and women; it is no longer. The report claims that the risk is not only that the Japanese make automobiles more efficiently than Americans and have government subsidies for development and export. It is not just that the South Koreans recently built the world's most efficient steel mill, or those American machine tools, once the pride of the world, are being displaced by German products. It is also that these developments signify a redistribution of trained capability throughout the globe. According to the report, the commission's concern, however, goes well beyond matters as industry and commerce. It also includes the intellectual, moral, and spiritual strengths of American people which knit together the fabric of the society. The report concludes that a high level of shared education is essential in a country that prides itself on pluralism and individual freedom.

Ann Bastan, Norm Fruchter, Marilyn Gittell, Colin Greer, and Kenneth Haskins, Choosing Equality: The Case of Democratic Schooling, 1985

In 1985 the concept of democratic schooling started to gain ground. According to Beane and Apple (2007), democratic schools, like democracy itself, do not happen by chance. For them, the schools result from explicit attempts by educators to put in place arrangements and opportunities that will bring democracy to life. The authors observe that these arrangements and opportunities involve two lines of work. They claim that one is to create democratic structures and process by which life in the school is carried out. The other is to create a curriculum that will give young people democratic experiences. Concerning the creation of democratic structures in the school, Beane and Apple state that in all the necessary structural arrangements, and in the policy decisions that support them, people in democratic schools persistently emphasize structural equity. For them, while initial access to educational opportunities is understood to be a necessary aspect of democratic schools, access alone is not considered sufficient for their realization. The authors observe that, in an authentically democratic community, all young people are also considered to have the right of access to all programs in the school and to the outcomes the school values.

Meanwhile, Fraser (2014) claims that, the agenda for democratic schooling will itself be incomplete until a more active and cohesive citizens' movement develops in education. He observes that what we propose are ways of viewing the options which would help break through the polarities of equity and excellence and move beyond the limits of past reform or present reaction.

Interestingly, Fraser observes that we try to connect what happens in the classroom to organizational and institutional contexts. And we discuss the multiple levels of structural change necessary to achieve fundamental change. Moreover, we explore the political processes which set priorities for education, and thus decide what we expect or tolerate in school performance. For the author, the school debate of the 1980s is far from over. He states that while we question many of the initiatives launched in the name of excellence, the current excellence movement has at least focused public attention on the conditions of schooling. Fraser observes that a broader vision of alternatives is being forged, in defense of past gains and in support of new models. According to the author, his essay seeks to further enlarge our sense of opportunity and possibility by looking beyond the alarm over the school crisis, by moving toward a democratic conception of the public school mission, and by posing the priorities for change that democratic education demands.

Sonia Nieto, Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, 1992

In 1992 the notion of multicultural education began to make its way into American public schools. According to Fraser (2014), Sonia Nieto from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst provides a clear definition of multicultural education and a compelling case for its value. Sonia Nieto (1992) claims that, multicultural education cannot be understood in a vacuum, but rather must be seen in its personal, social, historical, and political context. For her, multicultural education can have a substantive and positive impact on the educational experience of most students if it is broadly conceptualized and implemented. The author claims that her perspective concerning multicultural education is that, it is for everyone regardless of ethnicity, race, language, social class, religion, gender, or sexual preference. Nieto states that her framework for multicultural education is thus a very broad and inclusive one. Nevertheless, according to her, although she refers in her text to many kinds of differences, she claims that she is particularly concerned with race, ethnicity, and language. For her, these are the major issues that provide a lens through which she views multicultural education.

Moreover, for Nieto, a direct outgrowth of the civil rights movement, multicultural and bilingual education was developed as a response to inequality in education based on racism, ethnocentrism, and language discrimination. Although, according to her, she believes it is imperative to include other differences, for her, it is necessary to approach an understanding of multicultural education with a firm grounding in these three areas.

According to the author, equal education in her context of multicultural education goes beyond providing the same resources and opportunities for all students, although, for her, this alone would be a crucial step in affording a better education for a wide variety of students. By remaining at this level, however, for her, it completely misses the point that education is a two-way process. That is, according to her, education must involve the interaction of students with teachers and schools, not simply the action of teachers and schools on students. For Nieto, equal education thus also means that the skills, talents, and experiences that all students bring to their education need to be considered valid starting points for further schooling. Equity, according to her, is a more comprehensive term because it includes equal educational opportunities while at the same time demanding fairness and the real possibility of equality of outcomes for a broader range of students. Conclusively, for Nieto, multicultural education is considered as fundamental to educational equity.

Nevertheless, Fraser introduces another renowned scholar in the field of multicultural education, James Banks from University of Washington, Seattle. According to Fraser Banks is often called the father of multicultural education. The author is certain that Banks has been a towering figure in the field for many years. For him, a number of other scholars have also developed their own views on multicultural education. As with any topic in education, Fraser claims that there are almost as many definitions of multicultural education as there are writers discussing the subject.

U.S. Department of Education, Executive Summary of the No Child Left Behind Act, 2002

In 2002 No Child Left Behind Act was endorsed as an educational legislation. Fraser (2014) observes that no issue dominated education in the first decade of the twenty-first century as did discussions and debates about the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. According to Fraser the Act was proposed by the newly elected president George W. Bush and passed with bipartisan support in Congress in 2001, the law that the president signed in January 2002 fundamentally changed the role of the federal government in education. For the author, NLCB also changed the daily life and preoccupations of teachers, principals, and school leaders across the United States. According to Fraser, with NCLB's demand for annual testing of all students in the third to the eight grade and the use of the test-results to measure whether individual schools and districts are making "adequate yearly progress" or AYP, the law highlighted testing and too often test preparation as never before.

Furthermore, Fraser observes that the Adequate Yearly Progress was not to be measured on the average progress of all students but by carefully disaggregated data collections. Students are grouped in eight categories or subgroups: White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, students eligible for free or reduced lunches, those with limited English Proficiency, and those in special education. According to Fraser, all groups were measured separately and all had to be making progress for a school to meet its goal. Schools that failed to make AYP could suffer serious consequences. The law warns that if the pattern of failure in the schools persisted, schools were required to provide additional tutoring to their students (labelled in the act as "supplemental services"), to allow students to transfer to other schools that were scoring better, and eventually schools that failed repeatedly to make AYP would be reorganized or closed.

Fraser states that the consequences, in added costs to school districts and eventually in teacher and principal jobs, were indeed serious. The author remarks that no wonder the act received so much attention and was the subject of so much controversy.

According to Apple (2006), No Child Left Behind program is a federal reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For him, NCLB Act represents a set of initiatives that can radically transform the federal role in policing and controlling core aspects of education, and that bears witness to the power of neoliberal, neoconservative, and especially new managerial discourse in education today. Apple states that the major components of the legislation center on testing and accountability and also provide inroads toward a larger agenda of privatization and marketization.

Educational Reform - Common Core State Standards, 2009

In 2009 a new educational reform Common Core State Standards was introduced. According to Allie Bidwell (2014), an online writer and education reporter for U.S. News & World Report, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational assembly in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English language and Mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.

Bidwell claims that the Common Core State Standards aim to raise student achievement by standardizing what's taught in schools across the United States. According to her, the program specifically lays out what students should know and be able to do by each grade it has been in the operation since at least 2008. Bidwell states that the program was initiated by former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who was the 2006-07 chair of the National Governors Association and now leads the University of California system. Bidwell points out that while Napolitano was serving as chair she wrote An Initiative for the Year, as every past chair had done; her initiative had a strong focus on improving math and science education, as well as the workforce.

Meanwhile, Ravitch (2013) states that, the Common Core State Standards are an example of the Department of Education's muscular use of federal funds to push a policy on the states that may or may not be wise. She further reveals that the Common Core State Standards was led by nonfederal organization (NGA) which was to develop it over an eighteen-month period. Ravitch claims that the group had the strong support of the U.S. Department of Education and heavy funding from the Gates Foundation. The author further claims that when the Obama administration put forward the criteria for Race to the Top grants, one of the primary requirements was that the state adopt a Common set of high-quality standards, in collaboration with other states, that were internationally benchmarked and led to "college and career readiness;" these were widely understood to be the Common Core standards. For Ravitch, in short order, almost every state agreed to adopt them, even states with clearly superior standards like Massachusetts and Indiana, despite the fact that these new standards had never been field-tested anywhere.

U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top Act of 2013

In 2013 another promising educational legislation Race to the Top Act was widely endorsed. According to Picower and Mayorga (2015), as soon as President Obama took the office, he selected Arne Duncan to lead the Department of Education and implemented the federal Race to the Top program, which included monies for more testing as part of a broader education reform package promoting the use of tests to evaluate teachers. So the U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Race to the Top competitive grants on July 24, 2009, as a motivator for education reform. By citing Kumashiro 2012, the authors state that Race to the Top was designed also to promote attacks on teachers unions' right to collective bargaining, and the proliferation of charter schools. Moreover, by citing Karp 2013, 2014, the authors claim that, simultaneously, and as part of the Race to the Top agenda, national standards connected to high-stakes, standardized tests were developed as part of the Common Core State Standards as well.

Congress.Gov (2015), an online publication, claims that Race to the Top bill was introduced in the House on January 25, 2013. The publication claims that Race to the Top Act of 2013 directs the Secretary of Education to award competitive grants to states and local educational agencies (LEAs) to implement reforms and innovations designed to improve educational outcomes significantly for all students and reduce achievement gaps significantly among specified student subgroups. Moreover, according to the publication, the program gives grant priority to LEAs with the highest number or percentages of impoverished children and those that serve rural schools.

Ravitch (2013) observes that among the premises of Race to the Top was that the charter schools and school choice were necessary reforms; that standardized testing was the best way to measure the progress of students and the quality of their teachers, principals, and schools; and that competition among schools would improve them. For Ravitch, the program also gave bipartisan stamp of approval to the idea that a low-performing school could be improved by firing the staff, closing the school, and starting over with a new name and a new staff. According to the author, Race to the Top abandoned equity as the driving principle of federal aid. For her, from the initiation of federal aid to local school districts in 1965, Democratic administrations had insisted on formula grants, which distributed federal money to schools and districts based on the proportion of students who were poor, not on a competition among the states. Ravitch claims that the Obama administration shifted gears and took the position that competition was a better way to award federal funding. The author concludes that, by picking a few winners from the competition, the Race to the Top program abandoned the traditional idea of equality of educational opportunity, where federal aid favored districts and schools that enrolled students with the highest needs.

Considering all the education reforms since Brown in 1954, there is one fact stands out in all the reforms An effort to make equity in education a reality. This has been a battle fought using all the techniques known to the reformers. The aim of every education reformer mentioned in this article is to close the achievement gap between the White and non-White students in the United States. The current reforms in operation are No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards, and Race to the Top; despite the fact that the reformers meant good for the students in the U.S. the achievement gap between these two groups of students remains open.

No doubt about it, there is equity in educational opportunities for all American students (Lawal, 2016). In order to close the achievement gap between White and non-White students the latter need to double their efforts. The Whites should not slow down, and the non-White students should try to catch up. The U.S. government has done and contributed a lot to education through all these mentioned reforms and initiatives; so the ball is in the court of the kids to seize the opportunities and do the best for themselves. If this is taken serious no child will be left behind.


Apple, M. W. (2006). Educating the "Right" Way: Markets, Standards, God, and
Inequality. (2nd Edition). New York: Routledge.

Apple, M. W. & Beane, J. A. (2007). Democratic Schools: Lesson in Powerful
Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Bidwell, Allie (2014). A Guide to Common Core. Retrieved from

Congress.Gov (2014). H.R. 426 Race to the Top Act of 2013. Retrieved from

Fraser, James W. (2014). The School In The United States: A Documentary History. (3rd edition). New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Lawal, A. (2016, April 16). Equitable Educational Opportunities in the U.S. Public Schools. Retrieved from

Nieto, Sonia (1992). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. New York: Addison-Wesley Longman.

Ogletree, Charles J. (2004). All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the first half century of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Picower, B. & Mayorga, E. (Eds.) (2015). What's Race Got to Do with it?: How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality. New York: Peter Lang.

Ravitch, D. (2013). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. New York: Knopf.

Adekunle Lawal is a Christian writer and educator. He lives in Everett, Washington. His website link is

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