All students — regardless of their skin color, families’ income, language spoken at home, or who they love — should have access to high-quality learning opportunities that allow them to achieve educational excellence. This is educational justice. And each day, we work to find solutions to reach it, preschool through college.
Through our research, policy analysis, and advocacy, we support efforts that:
- Promote rich, engaging high-quality learning opportunities
- Increase college access and completion
- Engage diverse communities to advocate for education equity
- Increase political and public will to act on equity issues
Our approach to this work is steeped in the larger social justice movement. It is informed by our theory of change, which includes four main components — all building on each other, with the aim of advancing positive outcomes that improve the lives of those who are historically underserved, including Black students, Latino students, and students from low-income families.
In these reports, we showcase the work we, along with our partners, are doing. With your continued support and partnership, we are building a movement toward educational justice.
Enjoy the updates!
Theory of Change
Advocating for a “New Normal”
COVID-19’s Impact on Education Equity
Right now, there are intense debates occurring in the nation’s capital, state houses, and in nearly every community and household about how and when America can “return to normal.” Yet, for people of color “normal” has never been good enough, fair, or just.
Due to systemic racism that is deeply woven into the fabric of our nation, people of color have suffered under the weight of racist institutional policies that permeate our educational system, housing market, financial market, healthcare system, hiring practices, and even our justice system. The COVID-19 pandemic, as it ravages communities of color and communities experiencing poverty, merely unveiled to many Americans the depth of these inequities.
Now, as the nation grieves the death of yet another Black man, George Floyd, killed at the hands of those charged to “serve and protect,” Americans are once again reminded that all lives are not viewed as equal.
At Ed Trust, we are committed to creating a “new normal,” by brokering an innovative and better social contract, so that all students — no matter their race/ethnicity, ability, income, home language, sexual and gender identity — have the same opportunity to obtain a high-quality P-12 education and an affordable, high-quality higher education that allows them to live a life of their choosing. Right now, we have an opportunity to revamp the U.S. education system and to emerge from this crisis stronger than before if the public will is strong enough and people refuse to accept the old normal. Our students are our future, and they need and deserve better.
Below are a few highlights of our latest work.
Stakeholders across the country are looking for answers on how to ensure that students, particularly our most underserved, don’t lose months’ — or even years’ — worth of learning from COVID-19 closures.
To ensure equity, we have been monitoring leaders’ tireless efforts to support districts, schools and colleges, educators, and families to protect the well-being and safety of all students as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. While that remains our highest priority, we know that states and other stakeholders are considering what it will take to ensure that their most vulnerable students have equitable access to the resources they need to thrive while schools are closed and to make up for lost instructional time.
Colleges and Universities Prepare for Fall Classes in the Middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” John talked about many wide-ranging issues from Black student debt to the racial wealth gap to the protests against police brutality, and what it means to not just return to normal, but re-imagine the social contract in America.
“What’s coming is that states are seeing huge drops in revenue that will translate into a big hit to public higher education. And if we see huge cuts to public higher ed, that’ll mean less financial aid for students.”
Student Voice & Activism
Ed Trust has made elevating student voice in higher education policy conversations a top priority, and the success of public events like last year’s Social Mobility, Race, and Higher Education convening and our ongoing blog series on Getting To and Through College suggest those efforts may be paying off.
“I had to take on a lot of responsibility for my brothers’ online learning, grocery shopping, and stuff like that, so that was really stressful. In addition, we had two people pass in my family. I had so much anxiety about what was going on that I kind of bombed my first exam.”
– Angelica Camilo, junior at Franklin & Marshall College
United in the Fight for Equity and Justice
In nearly every major city across the U.S. as well as in international cities, protestors have hit the street demanding justice for Black Americans killed by law enforcement. In a letter to our followers, we told them we are right beside those who are fighting for social justice and that we are working to “change the policies, practices, and beliefs to shift the appropriate power structures needed to truly realize justice.” Likewise Nancy Duchesneau, Ed Trust P-12 policy analyst and researcher, teamed up with Ashley R. Griffin, vice president at the Black Teacher Collaborative and Ed Trust alumna, to discuss how students of color are treated differently than White students when they advocate for themselves: Self-Advocacy or Defiance in Protests and School Discipline? Depends: Are You White or Black?
ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times
We’ve launched a new series of ExtraOrdinary Districts podcasts featuring conversations with school district leaders on how they and their students are adjusting to remote learning, ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times. In this series, Karin Chenoweth, a former Washington Post columnist and current Ed Trust podcaster and writer-in-residence, and Tanji Reed Marshall, director of P-12 practice, talk with expert educators about the many issues public schools are grappling with — including how to distribute food to kids who normally rely on school meals, how to build strong relationships with students in an online setting, how to make at-home school more workable and establish systems to ensure that all children are being served equitably and not missing out on important educational opportunities.
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“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” So said Frederick Douglass, who had the courage to be honest and truthful in a country bitterly divided by race, class, and politics.
Douglass’ words still resonate today. We are again living in times that require his kind of courage — the courage to state facts, no matter how uncomfortable, and to hold those responsible to account, no matter how difficult. As civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar, and The New Jim Crow author, Michelle Alexander notes, our nation has “avoided in recent years talking openly and honestly about race out of fear that it will alienate and polarize. … [I]t’s our refusal t o deal openly and honestly with race that leads us to keep repeating these cycles of exclusion and division, and rebirthing a caste-like system that we claim we’ve left behind.”
This is why the work we do at The Education Trust — providing hard-hitting data that exposes injustices in our educational systems, prekindergarten through college; speaking truth to power through our research; holding decision-makers accountable for change; joining hands and voices with partners; and engaging in courageous conversations, often in the face of ferocious opposition — is so essential.
Below are a few highlights of our latest work.
Hard Truths: Why Only Race-Conscious Policies Can Fix Racism in Higher Education
Policymakers cannot achieve racial equity in higher education by focusing solely on income.
Startling racial disparities in student loan default rates have been tied to longstanding wealth gaps and discrimination in the workplace, and they suggest that a focus on income alone won’t fix things. One in three Black students from upper-income families defaults on their student loans, a rate seven times greater than that of White students from the same income bracket. It is easy to see why this statistic has captured the attention of the higher education policy community.
Relying on historical analysis and trends in college opportunity and outcomes for Black students, Hard Truths argues for the need to focus explicitly on race in higher education.
States Are Burying Damning Data About School Funding
In a New York Times op-ed, Ary Amerikaner, vice president for P-12 policy, practice, and research explains why hidden funding disparities within school districts must be addressed if we are to achieve educational equity.
“Far too often, districts use a one-size-fits-all approach, instead of spending according to student need. So higher-need schools must rely on roughly the same funding as lower-need schools in the tonier parts of the same district.”
Welcome Education Trust in Tennessee
We are excited to announce that Gini Pupo-Walker is our state director for Tennessee. Gini will continue the coalition-building efforts she has led for years with advocates, educators, students, and community partners seeking to increase educational opportunity and outcomes for Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds. As our newest state director, Gini will provide our Tennessee partners with policy analysis, as well as research and advocacy opportunities in both P–12 and higher education.
Learning How School Districts Get ExtraOrdinary Results
In season two Karin Chenoweth traveled to two rural districts (Lane, Oklahoma, and Seaford, Delaware) and one suburban district (Valley Stream 30, New York) to talk with thoughtful educators about the hard work they have put in to develop systems and ways of operating to continuously improve the learning of students.
This season, each episode was followed by a panel discussion with experts about the lessons we can draw from these districts.
Subscribe today wherever you listen to podcasts.
How is your state doing?
Check out Ed Trust’s latest state-by-state tools to see how your state is doing on:
Access to and Quality of Early Learning Programs
No state provides both high-quality and high-access state-funded preschool for Black and Latino 3- and 4-year olds.
Learn more about how your state is performing (or isn’t) with our early learning equity tool.
Increasing Access to Advanced Coursework
Black and Latino students across the country have unequal access to advanced coursework which means they often miss out on vital learning opportunities that can set them up for success in college and careers.
The idea that students from low-income backgrounds can work their way through college with a minimum wage job without taking on debt is a myth from a bygone era.
What’s the gap in your state?
“History teaches us that change is often made when an organized segment of those most affected, leading in solidarity with allies, disrupt business as usual.” This quote by social justice innovator and strategist Makani Themba tells us that in order to #BeTheChange, each one of us must use our privilege and fight alongside those who are being marginalized, oppressed, and yearning to change the status quo.
IT’S A SENTIMENT WE AT ED TRUST TAKE TO HEART.
During the past three months, Ed Trust fiercely advocated alongside our partners and with activists from communities facing injustices to change the narrative about what students can accomplish when given the necessary resources to learn to high levels. We lifted the voices of students and teachers of color. And we were unrelenting activists about what policy changes needed to happen to ensure that every child can learn in a healthy and supportive environment. We also worked with institutional leaders, state and district leaders, and other practitioners to change their practice to better work for students who have gone underserved for far too long. We know we’re on the right side of history. And we know you’re with us.
Below are a few highlights of our latest work.
What does it mean to be a White ally in the movement toward educational justice?
Ed Trust’s summer communications intern and North Carolina native Coleman Evans talked about it in her blog post, Reconciling Your School’s Racist History. “Each day, we are presented with an opportunity to either feed into or dismantle the racist society we live in. Perhaps it is my Presbyterian upbringing, but I understand the bedrock of progress to be truth and reconciliation. So, to my White friends, we must choose, every day, to reconcile with, confront, and understand the history of the institutions in which we all operate,” she writes.
There are 12 million children who live in food-insecure homes.
For one school year, senior editor/writer Letisha Marrero and her child were one of those households. If it weren’t for SNAP and the free lunch program, they may not have gotten through. “That’s why it incenses me that the Trump administration is trying to make it harder for families to qualify for SNAP and free and reduced lunch by getting rid of something called categorical eligibility,” she writes in The Equity Line. This cruel decision would leave 3 million Americans without SNAP benefits, and hundreds of thousands of children would be ineligible for the free lunch program.
Getting To & Through College
More Latinos are going to college than ever before, but for first-generation college student Joscelyn Guzman, there were many hurdles to cross coming from a low-income immigrant family. She detailed her experiences and challenges in the latest Getting To & Through College series
Why I Teach Where I Teach
To coincide with back-to-school season, we added to our Why I Teach Where I Teach series on The Equity Line, which asks educators in underserved schools to share what has attracted and kept them in the places where they teach. Each of the six featured teachers are 2019 Teachers of the Year in their state. They shared stories that highlight the importance of strong school leadership, supportive
colleagues, and opportunities to lift their voices regarding decisions that impact their work with children. Check out the experiences of Kareem Neal (AZ), Jessica Dueñas (KY), Robert Hand (WA), Marc Beitia (ID), Sarahí Monterrey (WI), and Jennifer Wahl (PA) here.
“We have to recognize that we have a long way to go, but we have to go that way TOGETHER”
– Dr. Dorothy Height
At The Education Trust, we continue to boldly speak out against injustices and speak up for what’s right for underserved students — Latino, Black, Native American, LGBTQ, and students from low-income households. We know that transforming our nation’s schools into places where all students have access to engaging, challenging, and rewarding learning experiences is work that can’t be done by one organization, one coalition, one tweeter, or even one passionate outspoken advocate. It will take the collective will of many communities united in pushing for more equitable policies and practices. That is why we are glad to have worked alongside our partners this quarter to advocate for evidence-based policies and practices to drive school improvement, improved systems of higher education, and high-quality education for incarcerated students. We are BETTER TOGETHER.
Below are a few highlights of our latest work.
Profiles in Education Equity: Leading With Equity and Justice
Sharif El-Mekki, an educator and advocate who spent over a decade leading Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker campus in West Philadelphia, a school where relationship building, community engagement, and social justice are at the core. El-Mekki is leaving the day-to-day job of leading Shoemaker to devote his full attention to his passion: bringing more high-quality teachers of color to classrooms throughout Philadelphia. It’s an effort he started in 2014 by founding The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice. Our in-depth profile takes a closer look at El-Mekki’s Shoemaker legacy and how he leads with equity and justice.
Uplifting Students' Voices
Charlie Scott is a graduate student and member of the Navajo Nation. In this personal essay, they describe what it’s like to navigate higher education as a Native student.
“Statistically, only 23 percent of all Native/Indigenous students, in what is currently known as the United States, who enroll in four-year institutions as first-time full-time students graduate within four years. And only 41 percent graduate within six years. Given the challenges that I faced in my own experience and the broader narrative of Native/Indigenous students in education, I find these statistics unsurprising.”
Is your state committed to creating opportunity and success for Black and Latino adults?
Ed Trust continues to work alongside criminal justice groups, education organizations, and civil rights advocates to remove barriers to higher education and employment for individuals impacted by the criminal justice system.
Over the last few months Ed Trust has partnered to host a number of events focused on lifting the ban on the use of Pell Grants by incarcerated students.
- On March 20th, Ed Trust cohosted a briefing at the U.S. Capital with FAMM on “Reducing Recidivism Through College Education”
- In early April, we partners with the Institute of Higher Education Policy (IHEP), the Leadership Conference for Human and Civil Rights (LCCHR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Just Leadership USA to host an interactive simulation with the West Virginia attorney general’s office
- ON April 24th, Ed Trust and Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop hosted “Educational Justice: Centering the Voices and Experiences of Incarcerated Individuals” featuring a panel discussion and poetry reading by formerly incarcerated students.
Ed Trust is inspired by those who have fought for justice and those who are continuing that fight today. As fierce education advocates, we are encouraged by activists who are boldly speaking out and working to make our educational systems more just. This past quarter, we advocated alongside those activists and pushed for LGBTQ students, fair discipline practices for students of color, equitable access to high-quality early learning experiences as well as to high-quality school counselors, college affordability, and more. Tomorrow’s historymakers are in today’s classrooms, and we need to make sure they have the resources and supports they need to achieve their wildest dreams. By working together, calling out injustices, and pushing for equity-focused policies, we can effect positive change in our schools and in our nation. #OurTimeIsNow
Below are a few highlights of our latest work.
What does it mean to be LGBTQ in school?
And how are students experiencing the intersection of being queer and a student of color? To answer these questions and more, we joined GLSEN and the National Black Justice Coalition to uplift student voices by hosting an event at D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. There, high school and college students gathered to talk about what it means to be LGBTQ in school. “All we want is love and acceptance.” says one Black student who identifies as gay. Watch the video below or read our Equity Line blog post, LGBTQ Students of Color Speak Up, to learn what the students had to say.
Voting vs. Activism: Black College Students Weigh In
Prior to the midterm elections, we hosted a roundtable discussion at Howard University, where John and social justice activist Brittany Packnett spoke with students from the School of Education about the nexus of voting, activism, and education. “Policy is what affects you directly. Technically, you’re voting for your own activism,” said one student. Diverse Issues in Higher Education covered the event in their story, Educators and Activists Discuss Civic and Political Engagement, and Letisha Marrero, senior editor/writer, wrote this blog for Equity Line, Voting vs. Activism: Black College Students Weigh In.
Building a Movement Toward Educational Justice
Back to School
October marks the end of the back-to-school season — students are settled into their routines, Back-to-School nights have taken place, and first-year college students are well aware of where each academic building lies. At Ed Trust, we embraced this promising season by focusing on “building a movement toward educational justice.” Over the past three months, we visited college campuses, listened to and learned from students and families, joined with partners to call out injustices, hosted meetings and training sessions, and, as always, disseminated solid research to highlight ways that our federal and state policymakers, school leaders, and communities can better serve students of color and students from low-income families. Our intention was to unite communities around the goal of pushing toward educational justice.
Below are highlights of how we worked alongside advocates and activists to build a movement toward educational justice.
To document the problems Puerto Rico still faces a year after Hurricane Maria, PBS News Hour aired a series on Puerto Rico’s beleaguered education system. Nearly 300 schools have closed, a third of the students have fled to the mainland, and many schools are still in utter disrepair. John B. King Jr., who has a personal connection to the island, said the federal government should be doing much more than it is doing to rebuild Puerto Rico. “All of us want great things for our own children. But if we want to live in a great society and a great country, we have to want that for all children.”
We used our Equity Line platform to feature the work of those who are calling for justice from their unique standpoints including:
Antonio Duran and David Pérez II, Ph.D., who are challenging existing policies on the national, state, and institutional levels so that queer students of color on college campuses can be better served.
Activist and teacher Sharif El-Mekki, the principal of Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus, challenged all those who claim to “care” about the education of students of color to step up. In his post, Educational Justice: Which Are You — an Advocate, Ally, or Activist?, he writes, “We need less self-proclaimed advocates and allies and more collaborators on the front lines who view activism as inseparable from advocacy.”
Ed Trust launched our back-to-school tour, where we visited schools across the education continuum.
In August, we visited Mastery Charter School Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, where we learned how educators and school leaders are engaging communities and families in the movement for social justice.
Next, we visited Prince George’s Community College, right outside of our nation’s capital, where we learned about how the college is partnering with the local school district to provide college-level learning
opportunities for high school students and how it is working alongside employers in the local hospitality and health care industries to provide opportunities for college students after they graduate.
Finally, we visited the high-achieving Laurel School District in rural Delaware, where we learned how an entire community, including educators, families, and the local university, come together to focus on the individual needs and success of every student. In turn, they’ve experienced some of the largest growth in Delaware for academic performance.
A Commitment to Civic Engagement
Pushing for a Renewed Commitment to Civic Engagement
We are continuing to respond to the civic division and unrest deeply affecting our communities and our young people. We are speaking out publicly around issues of student civil rights and engagement, school improvement, school safety, gun violence, and more. We are urging equity-minded advocates, policymakers, educators, and university leaders to act and to remain committed to tackling these issues in their schools and institutions, communities and states. Now is not the time to get weary.
Below are highlights of how we encouraged people to recommitment themselves to civic engagement.
For National Gun Violence Awareness Day, ELLE magazine published an opinion piece by John where he argued, “In all of this, we must remember that activism is more than just a hashtag. It is a matter of life and death. It is understanding the systems and structures that have, for generations, under-served or abandoned people whose very history has been erased, controlled, and re-written.”
Long-time Ed Truster Ebony Daughtry reminded our Equity Line readers of the power and importance of parents as advocates, sharing an experience at her son’s school where she had to step in and advocate for her child. “I refused to let someone label another little Black boy — my boy — as a problem child,” she writes.
Ed Trust’s new, ongoing Profiles in Education Equity blog series features individuals from our diverse network of national, state, and local advocates who represent business, civil rights, education reform, immigrant rights, and disability rights communities, as well as parent leaders and equity-minded educators from across the country. By sharing their stories and insights, we honor the hard work these people do to advance educational equity and social justice and help connect advocates on the ground to learn from one another.
Fierce Advocates in Troubling Times
Speaking Out in Troubling Times
Across America this quarter, students are in schools and on college campuses when this country is not living up to its highest ideals. Students’ civil rights in our public schools are not being adequately protected at the federal level. Travel bans and reversals of key government programs have led immigrants to wonder whether they are welcome in our country. And our children have heard rhetoric that targets people because of their religion, their race, and their families’ country of origin, and they wonder if they are safe. We boldly spoke out and advocated for the rights, protections, and humanity of Black and Latino students and youngsters from low-income families. Our advocacy focused around the DACA program; facilitating equity-focused, on-the-ground coalitions to help states implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA; pushing for increased Latino student success in higher education; and highlighting districts that are achieving outstanding results for all young people in an engaging new podcast.
Below are highlights of how we used our voices to speak out for justice in troubling times.
To learn how the current political climate is affecting students, we visited a D.C. high school and held an honest, intimate conversation with a diverse group of students — many of whom are children of immigrants or DACA recipients. Listening to students describe in their own words their stark reality in this NowThis news report is heart-wrenching. This provocative and moving video garnered more than 2.8 million views, making it one of the most watched segments NowThis has ever produced.
In response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Harvard University’s use of race in its admissions process, Wil Del Pilar wrote an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report. Wil argues that even with affirmative action, the system is indeed rigged — against Black and Latino students.
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