Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The law represented a major new commitment by the federal government to “quality and equality” in educating our young people.
President Johnson, seated at a table with his childhood schoolteacher, Kate Deadrich Loney, delivered remarks during the signing ceremony for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. (Photo credit: White House Photographer Frank Wolfe/LBJ Library & Museum)
When President Johnson sent the bill to Congress, he urged that the country, “declare a national goal of full educational opportunity.”
The purpose of ESEA was to provide additional resources for vulnerable students. ESEA offered new grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for textbooks and library books, created special education centers, and created scholarships for low-income college students. The law also provided federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.
In the 35 years following ESEA, the federal government increased the amount of resources dedicated to education. However, education remains a local issue. The federal government remained committed to ensuring that disadvantaged students had additional resources, however, because as a nation we were falling short of meeting the law’s original goal of full educational opportunity.
Sometimes conflict is the starting point on the path to progress.
That’s one of two possible ways events could play out in the wake of Vergara v. California,a court case that is driving enormous debate throughout the education world.
Brought on behalf of nine public school students, the Vergara case argued that California’s laws on teacher tenure and placement violate the right to an education in the state constitution. The lawsuit claimed that minority and low-income students are deprived of effective teachers by state laws that, in essence, award lifetime employment to teachers after as little as 18 months, and that require layoffs on the basis of seniority.
Last week, a judge agreed, saying these laws deprive students of their civil rights. The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher.
Research and video by the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, commissioned by the Eva Longoria Foundation
The UCLA Civil Rights Project (CRP) conducted a study in 2013 to examine the existing knowledge base about promoting Latina educational success, defined as completing high school and then going on to secure a college degree.
Across the nation, there is a rising crisis in the low education levels of Latino youth. While nearly 35% of white adults hold a BA degree or higher, only 15% of adult Latinos do. The situation is even worse in California, the state with the largest number of Latinos, where only about 11% of adult Latinas/os hold a BA degree or higher. Given that the majority of the school age population in California is now Latina/o, this under-education is not just an urgent educational problem, but it foreshadows an economic issue for California, and the nation.
Although Latinas complete college at almost twice the rate as their male counterparts, they trail all other women by significant percentages. Two-thirds of Latinas come from low-income families, and many people continue to hold negative stereotypes about Latinas. These factors manifest unique challenges for these young women: they are often expected to prioritize family responsibilities above school; they often feel that they “don’t belong” in school, a feeling that can be reinforced by discrimination and low expectations; they see few models of Latinas who have excelled educationally that they can emulate, and too many lack any understanding of how or even why to pursue a college education.
The Civil Rights Project found a number of important “levers” for improving educational outcomes:
Having more Latina/o teachers leads to significantly higher rates of college going for Latinas
Maintaining bilingual skills is associated with a higher rate of high school completion and college going
Feeling confident about math, and doing well in it, leads to higher rates of high school completion and college going
Being involved in extracurricular activities in school is associated with successful high school graduation and college going, and also appears to be related to developing a sense of belonging in school
Having a strong personal belief about completing high school and going to college predicts actually doing so
Having Peers with the knowledge and aspirations to go to college is associated with college-going
In all the years that I’ve been advocating for economically disadvantaged students, I’ve never seen a time when so many forces seem to be aligning in our favor. First, on Feb. 25, Child Trends released a groundbreaking report that laid out a solid evidentiary base for Integrated Student Supports (ISS). And then, barely a month later, the White House waded into the same waters with its first-ever national summit on ISS.
A report plus a meeting? That might sound like just another day at the office, but this particular report and this particular meeting are anything but business as usual in the battle for educational equality. I’ve already written about the significance of the Child Trends report, and now, given a few days to digest the proceedings at the White House summit, I’m convinced that we will one day look back on this event as the prototypical “quiet meeting in a church basement” where a social movement is born.