Faculty Forum - Featured Post Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2017

Series Introduction: Issues of Equity and Justice in Education Policy

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance, Original Version, Bellamy, 1892)

If you were to trace the evolution of the Pledge of Allegiance from its inception, you would gain insight into the shifting ideologies that have shaped our nation. Phrases that were added over time included “United States of America” (1923) and “one Nation under God” (1954).  What is noticeably absent is the mention of “equality”. Francis Bellamy pondered whether it was appropriate to add equality and fraternity, but he specifically decided against it, arguing that these two notions were still “thousands of years off in realization”. According to John Baer’s account of Bellamy’s deliberation, state superintendents of education were against equality for women and African Americans. This intentional and symbolic absence of equality from our nation’s pledge of allegiance is reflective of the absence of equity for many students in our nation’s schools.

This Special Issue of the Roosevelt House Faculty Journal examines the Issues of Equity and Justice in Education Policy through the contributions of Hunter faculty and students whose scholarship examines racial diversity, equity, poverty, trauma, teacher quality, higher education, and the intersectionality of these themes.

Although education legislation over the years has made many attempts to compensate and atone for inequities in society such as segregation (Brown vs Board of Education), poverty (Title 1, Elementary and Secondary Education Act), and disability (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), students identified as minority, poor, or disabled fare the worst due to systemic racism and exclusion.

In our May 2016 colloquium titled Intersections of Race and Class Special Education Policy, the interactive sessions facilitated collaborative problem solving across federal, state, and local education policy stakeholders, researchers, and practitioners and resulted in a policy brief. The themes that emerged from the summary recommendations in the policy brief included: 1) Intersectional Vulnerabilities, 2) Closing the Policy, Research, and Practice Gap, and 3) Need for Systemic change.

We intentionally carried these themes into a Roosevelt House Faculty Seminar Series in Fall 2016 focused on Equity and Justice in Educational Policy. It was designed to be a forum for Hunter College scholars to present research, critique policies, develop action plans, and improve practice for marginalized students through cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration. This special issue of the Roosevelt House Faculty Journal: Equity and Justice in Education Policy is a summary of some of the research, policy, and practice topics presented in the Faculty Seminar. Our hope is to continue to challenge the explicit and ongoing failure to promote “equality and justice for all” as part of our nation’s pledge.

This article is part of a series of faculty commentary around issues of equity and justice in education policy. Click here to read the full series.

Jennifer F. Samson, EdD is a Roosevelt House Faculty Associate and Acting Chair and Associate Professor of Special Education at Hunter College School of Education. Her current scholarship is focused on teacher diversity and cultural responsiveness with a specific interest in supporting positive outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse learners with and without disabilities. Dr. Samson has published and presented research, practice, and policy related work in the Journal of Learning DisabilitiesReading and WritingTeachers College Record, and Teaching Exceptional Children. She received her BA from UC San Diego, MA from San Francisco State University, and EdM and EdD from Harvard University.

Wendy Cavendish is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami.  She was previously a research faculty member at the Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research at Florida State University. She is currently (2015-2017) a Visiting Research Scholar at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute collaborating with Dr. Jen Samson.  Dr. Cavendish’s research has an interdisciplinary focus that examines the identification of practices and processes in schools and other social institutions (e.g., criminal justice system) that facilitate and support successful transition of youth. Dr. Cavendish’s work has been published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning Disability Quarterly, and Journal of Adolescence.