A new report by The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, advocates for schools to create post-pandemic anti-racist models that are student-centered and culturally responsive.
Some of the specific approaches to this progressive educational reform are: building stronger connections between school and students' communities and homes; eliminating inequities and deficit-based mindsets; supporting educator training and thoughtful curriculum development; and creating transformative school experiences.
The call for a new social movement in education comes as school leaders develop academic and social-emotional supports in response to pandemic-related disruptions, as well as seek out ways to incorporate anti-racist practices in schools after mass protests over the police-involved deaths of Black Americans in 2020.
The report provides recommendations for reforms at the federal, state and local levels. At the national level, federal policy should move away from a heavy focus on standardized testing and allow nonpunitive ways to measure high-quality education and learning, according to the report.
Additionally, state accountability systems need to "broaden our thinking about 'good' and 'bad' schools beyond just standardized test scores," the report said, noting racially biased standardized tests can contribute to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic segregation between schools and districts, and emphasizing it doesn't advocate for abandoning accountability practices.
"There are many powerful models of school accountability and student assessments of learning that are more authentic to the diverse understandings and interpretations of knowledge that students develop through their own experiences," the report said.
Locally, schools can incorporate anti-racist practices by reforming school discipline policies to include culturally relevant restorative justice practices, as well as diversifying faculty through Grow Your Own programs, according to the report.
The Century Foundation report follows encouragement from several other education advocacy groups to use the lessons learned during the pandemic and the momentum to address racial injustices to build more inclusive and equitable school experiences, especially for students of color and students from low-income families who were adversely impacted by school closures.
State-level approaches to school-based anti-racism curriculum differ across the country. Some states caution schools against teaching students about institutional racism, while others promote the teaching of unconscious biases.