Back to School in the Era of COVID-19: Uncertainties, Complexities, and Emerging Plans

Racial Equity & Schooling

This collection of readings focuses on why race matters in the discussion around equity and schools. Despite the advances made in public education, opportunity and achievement gaps still exist, and behind those numbers are Black, Brown, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American students who find themselves shut out of opportunities for success.

**Californians for Justice. (n.d.). Why race and relationships matter in California schools. Available at

This Californians for Justice report argues that despite progress made in public education, systemic racism persists as an inescapable reality in our schools and communities. Moreover, the current educational context cannot be divorced from centuries of deeply rooted systemic racism—the historic, economic, sociopolitical policies and forces that have deprived students of color of a quality education. Systemic racism is present in policy decisions made without the meaningful voice of people of color, the trauma of intertwined racism and poverty, and unequal access to high-quality, culturally responsive teaching and learning. The authors of the report argue for the importance of centering race in words, actions, and policies to truly address the inequities students of color face in today’s schools. In addition, the report asserts that this change will begin with relationships: relationships with students, relationships with one another, and relationships individuals have with themselves to be courageous enough to listen and learn about how deep racial inequality and injustice shapes the lives of students and their families.

Ferguson, R. F. (2016). Aiming higher together: Strategizing better educational outcomes for boys and young men of color (pp. vi–9). Available at Urban Institute website:

In this report, Ronald Ferguson identifies a complex web of circumstances that produces a familiar pattern for boys and young men of color (BYMOC) across the nation: BYMOC are underrepresented among youth who excel in school and overrepresented among those with low grades, low test scores, and disciplinary problems. In order to dismantle this predicament, the author argues that efforts should begin at birth and foster conditions in homes, schools, peer groups, and communities that enable instead of stifle BYMOC achievement. According to the author, this means effectively preparing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for the first day of school; giving teachers the skills and supports they need to manage diverse classrooms; teaching BYMOC to resist negative peer pressures and not impose pressures on others; instituting guidelines for empathetic and developmentally supportive discipline; and helping BYMOC develop goals that are both inspiring and feasible.

Osta, K., & Vasquez, H. (2019, June 13). Don’t talk about implicit bias without talking about structural racism [Web log post]. Available at

The authors of this article argue that while it is important for individuals to have awareness of how they view and treat others based on their biases, awareness is insufficient to advance equity. In order to lead to meaningful change, any exploration of implicit bias must be situated as part of a much larger conversation about how structural racism and the current inequities in our institutions came to be, how they are held in place, and how we perpetuate inequities despite our good intentions.

Samuels, C. A. (2020, January 7). Who's to blame for the black-white achievement gap? [Web log post]. Available at

Education reporter Christine Samuels draws on her personal experience, educational trends, and academic research in an attempt to answer the question, “Who is to blame for the Black-White achievement cap?” Samuels explores several topics often raised as a possible cause—including teacher buy-in, inequitable poverty and wealth distributions, school quality, and home care and management—before debunking each, concluding that they are dependent on one another, and that there is no one source. Nonetheless, the author focuses particular attention on early brain development as a critical factor in eliminating black-white achievement gaps and identifies strong schools and teachers as essential for that development to take place. The author concludes that in the end, everyone (e.g., parents, teachers, schools, policymakers) shares that responsibility.

**This document is considered a priority reading.